5 Minute Read

This article is a part of our competitor intelligence resource center. Visit the complete competitor intelligence resource center for more content like this.

In a 2019 survey, 94% of businesses asked reported investing in Competitive Intelligence (CI). While most modern companies can see CI’s strategic potential, many have yet to understand how to reap its practical benefits. Cipher has found that over 75% of typical CI activities provide no value to their companies. 

-- Article Continues Below --

The Complete Guide to Market and Competitive Intelligence

Read Now: A comprehensive guide to competitive intelligence that actually works!

With three-quarters of a typical Competitive Intelligence team’s time wasted, an effective cost-benefit analysis is almost impossible. Companies considering new CI activities inevitably start with high hopes, but falter when they see traditional CI’s massive expenditures and minimal strategic benefit. 

Cipher has a better solution. Knowledge360® is the most effective CI platform on the market. Its automation tools reduce time spent on low-value tasks, giving your team up to 45% more time to analyze their findings.

Our research shows that with 5-years of use, users can save more than $315,000 over non-users. 

Below, we cover the pitfalls that cause ballooning CI budgets, what you can do to avoid them and how Cipher can help. 

Traditional Competitive Intelligence Strategies

Traditional CI is reactive. When a disruption surprises company leadership, they rush to create a CI taskforce from their marketing or sales teams. 

The teams are made up of smart people who probably have experience with data and business concepts. The ambiguous directive provided to these people is:

“Do competitive intel.”



Sounds like fun right?

No hard and fast goal, no parameters around data, no specific intent. This is the first and most common mistake with the way most companies deploy a CI initiative.

Even with such a vague mission, everyone understands that competitive intelligence starts with data collection. Most commonly, it begins with data collection from public sources: 

  • News outlets
  • Google alerts
  • The U.S. Census Bureau
  • Press releases

Top Insurance Company Outpaces their Competition and Better Support Customers During COVID-19.

Discover how a top insurance company was able to use their competitive intelligence software to stay ahead during the onset of COVID-19. 

Read the Case Study

Data pours in, but is far too general. The team needs more in-depth reporting and finds it by buying into private data sources. These subscriptions allow them to gather from news sources, such as Factiva and Meltwater. The more time the team spends with those resources, the more data they realize they are missing. 

And so they go get more data sources. 

And more. And more.

And that data overload is mistake number two.



To find more, investigators may begin incorporating automated data collection tools. They start with:

  • MOAT—tracks competitors’ promotions.
  • Visualping—sends alerts whenever competitor websites change.
  • Talkwalker—monitors their brand’s social media conversation.

Read more about the top 9 free tools for gathering competitive intelligence.

Fast forward several months, and the team cannot keep up with the deluge of data. They spend a tremendous amount of time and money on tools to collect and organize their information, but they have no time for analysis. 



This sets everyone up for mistake number three: expansion without insight.

Managers realize the shortage and expand the team. With more staff, data overload perpetuates and analysis remains thin. Each new member decreases efficiency and makes it harder to find strategically relevant information. 




Read Now: Guide to Market and Competitive Intelligence

A comprehensive guide to competitive intelligence that actually works!

Download the Guide

With too much data, the wrong tools, and a lack of direction, the team comes in over budget and without any meaningful insight. At the next budget cycle, leadership eliminates the team and swears off CI for good. 

That is, until leadership changes. 

It is only a matter of time until the executive team is surprised by a shift in the market and the process starts over again. This story may seem like hyperbole, but it is a reality in many organizations. There are companies large and small that have been trapped in this cycle for decades. 



There is a better way to do CI.

The Basics of an Effective CI Program

Effective CI requires strategy. CI is a proactive tool, not a reactive one. The goal should be to have and use a clear CI plan before disruption. This way, your predictive findings can activate preemptive measures.

