What The Best Competitive Intelligence & Market Researchers Need to do For You

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What the best Competitive Intelligence & market researchers need to do for you

When talking to a Competitive Intelligence consulting agency, you should expect an overview of their general approach centred around a fundamental core value proposition. This article offers our thoughts on what the best Competitive Intelligence & market researchers need to do for you. What to look out for and avoid.

It should be obvious how they will deliver bespoke and agile Competitive Intelligence. Delivered to your specifications usually around competitor, market, threat and opportunity understanding.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive Intelligence is the finding, sorting and critical analysis of information. To make sense of what’s happening and why. Predict what’s going to happen and give the options to help you control the outcome. Competitive Intelligence offers more certainty, competitive advantage, and insight.

Are you just looking to research your competitors? Researching your competitors is not a problem at all. But competitor research is only scratching the surface of Competitive Intelligence. After all, the process is called Competitive Intelligence and not Competitor Intelligence. Guess what we are trying to emphasise is that it’s not all about knowing more about your competitors.

You may be looking to move into new areas, and you want to research a market. But again, this must be done strategically. Getting everything you can about a market is almost impossible to manage. Not because the information is not out there. There’s usually too much information around. It’s managing the information and what you are going to do with it. Any Competitive Intelligence agency worth it’s salt will know this. And will try and direct you to plan and focus on where your pain is.


An Intelligence professional should be asking you what you need to know to solve a problem. And also what you are going to do with the insight. Answering questions like:

  • What’s the problem you are facing?
  • What are you attempting to accomplish?
  • Who is the decision-maker?
  • How can they limit uncertainty for you?

Then they should be digging deeper to get to the bottom of the problems your business is facing. And to understand what opportunities and threats are lying await for you.

Ask the right questions

So what’s next after you’ve had a good discussion about your situation? They should direct you to define your needs and situation into a set of questions. These questions need to pull out everything you need. Also, these questions need to be as simple as possible. Why? To avoid any chance of confusion and misinterpretation of your needs. A confusing, poorly formatted question will come back and bite all concerned. And you will not get the answer you deserve. Especially if they outsource the work to a team in a country where English is not their first language. The questions have to be tight, clear and obvious.

  • So for a start, avoid yes/no questions. It avoids the disappointing single word answers 🙂
  • Structure the questions that a non-expert will understand
  • Summarise the question in one sentence. No more than three lines with only one dependent clause. Make sure they help you define an inclusive question. Wide enough to cover what you need to cover but narrow enough to provide a helpful answer.
  • The questions should be strong emotional questions regarding the problems you care about

A Market Intelligence agency should encourage fewer questions than more. Say 6 to 8 max. Not saying anymore is wrong. But we often have to do more within a project. We find that the more questions after, say 6, the greater potential risk of diluting the final insight. There are only so many hours in a day, and most clients dont have unlimited budgets.

After ten questions (ideally less), look to split the project into two. But the customer is always right, and sometimes you can only advise and recommend.

Define the questions and drivers

After the questions a Competitive Intelligence agency should want to identify the drivers. Drivers are the subject driving the question. The characteristics of the questions. And are there any characteristics that are not covered by the questions? This work may isolate important unasked questions. Types of drivers (characteristics) include leadership, recruits and money. Marketing, pricing, products, sales team and M&A activity etc.

So you have agreed on questions from the isolated problems. A Statement of Works (SOW) should be defined. OCtopus Intelligence places the SOW front and centre within our proposal. An SOW could look like this.

Your Needs

To ensure a clear understanding of your needs, you could have the SOW break down your needs as follows:



Our mission is to…

Intelligence questions


It’s agreed to complete the project within/by:

This could be done long before a proposal is sent to you. We tend to have a meeting and then put the situation into an informal email. Only once everything is clear will a formal proposal be presented. A defined Statement of Works (SOW) will be within the proposal. This SOW is where everything is defined, agreed and laid out. Avoiding any confusion.

A Competitive Intelligence agency should have a series of unique characteristics. Allowing them to deliver globally and face any kind of CI challenge. And they should lead through the application of primary target penetration. Then work hard to verify their findings via secondary insights.

These methodologies should result in accurate and relevant insight. Based on a mutual interest in building both firm, ongoing and open communications.

Support the brief creation

It should be in every Competitive Intelligence or Market Research agency’s interest to support the creation of the brief. It helps everyone understand the plan. And ensures all fully invested and aware of the exact reasoning why insight is sought. A researcher just accepting a brief and then quoting a price should have alarm bells ringing.

Upon completion, they should be happy to deliver mission findings. Understanding the insight should be central to the end product. So that there is no migration of salient or important information lost to the recipients. If necessary, your provider should be able to produce parallel reports for senior decision-makers and commercial and operational colleagues who would likely utilise the information differently.

To that end, they should also be able to provide ‘built in’ battle cards if required. However, despite what others may think, battle cards are not the be-all and end-all of Competitive Intelligence. Battlecards are a communications tool and not the only tool. We personally hate reports presented in PowerPoint. It’s sloppy and encourages pretty and unnecessary graphs where the style is more important than the insight.

And if you are wondering, this is what we believe in and what drives us.

What the best Competitive Intelligence & market researchers need to do for you

We have written this article describing what the best Competitive Intelligence & market researchers need to do for you. When looking for a Competitive Intelligence consultant, consider their approach to a project. And also what you hope to gain from the relationship. Be sure to ask questions and get a feel for how they work before deciding. By doing so, you can be sure to get the most out of your relationship with them and obtain the market research you need.

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