Wikipedia.com describes competitive intelligence as “researching the business environment a (usually private) firm operates in, in order to influence its emerging strategy for business development.” All companies today are now playing a market savvy game of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
But the question is how can you effectively keep tabs on your competition? Well, instead of boring you with the nuances of competitive intelligence I’d like to offer some quick tips to help you become more aware of what your competitors are up to.
Use blogs and forums to see what’s hot in your industry. Blogs and forums can be littered with brutally honest consumer feedback about what they like or don’t like about you and your competitor’s services. Also, former (or current) employees sometimes discuss "how they did it" at their particular company. Use google's Blog searcher for help with this.
Tag your searches with (.pdf) of (.ppt) to return power point of PDF documents. You can get slides from presentations or speeches that may not be indexed on a company website.
Use company websites for information on upcoming events or news about your competitor. The preview of a new product or service they plan to launch or a seminar or event they plan to attend could have implications of future marketing and sales strategies.
Browse Monster.com to find out who in your industry is hiring and what positions they need. If they are hiring someone for tech support, the listed credentials they require could give insight to their technical infrastructure.
Develop a monitoring plan so you can be updated periodically on important websites in your industry. Whether that be competitors websites, blogs or an industry site, they all can provide important information on a weekly basis about how your market is changing. Use free monitoring services such as Watchthatpage.com. Watchthatpage offers free email updates, scheduled at your convenience, anytime a webpage of your choosing changes.
Outsource the grunt work so you can stay informed on your competitive market without falling behind on your day to day business tasks. There are cheap and effective resources such as Corporate Weather that offer comprehensive competitive analysis.
Something to Keep in mind. Although there is limited research in the effects of CI, “One study completed in 1995 at the University of North Texas found that businesses that used formal CI programs generally outperformed those that did not in three areas: sales, market share, and earnings per share. This study suggests that there is a positive relationship between emphasis on CI and successful financial performance” (Intro to Online Competitive Intelligence Research, 2004).
Hopefully these tips will help you stay one step ahead of your competitors.