10 Tips to Kick Off Your Competitive Intelligence Program


In 30 years of helping organizations set up Competitive Intelligence (CI) programs, I learned quite a bit as to what works and more importantly what doesn’t. One thing that stands out is Competitive Intelligence programs often become the “Flavour of the Month” and then forgotten.

With this in mind, I’ve listed 10 tips to improve your chances for a successful, ongoing competitive intelligence program.

10 Competitive Intelligence Tips

1. Determine what push back you will encounter Make every effort to determine what push back you will encounter and then come up with strategy to get around this. This means figuring out the easiest, least time consuming and most rewarding approach for team members to undertake and thus keep them motivated.
2. Strive for modest achievements No need to impress readers by trying to come up with startling insights or asking colleagues to get everything they can on the competitors. Aim for small victories.
3. Keep the kick off meeting simple Avoid overcomplicating your kick off, for example by introducing convoluted diagrams of the CI process and wordy timetables.
4. Ensure ethical guidelines are in place Not only is this a key priority, but one of the most time consuming, given the back and forth that will take place between Legal and your CI team.
5. Assign 2 people to oversee the process Your Market Research or Business Intelligence Manager should oversee coordinating the CI team members to source and analyze CI, while the Marketing Manager will ensure that the findings are relevant and actionable.
6. Cap Key Intelligence Questions to 10 Key Intelligence Questions (KIQs) are questions about your competitor that must be answered. Keep in mind, that answering these often leads to “peeling the onion”, and requires further effort (e.g. after learning that your competitor hired 5 reps to support their launch, you now realise you should see if they hired any sales mangers).
7. Conduct a pretest A pre test will: • Provide you with credibility, i.e. if you cannot get some answers to the KIQs, how can you convince your team members to invest time in helping you. • Identify those KIQs that can be readily answered and discard those that cannot.
8. Create a CI tutorial/quiz Topics should include “Why We Need to Undertake CI “, “Sources to Tap”, “Ethical Guidelines to Follow” and “Reporting Your Findings”.
9. No online research Make it clear to team members that you do not need any information gleaned from the internet. Otherwise they will default to doing internet scans instead of getting primary intelligence from customers, wholesalers and other industry contacts.
10. Deliver your summary report every 2 to 4 months Avoid reader wear out by circulating your reports report too frequently. 2 to 4 months is the rule of thumb. And limit topics. “Key Findings” “Threat Assessment”, “Action Steps” and “Appendix” (sources, assumptions, etc.) should suffice.


Competitive intelligence, whether completing a one-off study or running a full-time program is all about BALANCE.

If you push your competitor too hard for information, you will risk tipping them off. If you bring in too many people to source competitive intelligence, you will, without question, be saturated with incomplete, inaccurate and uncorroborated information. And if you aim to generate a report every 3 weeks vs every 3 months, you will, without doubt, face reader wear out.

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