Competitive Intelligence: Information Sources
What makes Competitive Intelligence such a powerful, and sometimes frustrating, tool is that it can encompass a wide range of research methods which are then brought together through ANALYSIS to create a detailed and evolving picture of the competitive environment.
Here are some of the elements that come into play:
– HUMINT: Human intelligence is information derived from simply talking to people. Examples include mystery shopping, exchanging information with people in your own organization, or speaking with industry experts and journalists to get their ideas on industry issues.
– Market Research: Yes, traditional market research can be part of the CI professional’s arsenal. Whether it is a customer satisfaction study, or focus group study, or a study of general market conditions, or even the results of a business intelligence analysis of your client base – market research can help provide a starting point for an understanding of existing or potential market conditions, as well as developing trends in attitudes and ideas.
– Public Information/Social Media: There is much publicly available information that can be used for competitive intelligence. This does not mean aimlessly surfing the web. This means looking at such things as:
o Want ads by competitors (Are they expanding or replacing workers who left?)
o CEO biographies (What are their backgrounds and how will past experiences influence future decisions?),
o Strategic Alliances: What subcontractors have been brought in and how do they enhance or hamper a competitor’s ability to compete?
New technologies/New Patents: Can new technologies developed in other industries be used in your industry? What would be the impact? Has a competitor patented a new product? Can it be a “game-changer”?
– Legislation: Will proposed legislation help or hinder your company or industry?
– Financial Information: This can be tricky as financial statements can be dodgy. If your comfortable with such information and know how to analyze it, then it can certainly be a useful tool for the CI professional.
– Analysis: It is analysis, along with experiential knowledge of your business sector that brings all of the above-mentioned items together to create a complete picture of your company’s competitive environment. This picture is in constant flux. It is your analytical ability, knowledge and foresight that will enable you to anticipate changes in your industry that threaten the existence of, or provide opportunities for growth, your company and industry.
To conclude, it has been briefly demonstrated how difference research forms and sources of information can be brought together through analysis to help key decision-makers make the best possible decisions for their company today and into the future.