Are you an entrepreneur in search of ways to make your products as competitive as possible? Or do you want to identify competitive gaps in an existing market? Competitive intelligence helps you research the trends and identify a niche in an established market. But what’s competitive intelligence and how’s this strategy useful to your small business?
Definition of Competitive Intelligence
Competitive intelligence is collecting and analyzing information about your business environment to form a business strategy that can beat the competition. In essence, you gather publicly available information about your competitors and industry to identify competitor gaps and develop your strategy. Your competitive intelligence activities may focus on short-term issues, such as increasing your market share and revenues. You may also engage in this business strategy to provide input long-term issues, such as opportunities and risks.
What Are the Sources of Competitive Intelligence Information?
You may gather information by talking to people within and outside the company, and they include:
- Customers: A question such as “Tell me what you know about company or product X” may give insight about what your competitor offers.
- Vendors: Ask your suppliers to give you information about your competitors and their business strategies.
- Employees: Talk to your employees to know what they expect from your company. Your own marketers and salespeople may attend industry seminars and conferences and learn specifics that are useful to your business.
- Industry experts: You may also hire a competitive intelligence practitioner to help you with gathering information about your business environment.
If you’re a small business owner or self-employed pro, you can find crucial information about your competitors through online searches and other competitive intelligence resources such as:
- Company websites
- Postings on social media
- Company news
Is Competitive Intelligence Ethical?
Proper competitive intelligence practices must be ethical, so make sure you do legitimate research that doesn’t hurt other businesses in any way. According to the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, you should always disclose information about the people and companies and provide honest and reliable information once you complete your research. If you own a business in Canada, adhere to the competitive intelligence laws. For example, the government bars you from paying a competitor’s employee to provide insight into their company. It’s also illegal to hack your competitors’ websites and networks when collecting and analyzing information.
Competitive Intelligence at a Glance
Ensure that the information you gather through competitive intelligence practices informs strategic and tactical decisions in your organization. As the name suggests, competitive intelligence requires thoughtful and careful analysis of the information collected. Focus on knowing your competitors, the competitive landscape, what your customers want, and the influence of other business stakeholders. Be sure to also understand technology and marketing trends and how these two affect your industry.
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