Competitive Intelligence Firms vs Tools: Is it worth hiring a CI firm?

Competitive Intelligence firms

What are your competitors up to? What products and services are they offering? What marketing tactics are they using? What are their customers saying? The answers to these questions are highly valuable to your company. You can see which strategies are working (and which aren’t), as well as discover if there are any untapped markets or opportunities to poach unhappy customers.

That’s where Competitive Intelligence firms come in. Competitive intelligence (CI) firms offer services that help you track your competition, understand their strategies, and uncover new opportunities. But is hiring a CI firm necessary? Or can a simple tool give you all the information you need for a fraction of the price?
We look at the pros of hiring a firm specifically for competitive intelligence vs using a comprehensive tool to do it in-house.

Pros of Both

Whether you’re choosing to outsource your competitive intelligence, or use a tool in-house, there are a couple of key benefits that apply to both options.

Save your company time

Competitive intelligence can be a time-consuming process. Whether you’re automating most of the process with a tool or hiring another firm, you’re freeing up time for your team to focus on other things while still getting the information you need.


Both options offer a greater degree of objectivity. Firms offer an outsider’s perspective on your situation and can give you unbiased recommendations. Competitive intelligence tools analyse even unstructured data without any of the biases that humans are subject to.

Now let’s look at some of the key benefits of each option specifically:

Competitive Intelligence Firms Pros

1. Specialised teams

Some CI firms specialise in a particular industry, meaning that they bring to the table a lot of existing knowledge about your competitors. This can be helpful if you’re trying to understand complex strategies or track down hard-to-find information.

2. Experienced teams

Competitive intelligence firms are made up of people who do this for a living. They have the experience and knowledge to understand the data they’re collecting and how it can be used to your advantage.

3. More varied sources

While CI tools tend to focus on freely available data sources (social media, review sites, employee data, website analytics), some CI firms have access to paid databases such as CapitalIQ for financial data. Many CI firms also offer primary research services such as face-to-face interviews with suppliers and distributors.

4. Help with decision-making

Whereas competitive intelligence tools can provide insights into your data, firms can go a step further and make suggestions as to how to improve your strategies based on their findings and their experience.

Tools Pros

1. Scope

Competitive Intelligence tools offer a wider scope of applications than firms. In addition to tracking your competitors, they can also help with things like marketing and sales intelligence, customer insights, and market research.

2. Flexibility

Competitive intelligence tools are flexible and can be customised to your specific needs. At Symanto, our tools and technologies have been adapted and applied across a wide variety of markets. We’ve developed specific use cases for multiple industries from gaming to banking.

3. Cost-effective

Competitive intelligence tools are generally less expensive than hiring dedicated teams from CI firms.

4. Stay up to date

The speed at which CI tools collect and process data means that it’s easier than ever to stay up to date with your competitor’s strategies and performance. This is particularly important in fast-paced industries where trends and strategies are constantly changing.

5. Accuracy

Competitive intelligence tools can offer a higher degree of accuracy than human analysts.

Previously, it took a human to accurately analyse unstructured written data such as social media comments and written reports. But the rapid advancement of natural language processing (NLP) technology has revolutionised the capabilities of CI tools.

Now, CI tools are not only incredibly accurate at understanding human language, but they can also process large amounts of data quickly and identify patterns that might be missed by humans.

6. Improved decision-making

With accurate and up-to-date information on your competition, you can make better business decisions across the board. This includes everything from product development to marketing campaigns.

7. You're in control

When you use a tool, you’re in control of the data. This can be helpful if you want to keep your Competitive Intelligence process in-house and avoid sharing information with an outside firm.

8. Legality

Not all agencies have strong ethical standards. Researchers must strictly follow legal guidelines to ensure they are not involved in corporate espionage. CI tools, on the other hand, use publicly available data that’s all above board.

There are pros and cons to both Competitive Intelligence firms and tools. Ultimately, the decision of whether to use a firm or a tool depends on your specific needs and preferences.

If you need help with complex strategies, an experienced team, or if there isn’t enough publicly available data on your competitors, then a Competitive Intelligence firm might be the right choice for you.

However, if you work in a constantly evolving, fast-paced industry then you will benefit from the speed and accuracy of state-of-the-art CI tools. Furthermore, at a time when data handling and security are a growing concern for all businesses, using a secure CI tool, such as Symanto, helps you stay in control.

Get Started with Symanto

Symanto is at the cutting edge of NLP research and technology. Get fast and accurate insights using data generated by your competitor’s customers, employees and industry analysts. Our technology can parse out relevant information from varied sources including social media channels, review sites, forums, news sites, annual reports and more.

Symanto then converts the data into intuitive visualisations so that you can easily compare your own performance against several of your key competitors across a wide range of topics.

To discover more about our range of tools and how we can create a customised solution for your business, get in touch or book your free personalised demonstration today.