Competitive Enablement

Trends in Competitive Intelligence Pt. 1

Trends in Competitive Intelligence Pt.1

Tim Rhodes is a competitive intelligence consultant focused in tech. He was previously the head and senior director of marketing strategy and competitive intelligence (CI) for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, where he led go-to-market strategy, competitive intelligence, and mergers and acquisitions. Tim has consulted for Sprint, Microsoft, Blue Cross Shield, Caterpillar, IBM—and now Klue—on product marketing and CI. As an analyst for CNBC Europe’s Today’s Business Europe, Tim provided commentary on the U.S. technology market to an audience of 15 million.

Tim frequently speaks and writes on the future of modern marketing, emerging markets and integrating voice of the customer research into competitive intelligence processes. We’re excited to work with Tim and to offer you the benefit of his experience and insight.

In this two-part series, Tim will share his thoughts on current trends in competitive intelligence. He’ll also look ahead to the changes that must still be made to integrate CI into core culture and planning.


In 2016, if your job description involves marketing of any kind, you’re hearing a lot about account-based marketing, go-to-customer strategy, sales enablement and competitive leverage. Customers are more independent and more informed than ever. They are getting closer to a decision (as close as 60% of the way there) with less contact from you. So, it’s your job to build influence into every stage of their journey. If you do a great job of proactively answering buyer questions and addressing concerns with your content, maybe they’ll be less likely to move off in search of more information.

Today you are not behind your competition.
You are not behind the technology.
You are behind your consumer.
~Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategist, Publicis Groupe

Traditionally, CI has been isolated from market and customer intelligence—an unwelcome mandate placed upon already taxed Product Marketers, but that’s changing. Smart product marketers, CI analysts and product managers have begun to integrate competitive insights into their customer-facing content. They’re bringing intel gained from win-loss analysis into the marketing and sales funnel and they’re seeing results. If you’re listening, your customers are your best source of competitive intel. When they tell you why they chose you, they’re also telling you why they didn’t chose your competition. It’s even more important when they’re telling why they didn’t chose you. Cry in your latte later and soak up everything you can. Build surveys into your process to follow-up with customers, lost business and your own sales and customer success teams.

Understanding how your customers perceive you versus the competition is critical to success.  The best way to get this information is by just asking sales reps and customers targeted questions. Accurate win-rates can be your best tool when analyzing performance and building your go-to-market strategy. Often the real reasons for a loss are misunderstood or lost to time and memory. Get these details into your CRM immediately. You can facilitate by building a few custom fields and CI workflow into your CRM. Many companies calculate overall and competitor-specific win-rate on a quarterly basis to better understand competitive trends. Get more info on how to optimize your CRM for CI.

I’ve seen customer win-loss interviews revolutionize how companies compete. One company I worked for thought their competitive advantage against the top competitor was deep product functionality. We conducted win loss interviews and discovered that the primary winning differentiator was actually their sales approach. When sales reps demonstrated the technology, they won; when they sold on deep features and functionality, the tech seemed complex and they lost. Powerful proof of my favourite CI truth: You don’t know what you don’t know.

Many companies are beginning to apply win-loss analysis practices to the entire customer engagement cycle, including the top and middle of the sales funnel, and customer attrition. These drop-offs need to be examined for an opportunity to improve messaging. If a competitor was selected, you need to know why and ideally who. Automate surveys at every stage of the sales funnel to discover exactly where you’re losing your audience. Is the competition creating attrition incentives? Have they developed a new product, service or functionality? Maybe you’ve dropped the ball on customer service and they know it. Your competition is studying your roadmap for weakness and opportunity—you must do the same.

Various services deliver useful crowd-sourced and social intel; Google analytics can help you understand specific online behaviours; and customer review sites, such as IT Central Station, Trust Radius, and G2 Crowd, are great sources of customer opinion.

Competitive intelligence is expanding to include anything that gives your company a competitive advantage. That includes customer insights, market data and rival intel. Integrate all three into your content, whether it’s purpose is lead generation, engagement, thought leadership, sales enablement or customer retention. Your deep understanding of your customer and reflection of that will resonate and become a powerful differentiator.

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