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Competitive intelligence: effective methods and popular tools

Competitive intelligence is a great opportunity to be aware of everything that is happening in your field of business, to promote your company, to be able to offer to the customers the best products that have advantages over the products of competitors. The data obtained during the "investigation" helps to build a reliable and effective strategy and tactics for developing your business.

It's important to understand as quickly as possible that competition cannot be avoided. And no matter what is your business about, there are companies that want to push you out of there and take away your customers. If your goal is to win and survive in a competitive jungle, then you need to start with intelligence.

competitive intelligence services


1. Competitive intelligence: what will competitor analysis give to you?

2. What information can You get about the competitors?

3. Some statistics

4. Methods of competitive intelligence

5. Competitive intelligence services

6. What are the methods that border on legality and ethical standards?

7. Collecting information from open sources

8. The collection of private information

Competitive intelligence: what will competitor analysis give to you?

Don't confuse business intelligence with industrial espionage. The first is legal, the second is not. The Internet today offers a variety of competitive intelligence services, using which is quite legal, so you don't need to worry about. They will help each start-up company to test the ground and choose effective business models. To achieve this, you will need to understand the reason of success of the leaders of a particular market segment, competitors offering similar products or services, as well as the target audience. Without such information, the chances of quickly growing from the start-up category to a successful business with a recognizable brand and a wide customer base are extremely small. In turn, competitive intelligence on the Internet will increase them to the maximum, providing the following types of information:

  • the real strategy of the opponent — will help you adjust your own;
  • competitor potential — calculate its weaknesses and strengths in order to take into account all the shortcomings of competitors in our business and make them our strengths.
  • financial, organizational, and technical advantages of the opponent — you can choose the most effective technologies for business development;
  • total market capacity — to understand the correctness of your decisions and actions;
  • terms of cooperation with buyers and suppliers — to attract reliable partners and potential customers for long-term cooperation.

Healthy competitive business intelligence in one form or another is present in every company, that is developing, becomes better and strives to create unique offers for customers.

What information can You get about the competitors?

With the help of business intelligence, a company can solve a number of important tasks. Usually they all answer one important question: "Why do they succeed and we don't?". The information that can be obtained through competitive analysis is built up of 19 blocks. Each of them is information about their opponent, and that's about it:

  • Unique selling proposition.
  • Targeted policy.
  • Methods of product promotion.
  • Line of development.
  • Real competitive advantages.
  • The range of significant disadvantages.
  • Terms of cooperation with contractors-suppliers.
  • Features of interaction with contractors-buyers.
  • Working conditions with service contractors.
  • A group of key counterparties.
  • The main characters — the faces of the brand.
  • External key support figures and their communication features.
  • Source of financing.
  • The prospects for the investment of financial resources.
  • Income structure by product category and type of activity.
  • Cost structure.
  • Profitability by product group and type of activity.
  • The mechanisms and structure of the creation of surplus value.
  • Plans for the technical development of products and activities in General.

Monitoring each of these parameters will ensure the company's security, make it less vulnerable "on the battlefield" and significantly expand the vision of strategic planning for future development. And this is nothing more than a direct path to success.

Some statistics

Not only novice businesses, but also experienced business structures resort to studying their competitors. This is important for not to lose sight of anything. Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon use certain methods of competitive intelligence in their work. The study, which involved 150 competitive intelligence specialists from the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean, showed the following results:

  • 65% prefer free tools for analysis, 25% — paid, and the rest — combine them in their work;
  • 32% constantly use various tools to study the activities of the competitive environment;
  • 48% are in continuous processing of data from competitors in their field of activity;
  • 78% conduct research via a computer. Smartphones are in second place, the third – tablets.

The rating of the most effective and easy-to-manage free services includes Factiva, SharePoint, Intelligence Suite, LexisNexis, Yammer, Bloomberg, Competitive Intelligence and Excel.

Methods of competitive intelligence

All methods of analyzing your business rivals can be divided into 3 groups: competitive intelligence done by own efforts, hire corporate intelligence in the agency or conduct corporate spying. We'll look at the spying later, since we're only interested in legal methods right now.

