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Why I think every SaaS should have a Competitive Intelligence program

In the world we’re living in, SaaS companies are becoming easier to launch (or clone) every single day. Competition in every industry will go through the roof in the next few years.

Don’t believe me? Just check out AppSumo. Every possible industry has at least 2 or 3 super cheap products launching at any given time.

This leaves you with two options:

  1. Ignore competitors and let them win 30% of your sales pipeline (according to 2023 data)
  2. Build an internal Competitive Intelligence program. And crush them

But wait… there’s a plot twist… Here’s something I’ve discovered working closely with some of the best SaaS companies: Option number one doesn’t exist.

There’s no such thing as not having a Competitive Intelligence program. Your marketers, product managers, and sales reps monitor your competitors daily: what new features are they launching? What’s their pricing? What’s their messaging?

Competitive intelligence is already happening in your company, even if you have never allocated a budget.

That’s why it does make a lot of sense for most SaaS companies to just structure a proper Competitive Intelligence program with the right tools and the right people. In the end, I can assure you you’ll spend less money, improve your company-wide understanding of your competitors, and win more deals.

On this page, you’ll find the best resources to get started with competitive intelligence, even if you’re small and with a budget close to zero.

How to Start a CI Program

The first step to starting a proper Competitive Intelligence program is understanding who’s in charge of it.

Don’t worry; you don’t need a new headcount. A dedicated CI team can likely wait for post-Series B.

In the meantime, identify who in your team is already doing CI with good results and put him/her in charge of a cross-functional team dedicated to Competitive Intelligence.

I advise including one person from Marketing, one from product (or product marketing), and one from sales. Have the team report directly to an executive and produce monthly executive summaries.

Define who your competitors are

You can classify other companies in the space in four buckets:

  • Direct Competitors
  • Indirect Competitors
  • Potential Competitors
  • Non Competitors

The first step of your CI team is to identify all the relevant companies in each bucket and add them to a spreadsheet or in Notion (I’ll release a CI Notion template soon).

Validate the list with Sales and Marketing, and then you’re ready for the fun part!

Start Measuring

You know how it works. You can’t optimize what you can’t measure.

Measuring the impact of competitive intelligence within a business has only one name: competitive win-loss analysis.

It’s not rocket science. You’ll need your sales team fully onboard to add to each deal information about who you are competing with and, eventually, who won the deal.

Pick the right CI tool

The beauty of Competitive Intelligence is that anyone, once well-trained, can perform it with just a browser… and a lot of free time.

CI can be time-consuming. You need to gather intelligence from a lot of different sources, analyze it, summarize it, and output it in a digestible way for all the teams within your company.

Or pick the right tool and get better results in hours instead of days.