Competitive Intelligence Trends Make ‘Getting in the Know’ a Matter of Course
What are your competitors up to? What are their future strategic plans?
If you knew the answers to these questions, how would it affect your B2B market strategies?
For most industries, these aren’t theoretical questions. Recent trends in competitive intelligence make knowledge about competitors readily available.
Competitive intelligence is the ethical, legal business practice of gathering and analyzing information about competitive firms, including their strategies, products, services, talent and plans. Organizations typically engage in competitive intelligence initiatives to identify potential risks and opportunities, or when they are planning a strategic move, such as releasing a new product or evaluating sales performance.
Michelle Castillo, former Director, Competitive/Business Intelligence – Global Medical Products for Baxter Healthcare explains the importance of competitive intelligence now, and in the future:
“Whenever an organization is making critical decisions, CI needs to be involved. One of the most important things I accomplished at Baxter Healthcare was embedding CI throughout the organization. Forward-thinking companies are evolving to include the competitive framework as a key part of their strategic planning, because the market itself is constantly evolving.”
To further embed competitive intelligence throughout your company, dedicate resources to ongoing CI efforts, not sporadic projects. Instead of taking a static snapshot in time of the competitive landscape, strategists should understand competitors’ product lifecycles and their future plans.
Competitive Intelligence Becomes Accessible to All B2B Firms
Publicly-held corporations have always been required to release filings. Before the Internet, researchers would call individual corporations and request hard copies of these filings to be mailed. As you can imagine, obtaining and sorting through this plethora of data was a significant challenge.
Organizations now enjoy two benefits that allow them to develop timely, actionable competitive insights:
- Better, faster access to filings - Corporations almost always make filings available to the public on their websites in easily downloadable PDFs. This better, faster access to filings allows competitive intelligence teams to start analyzing data immediately as it is released.
- Ability to search filings - With electronic documents, keyword search strategies become incredibly valuable. Instead of wading through dozens of irrelevant pages, researchers quickly pinpoint key areas of interest.
Beyond the ready availability of corporate filings released to the public, new media channels have encouraged firms to share even more information with stakeholders (and, consequently, competitors). It’s increasingly common for corporate presenters to share slides containing strategic initiatives through services like Prezi. And Twitter may seem like an endless stream of data, but Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) offers a webinar called “Beyond Hashtags: How to Extract Valuable CI Data from Twitter.” The organization describes the event:
“With approximately 310 million active monthly Twitter users around the world, lots of information is generated on this social media platform. In this 45-minute webinar, you will learn about the underutilized advanced search features on Twitter and how you can gather valuable data with free or low-cost resources.”
In many ways, competitive intelligence is as much an art as a science. Castillo provides this advice for building your competitive intuition:
“It’s important to critically analyze publicly-available information. Read between the lines to determine if your competitor is on pace with their plans or not. For instance, I find when firms avoid specifics and use generic terms like ‘synergy,’ they are more likely to miss their targets. Get to know each competitor individually. Some will be very disciplined, while others will be more ad hoc.”
Competitive intelligence is an increasingly important tool in your strategic toolbox, and I advocate embedding it into your decision-making. It won’t outline a clear strategic path for your company, but it will certainly help you steer clear of mistakes competitors have already made and avoid duplicating competitive advantages. Competitive intelligence also plays an important role in reassuring investors and raising funding. The first steps are to outline a CI strategic framework and allocate resources—then start taking advantage of your new intelligence!