Competitive Intelligence: Tactical or Strategic?

Recently on the LinkedIn SCIP group, someone posed the question as to whether CI is a strategic or tactical practice. The discussion got me thinking about how CI by itself is not wholly strategic, nor tactical – it’s a tool, and can be applied to either strategic or tactical goals.

In this sense, CI is like a hammer. You can use it to hammer a nail, but you can also use it to drive a tent stake, separate items that are nailed together, chip a rock, or power a chisel. The hammer did not change; the application did.

Whether CI is strategic or tactical has much less to do with specific methods than with which group is using them, and to what end. Win/Loss makes an excellent example of how a common CI method can be applied to both tactical and strategic goals.

As a tactical tool, Win/Loss can help close more deals and structure the sales process in a way that aligns with the buyer’s preferences. Tactically, Win/Loss findings can also be used to build battle cards, mini-handbooks of talking points for salespeople. Even more tactically, the sales team can take what they learn from Win/Loss to focus their approach to win a specific deal.

As a strategic tool, Win/Loss works by helping companies better understand how their value proposition is perceived in the market, and how the company’s market position compares to competitors’. Used this way, Win/Loss fits into the strategic development of the company’s long-term product and service offerings. It also fits into strategy by identifying where the current offering and portfolio can be adjusted to better fit market needs and differentiate from competitors’ positions.

While Win/Loss is one of the clearer CI tools with dual strategy and tactical applications, it is hardly the only one. Other such CI tools include competitor monitoring, patent tracking, and mystery shopping. What is common to these dual-use tools is that how they are used depends on the project requirements more than on the tool itself

Fletcher/CSI has over 25 years’ experience in applying CI tools to support tactical and strategic initiatives. Our skill set in gathering primary intelligence, supported by our ability to identify and leverage social media, secondary collection, and trade show resources allows us to offer clients first-rate support. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss how CI can meet your tactical and strategic goals.


– Erik Glitman, CEO