Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping an Eye On Your Competition thru Competitive Intelligence

Compliments of Inc Magazine’s April 2010 edition Resources: Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals ( ) Polson Enterprises Before “Search,” keeping a firm eye on your competition was something that only Fortune 500 companies would tend to do, with entire departments devoted to Competitive Intelligence, or CI, and CI-focused management consultants who serve these departments. In fact, competitive intelligence may be more important to small companies than it is to larger ones, because small business feels the impact of competition immediately and “more deeply,” compared to larger ones. Craig Fleisher, a management professor at the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick notes, “Competitive intelligence is part of the day-to-day operation- part of the fabric of the enterprise.”
Using CI you are able to track your rivals while not spending a lot of money or too much time. In getting started/creating Benchmarks for measurement, you must articulate your own businesses goals and strategy.
“You have to clearly put yourself side by side with your competitor,” says Anne House, an Arlington, Virginia-based competitive intelligence consultant. “Because it’s the difference between the two of you where opportunities lie.” Determine Who Matters: Keep tabs in order to keep pricing/marketing and strategy at bay, but don’t “assume what exists today will be true tomorrow.” Don’t watch more than five companies at any one time or you could find yourself overwhelmed. It has been said that spending too much time on competitive intelligence is spending too little time being competitive!
Focus on What Matters: Four critical areas of competitor behavior that CI experts focus on are: a). Its goals/”drivers”/often in terms of revenue
b). Management’s assumptions about the market
c). It's strategies and tactics to achieve those goalsd
d). It's capabilities for meeting the goals. ** Most companies need to focus on c & d (tracking strategies & tactics & capabilities).
Formalize the Process: Part of making the process a "discipline" is making it a discipline. Keep files on a server; making a point to review all information at least once a quarter. Remember = Competitive Intelligence has No intrinsic Value, the Value occurs when you use CI to make better decisions. Gathering Intelligence In the News: Be aware of Email Alerts about search terms of your choice from Google News. Some of the best sources are often small town newspapers or local business papers that avidly cover hometown companies, particularly when they are big fish in a little pond.
Online: Competitors’ Websites/reviewing back-links/relationships/SEO tactics/directories they are listed in by using companies like or to get certain page updates. Why? Because when a company changes its website, it certainly speaks to how their message/business/strategy/clients are changing and what they are prioritizing.
Financials: Business data aggrators such as Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA can provide adequate financials, (local academic or public libraries usually have subscriptions).
From the Bureaucracy: Requesting OSHA docs thru our Freedom of Information Act can also help in getting an inside scoop of who your competitors are working with. Often laden with Industry Jargon or Slang, these Analytic Models for evaluating a business and its competitive landscape are not interchangeable – they work best when put to specific uses.
Strategic Planning: SWOT Analysis is a process of dividing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats into quadrants on a grid to accurately view, analyze & compare.
New Market Opportunities: A Strategic Group Map plotting your company and your competitors on a grid against two variables that most define success in your specific field, such as pricing and product quality. The grid, which is divided into quadrants, illuminates the strategic space that remains open.
To Anticipate How Competitors Might React To Your Next Move: A four-Corner Analysis matches up your company against the competition in terms of Goals, Assumptions, Strategies & Capabilities.