The key to a great strategy is Competitive Intelligence

This article is called the key to a great strategy is Competitive Intelligence. So why is it that when it comes to it, Competitive Intelligence is often overlooked or not even thought about it in the first place? We offer our thoughts on what, where and why using Competitive Intelligence is excellent for strategy.

Some questions

Let’s start with some questions. How about your own strategy? How that going? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ positioning? When it comes to their content, what subjects perform well for them? Are you at least matching or exceeding what they are doing? What are the gaps in their strategy that you can take advantage?

If the answer is a shrug of the shoulder or you don’t know, you have to realise there is a mountain of content out there and you have you be seen as the thought leaders. Even digital marketing strategist tend to ignore Competitive Intelligence or buy access to a platform which neither competitive, Intelligent or useful. But what is Competitive Intelligence?

What is competitive intelligence?

There are many definitions of Competitive intelligence, but basically, it is identifying and gaining insight on how your market is going to change. It’s keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry and isolating current and potential shifts so you can decide sooner rather than later what you are going to do about it. It’s the continuous collection of information, followed by collation and analysis. And should result in actionable insights. Competitive intelligence IS also about the industry as a whole AND your individual competitors.

What isn’t Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is not corporate espionage, spying, collecting a lot of data, or even big data and thinking you have done enough. If you are looking, asking the right questions and have the resilience to keep looking and analysing, you will find the answers.

It’s called Competitive Intelligence, not Competitor Intelligence

It is also wise to be careful and not concentrate on one competitor. Obsessing on one competitor will open you up to missing more. Focussing your attention on a single competitor, (or just your competitors period) will mean you will miss the trends from the smaller and emerging players in your market. These new and smaller players are agile and see the next big thing, and other trends, The trends more established companies will miss. These trends and associated new products and services will creep up on you and surprise you. Perhaps kill your offering overnight.

Using Competitive Intelligence to keep track of more than just your competitors will allow you to see patterns and make the most of new opportunities that present themselves.

Where to use Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence has to be a critical component of your business strategy. You have to understand the market you play in, the key players in the industry(the people and Competitors) their pricing strategies, profits, cost of sales and what they are working on. 

How to avoid Competitive Intelligence

Experience

Of course, you can build a strategy on how it used to be in the past or bury you head in the sand until the new normal becomes the normal. But it will end in tears. 

Sensible thinking can go out of the door once the company has grown and experienced some success. Even companies who have transformation directors and Insight Managers on their books, Competitive Intelligence can become diluted to the point of uselessness. 

Why? Well if you have been in the industry a long time there is very little you can learn from a Competitive Intelligence project. This is the situation when we are told that a company has no competitors. Only to find with the most rudimentary Google search revealed 20 plus competitors, including three many times bigger than them. These sort of broad-brush statements are widespread.

Ego

Egos are just brilliant for competitors. Sometimes Companies with a strong leader resist Competitive Intelligence projects and the alternative thinking that comes with it. Because they have been successful in the past and they are so experienced no one can tell them about how to do things. And the senior team will agree with the boss, so it becomes dangerous. 

Blockbuster knew all about the threat from streaming services but did nothing about it. Streaming services did not creep up on Blockbuster. Netflix and its predecessors wandered down Blockbusters garden path, took a leak on the roses, kicked over the trash cans and shouted into the letterbox. Blockbuster knew better and chose to close the curtains and stick their expensive popcorn in their ears. It was a whole board of directors in Blockbusters case. What stopped Blockbuster from moving into streaming? They were too comfortable and lacked any foresight and drive to do something about it. 

Incidentally, another company that is often given as an example of failure to see the future is Kodak. But guess who invented the digital camera? Yep, you guessed it. Kodak. Why did they not see their problems coming? There are many reasons, but the key one was that they did not see themselves as camera makers. They saw themselves as a chemical company. Even when they moved into printers, the critical reason for doing so was to sell more ink. 

Now in the case of Kodak, it is debatable if they actually failed. They are still leaders in certain types of chemical markets but have moved from B2C to B2B. They are specialist and market-leading in photography related chemicals. 

Too expensive

Also, your costs grow, do you think an excellent competitive Intelligence project with external people involved is too expensive. And, the new graduate in the marketing department will be able to do CI on Tuesdays. We have heard this recently from one of the Scandinavian disruptor banks. We can tell you there is something more expensive than a quality CI strategy. A bad one or a lack of one will seriously screw things up. 

Focus on the internal data

Your data accumulates through your sales, marketing and customer services team. Your team is very experienced, and you start to ignore your biases. You start reading the data that tells you how well you are doing every month and how great you are. 

You focus on how your customer speaks to and as you get bigger and you have lost sight of your industry and customer’s needs years ago. Things change, and new competitors come along, and you ignore them or decide they are irrelevant. Then you start to suffer a bit from cheaper upstarts, and you clamour for more data to tell you what to do. You find all the internal data you need to weather the storm. You cut your prices and sales go up. Then you find your profits are taking a hit and you are on a slippery slope. Hey, you need Competitive Intelligence. Where is that transformational insight manager?

What you can get with Competitive Intelligence

Ongoing Competitive Intelligence is essential for an excellent business strategy. Competitive intelligence reveals 

  • What your current and prospective customer needs
  • isolate what you competitors are doing about their needs 
  • Be up to date on what’s happening in your industry 
  • Where opportunities and risks are before they show through evident through a lack of results 
  • Offers a clear picture of reality rather than biased, dated, or limited view of your market.
  • Gives you are reality check of your market
  • Provides an internal bais check 
  • Raise red flags to the senior team about evolving trends, topics, tone of voice and new products and services in your space
  • Provide invaluable insights to your entire business and ensure your market teams remain relevant and a key to your business success. 
  • listening actively to what your audience wants so you don’t miss out and allow your competitors in

Summary

This article was called the key to a great strategy is Competitive Intelligence. We may have been a little edgy, but we tried to explain some overlook Competitive Intelligence. We offered our thoughts on what, where and why using Competitive Intelligence is excellent for strategy.