Uses for Competitive Intelligence

Jordi asked about the usefulness of competitive intelligence (at software/cloud vendors) in the Software Defined Slack. Here’s what I added to the thread:

I think competitive intelligence is least useful for product management. Innovation, talking to customers, and finding out sells and doesn’t sell from your salesforce is more interesting. Competitive intelligence is good for sales people, marketers, and prepping for conversations with “influencers” (press, analyst, and loud people on THE SOCIALIZ). 

  1. Sales people need “battle cards” to handle common objections; marketing people need to know how competitors position themselves to (also) talk about how their stuff is better 
  2. Marketers (yeah, yeah – “not every marketing person [like, most of them]”) don’t get enough information about customers, the products (they’re usually not technical enough to find out on their own, nor have enough time to “study”), and the overall market, so competitive intel help there
  3. When you’re talking with influencers, they’re always going to ask you about competitors. When I was an analyst, I always found this annoying and sort of useless. You usually only get three answers: (1) “I have a lot friends who work there”/“I talk with them frequently” (I don’t know what means, but people say it), (2) “You know, I don’t pay a lot of attention to competitors, we’re too busy paying attention to customers” (well, see my write-up here), or, (3) “Yeah, we’re pretty good” (people are trained [or should be!] to never say something bad about competitors, mostly. So, they’re way of saying “our competitors suck and we are awesome,” is to just talk about the second). You’ll never hear a detailed SWOT-style assessment about competitors from a vendor – it gets them nothing.

(There’s also competitive intelligence as simply “market intelligence,” is, of course, good for investors and corporate strategy people. But, that’s not really in the spirit of the above.)

The issue that I find is that competitive intelligence is that it’s overwhelming, especially for a large portfolio. For example, despite having excellent competitive intelligence reports – weekly! – for VMware Tanzu stuff, there’s just so much of it that it would take me all week to read it :) I wish I could read them all, like my old analyst days, but my job – and life! – is different now.

Originally from my newsletter.