In any competitive intelligence research, there will be two tracks: a secondary research track and a primary research track. The secondary research involves using some of the hundreds of competitive intelligence sources that are available online.
Among secondary sources, there are some that are the first port of call in every project (Google, obviously), some that are regular contenders (like Twitter) and some that are useful less frequently (for example, Import Genius).
Most of the online resources are free, but a minority are paid sources - sources like BuiltWith, which shows what websites are using a particular technology.
Among this select group of paid sources, LinkedIn is the most commonly used, almost to the point of being essential. Most competitive intelligence projects should involve trawling through LinkedIn profiles, with uses including:
- Building a competitor's org chart
- Analyzing how much a company is investing in sales or R&D
- Checking profiles for which companies use a particular software application
- Checking salespeople's profiles for mentions of revenues and sales quotas
- Mapping a company's geographical distribution of employees
For competitive intelligence, LinkedIn is vastly more useful with a paid subscription. The key required feature is 'Full Name Visibility', which in the US comes with the Executive tier at $99.99 per month, and has the important added benefit of more visible search results.