Competitive intelligence relies on many secondary sources. Some of the sources are so commonly used that it would be inconceivable to profile a company without access to those sources: Google and LinkedIn, for example.
Some secondary sources are subscription products (e.g. LinkedIn, ImportGenius), others are funded by advertising (e.g. Google, Twitter) and some of them are non-profits that rely on the goodness of their users for donations. Two of the most important secondary sources are non-profits; Aqute uses them on almost every project. They should be on the donation list of any competitive intelligence analyst.
First, Wikipedia. It’s fashionable to mock the inaccuracies of Wikipedia and its pervasiveness in plagiarism, but Wikipedia is a genuinely useful resource. It’s a good starting point for research projects, pointing to a partial list of things to investigate. Wikipedia often has useful information about a company’s history (e.g. acquisitions, product release dates) that would take much longer to compile from other sources. And Wikipedia may be the easiest way to obtain some of the most basic information, such as revenues, office locations and corporate ownership.
Less widely known, but equally useful, is Wayback Machine. Wayback Machine archives previous versions of most websites, which can be used for many aspects of competitive intelligence. Comparing a current web page with its current versions on Wayback Machine can help with tracking a company’s history of price increases, changes in go-to-market messaging over time and the joining dates of members of the senior leadership team. Wayback Machine also keeps copies of pages that may no longer exist. Technology start-ups often have pricing pages in their early days, which they remove as they grow and target enterprises, and these earlier versions can be a useful guide as to what their current pricing may be.
Aqute owes a lot to Wikipedia and Wayback Machine. We respond to Wikipedia’s annual fundraising, and to Wayback Machine’s more passive requests on its website. Not because we are generous, but because both deliver value way above what we donate and it's in our interests that they both continue to exist.