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Competitive Intelligence Part 1 of 3

Do you need James Bond?

Angelo Ponzi - Strategic Market Intelligence

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Competitive intelligence conjures up images of spies, secret agents…James Bond, Ethan Hunt or even Mata Hari.

While this is true to some degree, it’s the norm.  You need to think of competitive intelligence as a business strategy, one that you can implement to help gather the information you need to make better strategic decisions.

A competitive intelligence program can be used to gather insights on a consistent basis in areas such as:

  • Understanding the dynamics of the market in which you are competing.
  • Target audiences
  • Size of market
  • Shifts in competitive messaging
  • Competitive pricing, as well as new or current product/service offerings
  • New or emerging market opportunities
  • Messaging strategy and overall communication plan development
  • Sales strategies
  • Win/loss analysis

The list above is certainly not an exhaustive one, but it’s a start. Your specific list will be driven by your needs.  Also, keep in mind, you can learn not only from your and your competitors’ successes, but, from failures as well.  

First, identify someone in your company to be in charge of the program (or of course, there are outsource companies and consultants) to identify your specific intelligence needs and develop a process for collecting the information.  However, collecting the information is only the first step and probably the easiest.  The hardest part is analyzing it to identify and develop meaningful and actionable recommendations.

A few areas you can focus on to develop competitive insights include Google alerts, Google searches, RSS, LinkedIn, Twitter, news releases, publication articles, competitive reviews, advertising campaigns – advertising/communication, as well as their media buy, literature, white papers, case studies. Website reviews, social media monitoring and trade shows/conference for example. For the most part, many of these resources or tools are free.

There are also a variety of tools you can subscribe to.  For example, LexisNexis, Factiva, Business Monitor, Hoovers, Exchangeleads and InsideView, as well as the use of proprietary qualitative and quantitative market research.

Before you start building your program, I suggest the following.  Meet with key stakeholders, especially those that are directly or indirectly interacting with competitors and ask what competitive information they would like to have and believe is important.

Also, don’t forget, while you’re looking outside of your company for information, don’t forget to look inside.  Typically, a large amount of competitive intelligence already exists within the walls of your organization.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface on developing a competitive intelligence program.  So I’ll continue to write about this topic, adding two more articles to this series focusing on the various steps.

In the meantime, if you don’t have a Competitive Intelligence program in place, think about starting one.  As you’ve read, there are plenty of free tools you can use to get you started.  And, if you do have one, take a moment to make sure it’s as efficient and effective as possible.

Understanding your competitors and the market in which you compete is not just nice to know, it’s essential to the long term success of your business.

"We do not deal with certainties. The world of intelligence is the world of probabilities. Getting the information is not usually the most difficult task. What is difficult is putting upon it the right interpretation. Analysis is everything... ". (Issur Harel)

In part two of this series on Competitive Intelligence, I'll be sharing specific sources you can use to help develop your data collection plan.

I welcome your comments below, and hope to seeing you October 28th for Taking Data-Driven Strategy Beyond Messaging: Bridging the gap between marketing and product development innovation.

Photo - Angelo Ponzi - Strategic Marketing Intelligence

Angelo Ponzi, Principal
Strategic Market Intelligence

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