Competitive intelligence is a marketing tactic that needs to be included in your strategic marketing plan.
In business, almost everything you do has to take into account the environment in which you operate: your industry, your buyers, your suppliers, and your competitors. Most businesses do research on the industry, buyers and suppliers. But many small businesses take a different approach to competitors.
Some businesses will try to compete head-on, competitive intelligence by telling buyers about the competition’s high prices, service failures, poor quality, and more. Other business don’t talk about their competition and don’t really want to know much about their competition; they believe it’s best to focus on their own business.
I suggest that neither of these approaches are correct. First, do not ‘bad mouth’ the competition under any circumstances – it simply makes you look bad. Second, you need to understand your competition and how they might react, why they might react, and what their reaction might be to one or more of your strategic tactics. This does not mean that you should talk about your competition in the market, it simply means you need to conduct some competitive research, otherwise known as competitive intelligence, in the market to better understand your competitors.
Gathering competitive intelligence does not mean lurking close to the bar at the annual industry association dinner and trying to overhear your competitor’s conversations. Nor does it mean that you should be employing sophisticated industrial espionage techniques. Competitive intelligence is much more controlled than that (and it’s also legal).
Conducting competitive intelligence requires that you develop a data gathering system or method, collect the data, verify the validity of the data, analyze the data and act on the data.
For example, you could develop an online customer survey that is emailed to your customer contact list and that asks your customers to rank your business performance. Break this question into smaller pieces by asking them to rank you on the following performance measures: