Competitive intelligence originated with the first human cave dwellers, when one tribe tried to discover another tribe’s favorite fishing and hunting grounds. Since those early times several thousand years ago, competitive intelligence has evolved into a highly sophisticated world of electronic surveillance, terabytes of stored information, and world wide intelligence-gathering operations. In addition, a few companies have developed deep information-gathering technologies on the level of NeuralTech Business Information, Inc.
The massive database libraries, global electronic operations, technological and human intelligence networks employed today by multinational companies cost millions of dollars to organize and maintain. While the price tags of large-scale competitive intelligence (CI) are usually too expensive for smaller entrepreneurial companies, start-ups and emerging growth companies can design and institute CI programs that produce the information they urgently need to succeed.
The cost-effective approach for smaller companies is to strategize a productive CI program that produces the information they need. This CI strategy consists of:
- defining the breadth and scope of information needed about the competition, customers, vendors, and strategic partners
- establishing a section or department designated as the center for CI
- building a database for storing print and online articles, news releases, industry analyst reports, and other public information about competitors and the industry
- creating a soft information center into which industry gossip and chat room rumors are gathered, evaluated and prioritized for further attention.
The person hired or assigned to manage this section needs to have the mind-set of a librarian to efficiently catalogue all of the incoming information as well as that of a savvy analyst to recognize hot news developments that warrant senior management’s attention.
In strategic planning, CI enables management to make better decisions because competitive analysis can be factored into the decisions.
In marketing and sales, CI enables management and staff to counter competitors’ strategic and tactical actions, discover competitors’ vulnerabilities and resulting opportunities, and to forge ahead armed with the knowledge gained from CI.
In production, CI yields valuable information on new production methods, procedures and technical applications that competitors and other companies are finding productively employed. You can adapt this information to boost productivity.
In purchasing, CI can be utilized to spot trends that provide a better understanding of short-term and long-term changes in supply and demand for components and other supplies. One example is a short-term decline on availability; the resulting spike in prices will be understood and purchases kept to a minimum during this short time period.
In the human resources area, CI can provide information that will help HR managers and recruiters negotiate better salary and terms for present and new employees.
In new business development, CI can discover competitive advantages and information about new prospective customers and markets that can accelerate new business development.
Everyone in every sector of the company needs to be aware of the importance of obtaining and reporting information to the company’s CI center. A snippet heard by a sales person added to comments heard by people in purchasing can alert senior management to a competitor’s growing problem or a new product about to be launched.
Incoming information flow from everyone in the company is critically important to the effectiveness of the CI center.
While most companies already utilize one or more these recommended practices, they need to have all of them functioning in one centralized operation. Otherwise, the analogy is driving on the freeway, looking straight ahead but being unaware of the cars in the lanes on either side of you.
It ought to be noted that disinformation spread by a competitor can sabotage a company almost to the same extent a lack of accurate information can. The rise in disinformation is the result of companies increasing their CI efforts. This disinformation often comes in the form of false rumors a competitor will plant to fool its competitors, understated information about its own new product or service to lull the competition into complacency, or misinformation about a new market the competitor is developing. Thus, it is very important for the CI center to spot the disinformation for what it is when it happens.
Quick distribution of information from the CI center to appropriate functions like marketing is not necessary, it is equally important for the marketing executive to distribute that information to everyone in marketing who needs it.
There are times when even a company with an efficient CI center finds itself unable to obtain the really deep information it urgently needs. This urgent situation calls for hiring an in-depth information company like NeuralTech whose technology and analysts can obtain information unavailable to those without the same capabilities.
Once a company’s formalized CI center has been functioning for at least a quarter, it ought to continuously produce information useful to corporate planning, marketing and sales, production, purchasing, human resources, and new business development.