New York’s Westchester County Business Journal, in its weekly business advice column, has just run an article entitled ‘keeping abreast of the competition’. For us, as market research and competitive intelligence experts, we can never read enough articles that encourage organizations large and small to recognize the importance of quality, up-to-date business intelligence.
As anyone who is familiar with Porter’s Five Forces will be well aware, very few, if any, companies operate alone in their given marketplace. Each company’s specific micro environment consists of forces that affect its ability to serve its customers and make a profit.
Competition is out there in the form of direct established rivals, as well as the threat of new entrants to the market or the threat of substitute products.
Any change in any of these forces normally requires a company to re-assess the marketplace, hence the need to regularly review your competitive intelligence. Even the decision of a competitor to get out of your chosen marketplace, for example, should be viewed with a degree of caution rather than unbridled celebration. Why does your competitor no longer wish to be in your market? Do they know something important that you don’t?
Intelligence is, of course, available from a wide range of sources. In its most basic forms there is much you can do yourself: talk to your suppliers, customers and employees; keep abreast of developments by reading industry periodicals or industry reports; scour the internet for news.
Yet much information – especially that of a sensitive nature – can be difficult to come by, and not all companies have the necessary people resources to conduct a thorough and comprehensive competitor analysis. In many cases, they may require the help of an external research consultancy who will be adept at sourcing data – from mystery shopping, to competitor pricing research studies, through to conducting structured interviews with customers, suppliers, distributors, industry experts and even competitors themselves.
Of course, it’s one thing to have pages and pages of intelligence; it’s a whole other matter knowing how to pick out the most pertinent information and use it to draw up a plan of action. How do you decide which competitors and which markets you want to take on and which you want to avoid? Sometimes an independent, objective expert can help to sift through the masses of data, separate the wheat from the chaff, and highlight the most salient points.
There is no doubt that there is a whole world of information out there, and that competitor intelligence at your fingertips enables you to make intelligent future business decisions.
Find out more about how B2B International’s competitive intelligence work can enhance your own knowledge by clicking here.