Competitive Intelligence: 5 Best Practices for Professional Services Firms

Round Table Recap: Competitive Intelligence Best Practices for Professional Services Firms

  1. Listen to C-Suite when they talk about their business and investment priorities
  2. CI should be housed within the marketing and strategy teams.
  3. Scale by using a combination of technology and services
  4. It’s important to be selective with your competitors because you can’t effectively track everyone
  5. The most impactful CI programs provide data to drive decisions across multiple functional areas and enable competitor, sector, and opportunity tracking.


Evalueserve hosted a Roundtable event for Professional Services firms where industry professionals came together to discuss challenges, best practices, and how they effectively use Competitive Intelligence to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape.

25 industry professionals shared their experiences in professional services firms that utilize competitive intelligence. Based on the discussions had, we gathered the top 5 Competitive Intelligence Best Practices for Professional Services Firms:

1. Listen to the C-Suite

A recurring theme throughout the discussion was listening to the C-Suite about what their business and investment priorities were. PS professionals discussed how using the initiatives and business investments their C-Suites were pursuing helped determine the direction of their competitive intelligence and where to focus their efforts.

A shared challenge in CI teams is showing immediate impact given most teams use CI to drive the major strategic direction of the business.  When CI is driven from the executive team, this value is imperative to the strategic trajectory of the business and the program has a stronger foothold.

Top tip to involve the C-Suite: Have monthly meetings to review the current position in the market including win/loss analysis, competitive moves, and market trends. 

2. CI should be housed in Marketing and/or Strategy Teams

The top professional services firms all recommend housing competitive intelligence functions within Marketing and Strategy teams.

The reason is two-fold.  These teams both can use CI data and apply to short and long-term strategy. The short-term strategy allows teams to rapidly test concepts within sales messaging, website messaging, thought leadership conversations, etc. This is a quick way to confirm the data-driven hypothesis before applying it to a long-term strategy. Once proven, this team also is in the best seat to adjust the long-term (3-5 years) strategic vision of the company based on this trend analysis and experimentation.


Expert Tip: Repurpose Messaging

When experimenting with competitive intelligence, content and messaging is a critical element to rapidly testing. 

An expert tip to doing this quickly (and with time-crunched resources!) is to repurpose messaging that already exists.  Instead of recreating the wheel of brand-new content, look back at your most successful past content and update it with new learnings and add in the context of today’s issues.

It’s a common practice that CI professionals track competitive messaging (thought leadership, websites, etc.) as a basis to adapt their own messaging or experiment with new thought leadership tracks to promote.



3. Scale by Pairing Technology and Services

As CI teams grow in the professional services industry, the need for new, innovative technology increases since it helps scale programs.

Let’s start with technology:

For a technology to be effective, you first need to step back and see what is in place.  You need to have a firm grasp on tools, datasets, and necessary integrations before starting the technology review process. 

The most desired tech functionality is monitoring thousands of sources, using AI to automatically highlight data trends, and having a central knowledge management hub. 

Technology is needed for all companies that need to parse through massive amounts of information to make data-driven decisions.  While many leaders have access to the right data, they lack the internal skillsets and bandwidth to uncover relevant and actionable insights.

To solve this, Professional Services leaders are using CI platforms with integrated AI to filter through the noise and so your team is freed up to take data-backed action on the gathered intelligence.

Adding in human expertise:

Similar to the point above, the fastest advancing companies include third-party domain experts to drive their competitive strategy. 

Leveraging external domain experts helps your teams understand an unbiased view of what is happening in your sector and competitive landscape. While technology can find the trends in data, it cannot tell you if the trend is good or bad. Working with domain experts also provides immediate impact since they will highlight what you need to act on today to accomplish your strategic mission.

Pairing the two:

Technology provides access and initial analysis to hundreds of thousands of sources.  Human experts highlight how these findings impact you and what you need to do in response.

When choosing a competitive intelligence provider, one leader recommends, “We need to ensure that the platform… you implement is speaking your language, it has to be customized and curated to your requirements, because there are a lot of companies that are providing technology…but they use a broad brush and the output, there is a lot of noise.”

Finding a CI platform that can be tailored to your needs, as the participant stated, helps cut the noise in your industry even more because it will understand the specific needs and criteria within your industry.

This is most effectively doing by pairing AI with domain experts to provide you the most important intelligence.

4. Be Selective in Which Competitors You Track

It’s recommended to tier your competitors when scaling CI.

  • Tier 1: Your top competitors, you want to know everything about them (3-7 competitors is typically for this category)
  • Tier 2: Common competitors, you want to track them however they don’t currently represent a large threat to your business (10-50 competitors)
  • Tier 3: Up-and-coming or under-the-radar competitors, they aren’t currently a competitor but could catch you off-guard if they pivot (10-100 competitors)



# of Competitors

Recommended CI To Gather

Tier 1:

Top Competitors

You want to know everything about them



Detailed Competitor Profiles

Daily News Tracking

Thought Leadership Tracking


Tier 2:

Common Competitors

You want to track them however they don’t currently represent a large threat to your business


Competitor Overviews

Weekly or Biweekly News Tracking

Some Thought Leadership Tracking

Tier 3:

Up-and-Coming Competitors

They aren’t currently a competitor but could catch you off-guard if they pivot


Competitor Overviews

Monthly News Updates


Before you can define these categories, you need to have strong alignment on your current state and your strategic vision.  Knowing this will adapt how you choose to position competitors in the various tiers. 

Practitioners also find that being selective with tier 1 competitors provides more value than if you were to track all tier 1 and 2 competitors to the depth of tier 1 due to strategic focus and time management. 

It was important to filter where they spent their time, but still focusing enough on the smaller competitors that could sneak up on them.

5. The most impactful CI programs provide data to drive decisions across multiple functions.

While many think of competitive intelligence as tracking their competitors, it’s increasingly critical to use it to give your company a greater competitive edge. Adaptive companies grow 3.2x faster than those that don’t.

Monitoring a competitor is a necessary aspect of this, however, it’s equally important to measure high-impact areas of all teams like sector, supplier risk, sustainability, and new business opportunity intelligence. 

All these areas require data-driven decision-making to make your company more competitive, grow market share, and increase revenue. 

A Forrester research report shows that only 43% of business decisions are data-driven and the most successful data-driven companies also centralize all their intelligence for a full view into what is happening within their universe to pinpoint what needs to change today in order to reach their goals.


Zach Hover
Marketing Coordinator Posts

Zach is the Marketing Coordinator for Insightsfirst at Evalueserve. He has previously worked in career services and politics as a communication professional and is passionate about using his voice to empower others. Outside of the office, you can catch him honing new skills such as video editing or graphic design or catching up on the latest TV and movie news. Some of Zach’s recommendations for TV include: The Vampire Diaries, 9-1-1, and Grace and Frankie.

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