Competitive intelligence tools vs services: What is better for your organization?

competitive intelligence services

The need for speed and agility post the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for competitive intelligence. Now more than ever organizations need to stay on top of market changes prompted by aggressive competitive activity. There are many options available for firms looking to get an edge over their competition, but which option is best? Should you use a competitive intelligence tool or hire a professional service? We explore these two options below and outline some factors that may help you make the right choice.

Competitive intelligence tools

Competitive intelligence tools use technology to gather and synthesize competitive data. They typically capture data through secondary sources, such as news and announcements, company websites, patents, social media, annual reports, and public databases. Most CI software platform providers offer self-serve solutions that allow users to find competitive information without programming. Tools like these are customizable, scalable, and available on-demand.

Advantages: Cost-effective, with an all-inclusive price that includes maintenance, hosting, customer support, unlimited users in a team or company, API accesses for additional integration needs.

Drawbacks: Inability to control what data is collected; tools are only as good as the information in their database.

Best for: High-level and instant information about the competition.

Questions to ask while evaluating CI tools:

  1. Does the platform allow custom integration of internal and external data?
  2. What data does the platform leverage out-of-the box?
  3. What is the level of technical support offered?
  4. Does the platform provide aggregated data views through reports and dashboards?
  5. What mechanism exists to capture data that’s gated or behind a paywall?
  6. Does the platform allow integration with other platforms, such as a CRM?  
  7. How often is the competitive data updated?

Competitive intelligence services

Competitive intelligence services are different from tools. They provide the strategic edge in understanding the competition, their strengths and weaknesses. This is achieved by gathering competitive information through a process of social media monitoring, market research, stakeholder analysis etc. Competitive intelligence service providers help users with their specific requests by leveraging human analysts, proprietary databases and, in some cases, automated tools.

Advantages: Provides deeper insight into what the competition is doing and its impact on your business; Done by humans, information is better-aligned with the client’s context and objectives; Ability to carry out research using methods such as field interviews or customer surveys to compile competitive intelligence reports for clients

Drawbacks: Not available on demand, requires a team of analysts to do the work efficiently, expensive compared to tools

Best for: Qualitative insights which could be missed out with just a cursory glance at numbers or charts. 

Questions to ask while evaluating CI service providers:

  1. Which sources can they leverage to provide the competetive intelligence you need?
  2. How do they manage the large amount of data received from these diverse sources?
  3. What is their methodology for organizing information and ensuring insights?
  4. Do they have any existing access to premium databases to ensure cost-effectiveness?
  5. Can they present CI in consumable formats such as dashboards, newsletters, charts, etc.?

Hybrid competitive intelligence solutions

Some competitive intelligence service providers use a combination of technology and human experts to deliver insights. They bring the best of both worlds by combining the speed of tools and depth of insight that CI service providers offer. These solution providers also develop customized and visual dashboards to streamline insights dissemination across your organizational hierarchy. Moreover, having subscribed to premium tools and databases, they afford you a holistic perspective of the landscape at a fraction of the cost.  

Netscribes as a hybrid competitive intelligence solution provider that offers both tools as well as services for varied intelligence needs. These range from strategic management, innovation and product development, to marketing and business development, to name a few. Enterprises across the globe partner with us to uncover to gain a holistic perspective of the competitive landscape by leveraging our primary and secondary research expertise, as well as our analytics capabilities. Contact us to know more.


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