Competitive Intelligence: A defined approach
Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process of defining, gathering, analyzing and distributing intelligence about competitors’ products and services in order to make better strategic decisions. It isn’t about secretly spying on the competition, it’s a defined business strategy that is both ethical and legit. In fact, approximately 90 percent of Fortune 500® companies have a well-established CI function in place.There are numerous benefits to implementing CI strategies; companies doing so are better able to understand the market and forecast its potential, target the right customers, understand competitor offerings and pricing, and find new customers. In order to effectively monitor what your competitors are doing, you need a process in place.4 steps to successful CI
In order to successfully use CI as a business strategy, you need to follow a defined process. Here are four steps to successful CI gathering:

  • Step 1—Planning: Implementing a CI strategy involves coming up with a plan. Your plan should identify what competitor data you aim to collect and how you plan on using it. Questions to consider asking include: What is the purpose of the project? How can goals be achieved? What are the deliverables and who are the intended recipients? Pull in stakeholders and employees early on—they may already have knowledge of competitive data or experience working with the competition.

In fact, it is estimated that 80 percent of competitor data already exists internally. Assemble cross-functional teams to compile a list of everyone’s competitive data and define ahead of time what you’re looking to collect. A simple spreadsheet that identifies a competitor’s name, website, elevator pitch, mission, product/service offering, strengths, weaknesses and key brand differentiators is a great place to start. Make sure employees understand the value of CI—ultimately it will help them achieve more success in their jobs. Be sure to thank team members for their time with a logo’d microfleece jacket or messenger bag.

  • Step 2—Data collection: Now that you’ve uncovered what data you’re looking for, its time to collect it. Public sources, such as those found on the Internet can be a great resource. Competitive Intelligence: A Selective Resource Guide assists users in finding competitors’ info using search engines, Web archives, blogs, news and more. Social media outlets such as Facebook® and Twitter® are also wellsprings of information. Once again, don’t underestimate the value of your employees and their networks. Ask employees what they know and who—then track it. Even CI from whitepapers and webinars should be recorded in some sort of database in an effort to track industry patterns and trends. Foster CI monitoring by establishing knowledge-based goals and objectives for each team member. Reward employees for hitting their targeted goals with rechargeable speakers or an MP3 player.
  • Step 3—Analysis: Now take all the data you’ve collected and make sense of it. Data can be used to identify issues, trends and external factors that may be impacting your market. A thorough analysis of sociological, technological, economic, environmental and political trends should be conducted during this stage. There are several online tools that can help with your data analysis. Check out HitWise®, from Experian® Marketing Services or ComScore, from Analytics for a Digital World™.
  • Step 4—Data dissemination: All the data in the world won’t do your company much good if you don’t share it across the organization. Data should be distributed regularly and in an easy-to-understand format. It’s important to note that sharing CI should be a two-way street. Continue to seek input and encourage feedback throughout the data dissemination process. Hold regular draws for contributors as a way to encourage this valuable practice—a logo’d tool bag set or Sensor Ultrathin Tablet Case make nice prizes.

Remember, effectively monitoring the competition is a great way to support an organization’s strategic decision-making processes. A method involving planning, data collection, analysis and data dissemination can help. For more information on CI and the benefits it can have on your small business, check out our Blue Papers®.

Competitive Intelligence.Wikipedia. N.p., 13 Dec. 2013. Web. Retrieved 06 Jan. 2014.

Finnegan, Orlaith. “Top Tips: Setting up a Market or Competitive Intelligence function.Digimind Insights. N.p., 30 Aug. 2012. Web. Retrieved 02 Jan. 2014.

How to Conduct Competitive Research” BY Inc. Staff.Inc.com. N.p., 10 May 2010. Web. Retrieved 31 Dec. 2013.

How Do You Create a Competitive Intelligence Collection Plan?OnCompetition. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2014.

Competitive Intelligence.” 4imprint.com. 4imprint, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. Retrieved 1 Mar. 2014.

Pacifici, Sabrina I. “Competitive Intelligence – A Selective Resource Guide.” Competitive Intelligence. LLRX.com, 6 Sept. 2013. Web. Retrieved 08 Jan. 2014.

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