Take full advantage of secondary competitive intelligence (CI) sources. Open-source intelligence (OSINT) sources in the public domain offer hard data to help understand the foundation of your competitive marketing landscape. Think of this like pre-season training to cover the basics - get in condition, practice solid playing and safety techniques, etc.
Resources such as historical information, financial statements for publicly traded companies, statistics available through established public sources or search engine tools, and news articles about events related to competitors, partners, and key customers are yours for the taking. And many are free.
You can also look to fee-based secondary sources such as subscription services and syndicated analyst reports to further understand trends across your competitors, customers, and market.
Of course, your competitors do their own pre-season conditioning. They tap into the same publicly available sources that you do! To prep a solid competitive marketing game plan, you'll need to beef up your advantage with primary CI sources.
Primary CI comes from insights that are outside the public domain: Your competitors can't scrape them from the web or buy them off the shelf. Getting this kind of intelligence requires legally and ethically conducted investigation that taps reliable, well-placed sources with expertise in your competitors, solutions, distribution channels, and target verticals of focus. Human-powered primary CI (HUMINT) uncovers unique intelligence to help anticipate what may come next with your competitors, customers, and markets—giving more lead time to define offensive or defensive counter-measures.
Your team can access some valuable primary CI insights on your own: For example, you can engage your field or support teams to gather insights from their customer interactions, dealings with competing vendors in target accounts, etc.
In other situations, your best way to move toward the "insights end zone" is to engage a primary CI partner who knows your industry. HUMINT techniques such as market opportunity assessments, competitor deep dives, industry event coverage, etc. can be good plays here. Using a primary CI partner gets you candid, "sponsor-blind" input; accesses a wide range of sources who you can't engage directly; and frees your team's time and resources for other critical work. A trusted CI partner can also collaborate with you to synthesize primary and secondary insights into a data-driven, actionable game plan with recommendations and scenarios or even bring the intelligence "alive" via a cross-functional competitor simulation workshop.
After kickoff, even a plan built on well-rounded, pre-game analysis may need to change. Don't fall into the trap of always "sticking to the game plan" when the competitive marketing landscape changes around you. Instead, deploy a range of secondary and primary competitive intelligence sources to monitor how your product launches, campaigns, events, etc., are unfolding.
A systematic monitoring program is a must to decrease the chances that changes in the fast-moving tech industry may blind-side you. A monitoring program helps you stay engaged, informed, and able to switch up your plays as the "game" changes.
At this stage, you can both stretch your CI budget and optimize management visibility by focusing on high-impact/high-value CI initiatives and deliverables that provide regular, measurable ROI. In particular, you can include HUMINT techniques such as pre-sales intelligence; win/loss programs; and VOC and competitor tracking initiatives in your playbook.