Mindset for Success
(Attitudes for Successful Competitive Intelligence Research)
Competitive Intelligence is sometimes viewed as a research approach that treats anything within the competitive environment as hostile forces to be confronted, as opposed to sources of information to improve existing products and services. Competitors are seen as enemies to be defeated and not used as sources of ideas for product improvement. Clients must be disciplined to accept company offerings or procedures rather than the company adapting to the needs of clients. Thus, useful sources of competitive intelligence are not utilized.
In this brief article, we will look at how competitors and clients can be leveraged to uncover ideas to improve products, increase sales and minimize losses.
Using Competitors as Sentinels
Competitors provide invaluable clues on the state of your industry, your company’s position in the industry, as well as trends that can impact your company’s revenues.
Many companies monitor their competitors by following their activities such as the hiring and firing of employees, strategic alliances, pricing, the development of new products and services, etc. Vitally important, however, is what your competitors are saying about your company and what they are communicating to your clients.
For example, competitive intelligence may reveal that a competitor has found a weakness in your company’s offering and that its sales reps mention this weakness during presentations to new customers, some of which happen to be your clients. This may manifest itself in lost bids or clients.
A smart company would use this intelligence to not only correct the problem but also to enhance their offering.
Client-Competitor Interactions Reveal Challenges and Opportunities
Clients tend to tell your competitors things they would never tell you. Whatever the reason for this, the fact remains that interactions between your clients and competitors can provide useful insights into how your company and its products are perceived, and they reveal any weaknesses in your products and how they are addressed by your competitors.
These client-competitor interactions can be the source of a wealth of important information: they not only provide an opportunity to uncover flaws in products, but also reveal what matters most in the eyes of your clients. Smart managers use this intelligence to make informed decisions not only on product development but also to develop appropriate marketing messages.
When studying cases where companies fail and go out of business, one often comes across the saying “We didn’t see it coming.” In fact, more often than not, they did “see it coming.” They (the companies and their management) decided ignore it and not to do anything to deal with business challenges. Failure became inevitable.
The successful application of competitive intelligence research is dependent greatly on willingness of management (the corporate culture) to apply the knowledge learned through research as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible. Failure to do so results in a company getting blindsided by circumstances it “didn’t see coming.”
Experience has shown that a company that incorporates research findings in product development and marketing is one that has a distinct advantage over its competition. Through the application of knowledge gained through competitive intelligence, a company maximizes new business sales and client retention and minimizes losses. Two important sources of intelligence are competitors and clients – resources that can provide insights that are vital to a company’s success.