Competitive intelligence done by own efforts

This is a kind of business intelligencе when you need to get as much detailed information about the competitor as possible, without resorting to anyone's help. Here's what to consider when collecting information:

  • information that your opponents tell personally about themselves — competitive intelligence of website, accounts and communities in social networks, publications about the brand in the media;
  • the information that a competitor gives to a client is the easiest way to become a potential buyer for a while, contact the company and find out about their offers, product range and features of cooperation;
  • data from a third person – read online reviews from customers and partners, read product and company reviews, and analyze blog posts.

Additionally, you can visit various events that your competitors attend.

Competitive intelligence with agencies

This method involves all the same actions as when working by own efforts, but they will be carried out by professionals. Choosing this way, you can:

  • organize a separate team in your organization to research competitors;
  • use the services of a specialized agency.

The first option has full control on your part, but the second is suitable if the budget is limited.

Competitive intelligence services

To get maximum access to the information of your business rivals, sometimes catalogs, information on official websites and price lists are not enough. It turns out that there is much more open-access data. You can get it using competitive intelligence tools:

  • Fssprus.ru — it is a platform for bailiffs. This is a great opportunity to find out whether a particular business has debts. This type of data helps you understand whether it's firmly on its feet, how strong it is, or whether its activity has cracked.
  • Testfirm.ru — contains information about income, expenses, and assets with full reporting. You only need to have the company's TIN.
  • Google — request the desired information with the brand name and see if the competitor posted data about himself. If so, you need to analyze them.

As you can see, search engines and competitive intelligence on the Internet are closely linked. 

What are the methods that border on legality and ethical standards?

So we got to one of the ways to analyze your business rivals, which is called corporate espionage. You need to know about it not in order to use it, but in order to be able to protect yourself and your company from unscrupulous competitors. Consider the tools they can use in their illegal surveillance:

  • Waste analysis. This may be the restoration of documentation after shredding, or even the purchase of an entire archive of securities that were removed from the office, for example, during the move to a new location.
  • Insiders. Cooperation with employees of the company, who are popularly called "rats". They are willing to leak information to another company for a fee. In addition, it can be either a real employee who initially got a job for the purpose of surveillance.
  • Hacking the database. A person comes to the company on the order of a competing organization, uses an office laptop to connect a flash drive to it, thereby infecting it with a virus. After that, the fraudster gets full access to everything that happens within the walls of this company.

Many unscrupulous businessmen resort to even more serious measures, such as threats, blackmail, or office break-ins. To protect yourself and your company, you need to carefully select employees for your team, ensure cyber security of information that is in a virtual format, and constantly monitor the work and activity of your subordinates. For this purpose, you can use special applications for tracking employees' time. One of them is a simple time tracker Checkiant.

Collecting information from open sources

You can get information about your business rivals from open or closed sources. The first include:

  • Internet social networks, search servers, websites, forums, blogospheres, files downloaded over the network;
  • Mass media — publications in print and electronic format;
  • Public events — exhibitions, conferences, trainings;
  • Documents — official reports of the company;
  • Communication — conversations with people who are somehow related to the activities of the company you are intelligencing.

The last type of data collection has its advantages. Communication with people can lead to the conclusion of long-term cooperation and to search for useful contacts, potential clients, business partners or suppliers.

The collection of private information

As for the closed method of collecting information, it's a search for information that is not available to a wide range of people. Usually you need to pay for such services. This includes the buying of databases. It could be banks, insurance companies, departments, commercial institutions, and ministries.

This also includes a passive method of data mining — monitoring, which is a regular monitoring of the activities of a competing firm from the inside. Not the purest methods of intelligence are used for this purpose.

Closed methods of data mining, although they allow you to get something exclusive and useful, still involve risks, which should not be forgotten.

Competitive intelligence is an effective marketing tool designed to analyze the competitive environment by collecting information about competitors. But it's important to remember that getting hold of someone else's data is only half the battle. It's much more important to preserve your personal and valuable information, as well as to protect yourself from unscrupulous "players" who resort to illegal methods of obtaining information.

See also:

Why time tracking will be useful for you

Top 12 programs for remote work

Top 10 factors that affect productivity

Top 15 reasons why we don't have enough time for everything