Looking for the best competitive analysis books? Each of these books offers something special and all of them taken together will give you the education you need to analyze your competitors quickly and easily.

Competitive analysis is a critical component of every small business marketing plan. But few businesses pay much attention to researching the competition until they start losing customers.

Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors by Michael Porter

When you’re thinking about competitive analysis, it’s best to start with a classic. And you can always count on Michael Porter to deliver. This book will give you the complete overview of what competitive analysis it, how to think about it and how to start collecting the right information about your competition.

Creating Competitive Advantage: Give Customers a Reason to Choose You Over Your Competitors by Jaynie L. Smith and William G. Flanagan

This is one of my all-time favorite books on competitive analysis. Your competitive advantage is at the center of WHY your customers should choose YOU over any other alternative. In this book, Jaynie Smith hits on exactly HOW you should be using competitive analysis to differentiate your business.

Read the complete review of Creating Competitive Advantage.

No Contest: The Case Against Competition by Alphie Kohn

When this book was published in 1992, competitive analysis was a dog-eat-dog activity. After all, competition is about as American as apple pie!

But what if head-to-head competition is hurting your bottom line? Citing foundational research that, since the time of its first release 25 years ago, has remained bulletproof. No Contest will make you think differently about how to compete. This book is fun to read because it isn’t just about competition in business, it’s also about how competition occurs in our personal lives as well.

Some of the key principles you’ll find in this book are that human beings are built for cooperation. In fact, innovation and superior performance often come from cooperation rather than competition.

Co-Opetition by Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff

Written almost 20 years after Kohn’s No Contest, this competitive analysis book shifts the conversation toward the business environment.

This book is about creating and capturing value. Author Barry Nalebuff proposes that you do this by partnering with businesses that sell complementary products and services to your own. Another way to look at this is to partner with businesses that sell different products and services to the same audiences as yours.

Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Blue ocean strategy pushes companies to create new industries and break away from the competition. This competitive analysis book actually contains templates and processes that will help you carve out a new competitive space.

If you’re looking for an easy way to start your competitive analysis based on Blue Ocean Strategy check out Blue Ocean Studio, an online collaborative tool that will guide you and your team through the Blue Ocean process.

Blue ocean strategy studio screen shot

I’d recommend reading Blue Ocean Strategy first. Because it’s the first book in the Blue Ocean series, I think it will lay the groundwork for the online tool as well as for other books in the Blue Ocean series.

Blue Ocean Shift is the latest book by the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors show you how to move beyond competition, inspire confidence with your team, and take advantage of new growth. You’ll go step by step from a red sea full of competition to a blue sea of uncontested market space. Blue Ocean Shift integrates the principles of human psychology with realistic business-creating techniques and real-world advice.

Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership When Algorithms and Networks Run the World by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani

Artificial intelligence is disrupting. And it transforms how companies operate. Larger companies have the technical resources to meet this new demand. But small businesses are at risk of being left behind.

This competitive analysis book is destined to become a classic. Competing in the Age of AI describes the implications of artificial intelligence for business. The authors focus primarily on larger businesses and brands, but there are plenty of lessons here that a small business owner can appreciate.

Read a detailed review of Competing in the Age of AI

Uncopyable: How To Create An Unfair Advantage Over Your Competition by Steve Miller

When you put your focus on the competition, you set yourself up to get on the hamster wheel of competitive analysis. If you like Blue Ocean Strategy you’ll want to read Uncopyable as well. Being “Uncopyable” means holding a unique place in your customers mind as the only business that can provide a specific product or service in a particular way. The author uses brands such as Disney, American Girl and other large organizations as a reference point. But the strategies are just as easily applied to small business as well.

Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything by Bryce G. Hoffman

This book will help you overcome the mental blind spots and cognitive biases that all of us fall victim to when we try to address complex problems. Featuring the most innovative and disruptive companies, such as Google and Toyota that already use some of these techniques. The author also shows how many high-profile business failures could easily have been avoided had they used the concepts from this book.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to competitive analysis, you’ve got to get creative. The books featured on this list offer everything from an academic foundation as well as out-of-the-box thinking that will help you understand what your customers want as well as what you can do to help your business stand out.