3 rules for building competitive intelligence practices that are actually helpful

Monitoring competitors can be more distracting than useful. Just like vanity metrics in the broader sense of business growth, watching competitors without intent can just be another “good” thing that can distract you from the “right” thing.

However, done right, developing competitive intelligence can be hugely valuable. It can notify you to changing industry trends, help you establish defensive tactics, identify growth opportunities, and more.

Here are 3 rules to follow:

1. Monitor regularly

Unfortunately, most “let’s see what our competitors are doing” projects are awkward moment-in-time events. Some strategy is being developed or a new leader/team is being established and “checking the others out” seems like a good idea. However… knowing how a competitor is changing and adapting brings significantly more insight than a singular snapshot. We should look to establish recurring practices that build a story of how the competitor is conducting themselves over time.

2. Monitor trends. Defer insights

Building on the idea of regular monitoring versus moment-in-time stuff, you should focus on monitoring trends, not developing deep insights. What I mean by this is that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds when unpacking what competitors are doing. Rather than do this, identify what can be tracked, say month-to-month, and build a picture of trends. When things deviate or change, use these events as catalysts to dig deeper. You should have a reason to dig deep into something before you do.

For example, say you are monitoring a competitor’s Facebook ads. Over time you build a sense of how they are going about their ad strategy, but then one month you notice a change. All of sudden: the quantity of ads goes up, with a different style of content, and unique approach to delivery. With that trigger, you have the catalyst you need to go and dig deep to find “insights”!

3. Automate & Systemise

Again, when competitor reviews typically take place 75% of the effort goes into spinning up the machine. If you build a good competitive intelligence practice, a lot of what can be done can be systemised using various tools and standardised processes. The burden on you/your team goes down significantly and the ROI over time compounds.


Competitive intelligence is something I’m digging into quite a bit more at the moment. Watch this space as I share more of my thoughts on the actual tactics you can deploy.