Competitive intelligence is a process that allows a company to gather information about its operating industry or market. Gathering competitive intelligence helps a company define current and future competitors, the actions of these companies both now and in the future, what the end result of these actions will be, and how to respond. The best tips for gathering competitive intelligence include going beyond the basic search methods, gleaning customer feedback, and altering or monitoring hiring practices. Most companies can engage in these activities on their own. Using reliable individuals to gather the data is necessary to ensure all information meets the needs of the company.
The Internet provides many tools for researching competition. Relying on this tool too much, however, can prevent a company from gathering competitive intelligence that actually means something. Companies should look for other avenues to gather information, such as suppliers, customers, and former employees. Third parties often have all sorts of information they may be willing to give up freely. The hardest issue here may be simply finding the right source outside of the Internet from which to glean information.
Customer feedback is often a good source for gathering competitive intelligence. A company can use a survey or other traditional means to ask customers direct questions regarding competitors. For example, an e-mail survey may request information from customers about what other businesses they patronize. The purpose of these visits and products purchased may also be information worth gathering here. Other questions may exist due to the timeliness of the survey or current market conditions.
Hiring practices of competitors can also be a reason for gathering competitive intelligence. If a competitor begins hiring engineers, for example, it could mean the business is looking to develop new products. The company gathering competitive intelligence then needs to ascertain why and what the other business intends to do. Then, the company can alter its operations or hiring practices to mirror the other business if it so desires. This intelligence can work for many other aspects as well.
Gathering competitive intelligence is often an ongoing process. Companies rarely face a market with little or no competition. Therefore, setting up a business process or activity to constantly monitor competitors may be a worthwhile effort. Refinement of this process is also a task that needs completion here. Without refinement, the company may begin gathering data or information that is worthless, making the process moot.