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Tactical Versus Strategic Intelligence: What's the Difference for Competitive Intelligence

January 23, 2023

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Take it from the oft-quoted, 6th century Chinese military strategist and Taoist philosopher Sun Tzu, strategy and tactics go hand in hand. While General Tzu was referring to The Art of War, competitive intelligence research also benefits from a two-pronged approach. So, how does tactical competitive intelligence (CI) vary from strategic? 

We'll dive into the differences between tactical and strategic competitive intelligence and why both types of research are critical to your CI success (and we'll show you how Nexis makes it easy!). 

What is tactical competitive intelligence? 

As the name suggests, tactical competitive intelligence is intended to inform the day-to-day tactics an organization undertakes to capture market share or increase revenue. This short-term perspective is particularly useful for supporting the sales process.

The focus of competitive intelligence for tactical insights can involve research into both competitors and the broader marketplace. For example, you can research:

  • Buying trends within your industry or among target audiences
  • Competitor product offerings, including price and how products are being promoted
  • Geographic reach for competitor products

Real world applications of tactical competitive intelligence strategies

How does this apply in the real world? For one example, airlines conduct ongoing tactical competitive intelligence research to inform pricing, and fares are adjusted frequently—even daily—based on competitors’ current tactics. This became especially relevant in the past few years as airlines have been dealing with staffing issues, or other scandals. As one airline has a major misstep, other airlines adjust their prices to capitalize on potential sales from customers anxious to get home. This type of planning requires a constant ear to the ground and knowledge of the current landscape. 

Tactical competitive intelligence like this can also be used to support win/loss analysis that is crucial for developing ‘battle cards’ to drive sales. In this case, CI research should span internal and external sources of data from deals that have been won or lost to cover the following areas:

  • Develop side-by-side product or service comparisons
  • Analyze differences between marketing for similar products or services
  • Conduct post-deal interviews (win or lose) to get first-hand feedback on deciding factors and the sales process

In addition, CI professionals should look at both individual deals and aggregate sales results. Analyzing individual sales wins or losses helps companies understand the dynamics of a deal and home in on specific tactics that can resolve barriers to sales. Analyzing the cumulative sales data, on the other hand, helps companies identify trends or common factors across sales wins or losses. These types of insights empower companies to optimize their messaging and sales tactics to close more deals.

What is strategic competitive intelligence?  

Where tactical competitive intelligence is designed to help companies make smarter decisions in the moment, strategic competitive intelligence focuses on capturing a long-range review of the business landscape to inform plans across the business.

In the airline example above, a major airline may set day-to-day prices based on tactical strategies and knowledge of the current competitive landscape. But, if they want to grow their market share overtime, they will need a longer strategic lens to consider patterns and possible ways to disrupt the airline industry at-large. This requires a historical understanding, as well as a knowledge of innovative technologies, to make long-range strategic decisions. Sometimes this can be much more difficult to find. 

Here are some ways CI professionals discover actionable strategic insights:

  • Track news and social commentary related to your own business, direct competitors, potential disruptors, influencers, the marketplace and industry.
  • Research competitor organizations and leadership using company and executive data.
  • Analyze patents data to provide a window into technology trends and competitor R&D activity.
  • Review legal information, including cases within your industry and among competitors, to identify potential opportunities.

It’s critical to remember that strategic competitive intelligence doesn’t exist to cement plans, but to support agility so companies can adapt long-range plans as needs change. Harvard Business Review likens it to “building a strategic early warning capability so you don’t miss the big picture.”

How Nexis can support your tactical and strategic competitive intelligence needs

To do quality tactical and strategic competitive intelligence planning, you need a solid foundation of research. With over 36,000 licensed news sources, 45+ years of news and business records, and a robust archive of legal data, the Nexis Dossier Suite empowers business research that supports both tactical and strategic planning across your organization.

Want to see for yourself? Sign up for a free trial of Nexis today