There are five steps to a complete CI strategy

  1. Planning: Begins with several questions. What is your strategic objective, what information do you need, and where will you find it? A clear direction and exact parameters set the stage for the rest of the plan. 
  2. Collection: Gather data from the sources you identified. Common sources include news services, google alerts and social media. Automate data collection, so your team can focus on analysis.
  3. Organization: Take the data you’ve collected and store it in a way that promotes collaboration between teams. Store data centrally and build a process that minimizes sharing barriers between teams. 
  4. Analysis: This is the key to the entire process. Here, your analysts compile all of the useful information they found and identify the practical strategic insights. 
  5. Reporting: Delivers your findings to the rest of the organization. Clear presentation and reporting turns your strategic intelligence into action.

Understanding these steps separates a successful CI program from one trapped in the cycle of death. Without a proven CI team in place, companies will need an expert on their team to guide them through the CI process. 

Here’s what a CI analyst will do for you:

  1. Assess your current system: It’s important to start with an evaluation of your current competitive insights and measure them against maturity models. 
  2. Implement a CI process: When we approach this ourselves, once our CI analysts have a baseline understanding of who a client is and where they sit on the current playing field, they will work collaboratively with a client to apply custom intel solutions. 
  3. Monitor and apply findings: CI doesn’t stop once you have data. In fact, that’s when the real work begins. A streamlined system that can effectively analyze and act on the right data should always be the outcome of CI efforts.

CI done the wrong way is basically a costly mistake. When leaders in any industry abruptly react—and try to do competitive intelligence in traditional, ineffective ways—nobody wins. Year over year, businesses save hundreds of thousands of dollars when CI is done right.

Done wrong, the same amount is lost. Don’t leave it up to an R & D team, marketing team or other people without professional CI experience. A qualified leader will make all of the difference.

The Complete Guide to Competitor Analysis Research, Data and Information Sources

Build your team on the foundation of trustworthy competitive intelligence data

Read the Guide

CI Consulting and Knowledge360Ⓡ 

Cipher has been guiding clients to productive CI processes for over 25 years through a range of consulting services. For every new client, Cipher conducts an assessment to determine:

  • What information is most useful for strategic decisions 
  • Where the client is likely to find data
  • Where disruption is most likely
  • What are the most valuable data sets for that client’s strategic decisions

The answers to these questions tell you exactly how to employ the most powerful CI tool available: Knowledge360Ⓡ.

When Cipher developed Knowledge360Ⓡ, the goal was to eliminate all possible inefficiencies in data collection and organization and maximize teams’ analysis time. Once installed, Knowledge360Ⓡ can immediately access thousands of the most useful data sources, eliminating the need for any additional data subscriptions and compiling tools. 

But, as you know, data collection is not the difficult part. The challenge is separating the useful information from the noise. Clients only care about a small set of information within massive data sets. Knowledge360Ⓡ identifies relevant information with several features:

  • Natural language processing—automatically categorizes incoming data for easy searchability. This eliminates countless hours of manual categorization. 
  • Artificial intelligence-enabled searchability—takes the information you are searching for and identifies other relevant results that searchers may have missed. 
  • Customization—that tailors searches, filters, tags, benchmarks, dashboards—and much more—directly to your team and ensures the data your analysts see is always relevant. 
  • World-class CI experts—are available to support your CI programs and provide practical analysis around the clock. 

Knowledge360® erases the hours spent sifting through useless data and identifies only the information relevant to you. It simplifies data collection, eliminates data overload, and lets your analysts focus on delivering strategic value. With Knowledge360®, you will spend less on data source subscriptions, single-use CI tools, and the staff to work with these massive amounts of data. 

Knowledge360Ⓡ:Breaking the CI Cycle of Death

Knowledge360Ⓡ is the first-of-its-kind, all encompassing Market and Competitive Intelligence Platform to accelerate your CI success. Addressing all of the vital components of both market and competitive intelligence, Knowledge360Ⓡ becomes your platform to harness data. Collect, discover, analyze and collaborate with ease. 

With natural language processing and AI-enabled searchability, it is the fastest, simplest way to make market and competitive intelligence data insightful and actionable. Want to see it in action? Request a demo of Knowledge360 today.

New call-to-action