The importance of Competitive Intelligence and analysis for 2021 business planning

This article is about the importance of Competitive Intelligence and analysis for 2021 business. To understand why Competitive Intelligence is an essential element to success and how to go about it. Getting a good feel for competitor motivations, actions, and behaviours will assist you in shaping your pricing strategies, brand positions and product development plans.

Competitive Intelligence allows you to isolate the challenges you face, the strengths you have and provide quality thinking time to enable you to develop a competitive differentiation. Without Competitive Intelligence, you will not be able to see what your competitors and markets are up. You may get to where you want to go, but you are going to all over eventually. 

What Is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence assists you to isolate and analyse your competitors and market sector activities on a consistent and ongoing basis. And ensure you gain actionable Intelligence for when you need to make informed sensible decisions.

What could be in a report?

A Competitive Intelligence report could consist of anything associated with your market, but typically they will create answers to the questions you have asked about:

  • Your current and emerging competitors
  • Customer profiles
  • New product analysis
  • Pricing strategies
  • Market insights
  • Threats to your brands standing

Interesting but after the event

There are many ways to collect information about your competitor and market. And the most obvious one is to fire up Google and type away. This sort of search will reveal all the necessary basic information and their social media, articles and PR reports. Great for a bit of history and initial research and you may find out about new product announcements, staff and customer feedback. All interesting and "after the event".

Quantitative and qualitative and more in-depth dive research and associated analysis may be required to get even more quality details on your customer segments and niche market sectors. 

Google is great but...

Also, look out at what they are not telling you and what they are trying to hide. Try alternative search engines to Google as they tend to bring up different results.

Most importantly, it is wise to use a VPN, especially if you are looking at an overseas company or market. Something you may not realise is that Google will eventually predict what sort of information you are looking for. And than offer the search it thinks you want to see. Unfortantely, you will get the impression that your brand is doing well ranking on Google or your competitor is everywhere. When in reality, its just Google is trying to help you out. 

Use the VPN, clear cookies, go incognito and (if you can help it don't use the Chrome browser). Try Firefox or Brave and search using different search engines - Like Duckduckgo or other meta based solutions. If you are doing this sort of search seriously, then you may need a free virtual machine - A stand-alone Mac (or PC) within your current device.

There is no such thing as secrets, just lazy researchers

Going more in-depth in your collecting activities will reveal views on competitor leadership tendencies, past contracts, technology, M&As, facilities, personnel changes and more. The most significant difference between an excellent search for information and a disappointing exercise is down to:

  • The questions you are asking
  • How commited are you in finding the information. 

The best information is found after you have almost given up for the day. Hence we have a saying, that there is no such thing as a secret, just lazy researchers. Slightly unfair, but you get the point. 

The minefield beyond search engines

Then once you have exhausted the free to access data, you can move into the paywalled databases. These databases generally contain more data, within a usable and searchable structure. However, our experience in accessing these proprietary databases is very mixed. Unless you are looking for detailed information on companies the size of Apple, Microsoft, BP and Shell, our experience ranges from pretty reasonable to very poor. Ideally, it would help if you had several databases to cover all bases, but the cost is ridiculous. 

Primary research

The next stage is primary research or HUMINT as it's called in the military, civilian services and those who think they are Ethan Hunt's teckie side kick. Primary is simplly just finding the people who have the answers you are looking for and then asking them. When we say simple, we don't mean easy. It sounds more straight forward than it is but these people can be current and former customers, suppliers, employees and experts in their subject matter. 

To avoid any fallout or the chances of your organisation's name be revealed, we recommend an outside supplier to undertake this work. 

Actionable Intelligence delivery

To turn your information into Intelligence, the data must be collated, sorted, studied and analysed. Patterns and trends isolated to determine what the information means, what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can be found in your competitors and markets. 

You need to leave out your personal experiences of the market or competitors and beware of other biases that may get in the way of your thinking. To validate Intelligence, it is imperative to make sure you have more than one source where the information was found. Ideally, three sources because you need to be sure that the sources you are talking about don't come from the same report or person. There are several tools to ensure you are not using your natural biases to make your gut feel to be backed up with industry experience, rumour and guess works. Competitive analysis will answer where the problems are and where and how to differentiate yourselves. 

Summary

The importance of Competitive Intelligence and analysis for 2021 business planning is paramount for your business. And to ensure your company continues to be a success. Competitive Intelligence should be an essential part of your business because, with accurate analysis and insight, you are be able to offer your customers more of what they want. It will help you win.

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And how about some further reading:
what are primary sources?
Importance of Market Research Services
10 marketing tools to spy on your competitors
How to use Open Source Intelligence 
Intelligence is smart! Here are 6 reasons why

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