Competitive Intelligence: Incorporate New Perspectives

Seven proven methods for improving your competitive intelligence.

Seven proven methods for improving your competitive intelligence.

You can't succeed in a knowledge vacuum. You must anticipate and recognize outside market forces that impact the business or industry as they unfold — before competitors become aware of what’s changing.

Opportunities and threats exist outside the industry. Keeping up with the external provides a competitive advantage. The question is: Who will seize the advantage? Who will notice the change, analyze how it will impact the company, and prepare a strategy to deal with it successfully? This is what competitive intelligence is, and it provides the necessary input and basis for decisions that meet todays needs and expectations.

So, how do you elevate the level of intelligence to immediately improve the decision-making process and results?

Here are seven proven methods:

  • Expand your knowledge base.

    Look beyond competitors. Customers (B2B and B2C) are far more important in determining what the market wants and what customers are buying—today and tomorrow. If competitors are so smart, then how do new companies gain customers, sales, and traction? They satisfy a need that established companies do not recognize. Don’t think that these new companies are small and not a threat. What’s important is why they attract customers.

  • Base decisions on intelligence — not data.

    Intelligence is having the full picture, not just statistical elements, which only reveal the past. Data doesn’t include non-quantitative elements that are often more relevant, and must be current, accurate, relevant, and sufficient. And, the intelligence must be analyzed to understand the implications.

  • Don’t assume you know what the customers want.

    If they stay with you, verify that they are satisfied. If they abandon you, don’t blame them. Find out what went wrong. Don’t claim to know what customers want better than they themselves. And when you are wrong about your view of the customer, don’t see the customer as being disloyal. You have abandoned the customer by not addressing customer concerns. Customers prefer to stay with the product or service they know and give you leeway before defecting.

  • Start by addressing what you don’t know.

    You may acknowledge that changes are pervasive and constant and yet you can’t identify changes in your industry or with your customers.

    For example, has a new company offered a successful product, service, or feature that you never considered? Can you identify customers who don’t fit your target profile? Has a company achieved success with a creative marketing approach? Have you explored the possibilities from an alternative use?

  • Verify what you know, and ensure it remains relevant.

    What you know might still be current and accurate; but it may not have the same import. Redefine and replace it with insight and intelligence that’s more relevant. Information has a shelf life; when it becomes wrong or out-dated, so will the decisions based on it.

  • Drill into every employee that they must view the business from the customer’s perspective.

    Listen to customer complaints, suggestions, alternative uses, and preferences regarding your offering, marketing, or service. They will tell you—over and over—what they want you to do to keep them. You just need to listen and make appropriate decisions.

  • Take action.

    Intelligence without a decision and execution is merely “nice-to-know.”

    To become an “intelligence” leader, challenge yourself to “think different.” Question what you know, and wonder what else you should know.


This article was originally published in Sales and Service Excellence.

Seena Sharp authored the recently published Competitive Intelligence Advantage: How to Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World (Wiley). She founded one of the first competitive intelligence firms, Sharp Market Intelligence, serving clients from Fortune 500 firms to those whose names are unfamiliar – throughout the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. She speaks to business groups globally and has published numerous business articles.

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