If you are a researcher, you might consider, as a tactic, blending competitive intelligence with market research in adding value to your employer’s or client’s success.


blending competitive intelligence with market researchI define Competitive intelligence by focusing on the words themselves: “Competitive:” investigating competitor activities, and “Intelligence:” using your expertise and intellect to analyze that data & information collected to create intelligence for making meaningful decisions.


blending commpetitive intelligence with market research

The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service is commonly referred to as market research.


Understanding the commonalities and differences between these two activities can go a long way to you making a meaningful contribution.



  • Both require strong analytical and interpretative skills
  • Market Research uses statistics to achieve accuracy
  • Competitive Intelligence uses triangulation
  • Both often face fragmented and large volumes of data to analyze and synthesize in creating intelligence
  • Market Research sample sizes can be in the hundreds
  • Competitive Intelligence sample size is usually less than 50
  • Both frequently have the same          stakeholders
  • Market Research frequently targets consumers
  • Competitive Intelligence is mostly B2B  (e.g. competitor sales reps, key opinion leaders )


How does Competitive Intelligence complement Market Research?

Simply put, market research surveys and competitive intelligence investigates:


Market Research

Competitive Intelligence

New Products

  • Helps develop new product concepts
  • Provides details on those strategies the competition will pursue to counter your product launch.


  • Provides insight into what customers deem to be a reasonable price
  • Uncovers details of your competitor’s pricing, fees, incentives


Guideline #1: Squeeze as Much as You Can From Your Market Research Findings  

The very task of “squeezing” insights from a MR report is CI itself.  Re-examining your research findings enables you to discover new clues and patterns about your competitor. Furthermore, traditional research such as focus groups, customer intercepts and B2B interviews can readily be used to generate new insights about your competitors.

Research Example
Focus Groups
  • After the focus group discussion, conduct 1-on-1 in depth interviews with those participants who showed significant knowledge about your competitor.
Conference Intercept Interviews
  • Conduct interviews with  those distributors, agents and buyers who visited your conference booth for their insights about your competitor’s sales/marketing initiatives.
B2B Interviews
  • By paying buyers (or any other group that actively interact with your competitor) a honorarium, you can ask a wide range of questions about your competitor.


 Example: Blending Competitive Intelligence with Market Research

Let’s assume your company markets, “Q Pen” a medical device that injects serum to neutralize severe allergic reactions.  A new competitor, “Epa-Pen” will be entering the market.

When you interviewed a panel of allergists re: the launch messaging of “Epa-Pen”, answers were light. The competitor’s sales force had not yet begun promoting the product. “Safe to use”, “available in multiple strengths”, “price comparable or lower than Q Pen” were the only details fed back. You subsequently contact the competitor directly, and the information provided expanded your knowledge exponentially:

Your Question Competitor’s Feedback
How will you encourage allergists to prescribe Epa-Pen?
  • Showing, through studies, that Epa-pen offers greater patient compliance, making them aware that Epa-Pen offers 3 levels of strength versus Q Pen which only has1 level and giving allergists samples of Epa-Pen school kits (6 free Epa-Pen auto injectors, training DVD).
What patient support literature you will be providing
  • In addition to the school kits, we will have instructions to self-inject, a guide to anaphylactic shock signs and symptoms and a “Learn about Anaphylaxis” booklet.
What other programs will you have in place to encourage patients to switch from Q-Pen to Epa-Pen?
  • $300 savings per 2 package carton and  free training by nurses on how to self-inject.


Guideline#2: Use Competitive Intelligence to Expand Your Market Research Questionnaire

Continuing with the medical device, let’s assume that patient inquiries are outsourced to a third party call centre.  Your Marketing VP requests research on best practices of call centres servicing 2 other competitor products. Before finalizing the benchmarking survey, you conduct a competitor mystery shop to gauge how your competitor’s call centre responds to top patient inquiries. The shoppers feed back their experience speaking to call centre reps.

The shops disclose that the wait time to reach to a live voice is much longer than you had expected. 6 shoppers each waited > 20 minutes. The others left voice mails and were called back 24 hours later. Based on this finding, you add the following questions to your benchmarking survey:

    1. Do callers reach a live voice or voice recording?
    2. If live, what is the typical wait time until they reach a live voice?
    3. If automatic greeting, how long does it take to get a call back?
    4. Is the voice menu easy to follow?



Competitive Intelligence can easily be blended into your market research. The door is open to whatever creative (albeit ethical) approaches you pursue to do so. Take advantage of this opportunity to provide greater clarity and depth to your findings.