Starting a Competitive Intelligence Project 

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Starting a Competitive Intelligence Project

Sometimes there’s a reluctance to dip a toe in the water regarding Competitive Intelligence. In this article, we suggest ways to starting a Competitive Intelligence Project. Many businesses feel that they do not need to or cannot afford to spend the money on this type of research. But, as we see more and more, this is not the case. There are many significant benefits to Competitive Intelligence, with the main one being the creation of competitive advantage for your business. But there is a reluctance, and it’s mainly down to these sort of reasons:

  • They have used a cheap offshore research outfit and have been well and truly taken for a ride
  • Or used a Competitive Intelligence collector only to find it’s just market research. Nice to have but not earth-shattering
  • Or the Competitive Intelligence software platform is not the answer. And actually, it’s really an SEO platform
  • And the most common reason, they dont know where to start

This article intends to show a route to start a Competitive Intelligence project. And to encourage the use of Competitive Intelligence in your business. Or let Octopus Intelligence help you, of course. 🙂

Current use of Competitive Intelligence

First of all, ask how much Competitive Intelligence you currently do. Using a zero to 100 range, break it down to something like this:

0 – None as yet 

4 – We hear rumours in the pub, but we don’t do anything about it

10 – We hear something, and someone puts it into the meeting agenda. Or the business development director says they will speak to their sales team. 

30 – We hear something about a competitor, but the information is dismissed

20 – We get the intern to take a look 

40 – We have some software 

60 – We have used an agency before 

80 – We regularly use an agency 

100 – We have an internal Competitive Intelligence office

Ok, slightly tongue in cheek. But looking at what your market is doing after there has been seismic change is not going to end well. And you may be playing catch up, and Competitive Intelligence will help you stay ahead of the game. 

You can’t collect everything either

Finding out everything about every competitor is never going to work. You will soon be frustrated with lots of information and no direction. And neither is concentrating on the stuff you would like to know. 

It would help if you drilled down to what you need to know. So you need to know where your pain points are. To understand the problems you are trying to resolve and isolate what you really want to know. Develop your initial Intelligence questions. Once you have these questions, refine them further and ensure no duplication. Questions that will give you answers that you need to know.

Scrutinise the questions or send them to us, and we will let you know what we think of them. The questions can also form the basis of a free, no-obligation discussion with you.

How competitive is your market?

Determine how competitive your market is. Give it a number zero to 100. 

  • 0 – No competition 
  • 100 – Extremely competitive

It’s easy to put 100 down here. But really think about it. Is your market that competitive? What markets are you comparing yourself with? Is that fair?

How much market share do you have?

Using the same number range as above, estimate how much market share you have? Then how much market share do you aim to have?

Summarise the problem

Summarise the problem in one or two sentences and no more. Describe the situation you are experiencing. Understand the key players involved and the problems are you facing. If you can’t, describe the issue in one or two sentences, then think again. You have not defined the problem to its core. Or you have more than one problem. Try answering these questions

  • What is the problem?
  • What isn’t the problem?
  • How significant is the problem you face?
  • What do you need to know to solve the problem?

After summarising the problem, describe what you need to know. Then understand what will you do with any insight you find. 

Back to the Competitive Intelligence questions

The following questions are designed to help you think about the questions you need to know. These are just example questions, and remember to:

  • Try and avoid questions that will offer just yes/no answers. 
  • Write the question so the non-expert would understand. 
  • Define no more than six key questions. If you have more, split the project or check for duplicates
  • And it’s “need to know” questions. Not “like to know” or “want to know”. 

Technology associated questions

  1. What developments are underway regarding product, production and packaging technologies? 
  2. What does their product do better than anyone else? And what are their weaknesses in their tech compared to others? 
  3. Where are they similar to others? 
  4. What are their key product features? 
  5. Which channel partners do they engage with?
  6. What are the key technical areas where X are focusing their research & development? 
  7. What new products are they developing? 
  8. Are their intentions or plans to launch or extend brands/ products? 
  9. Do they have new packaging and delivery systems? What developments are underway in terms of product, production and packaging technologies? 
  10. What is the expected product launch date?

And what are your market-associated questions?

  1. What are their key market segments and geographies?
  2. Are there challenges in the market? 
  3. How will you differentiate against them? 
  4. Can you isolate vulnerabilities to exploit? 
  5. What is the best route to market? 
  6. What about their marketing strategies? 
  7. Which companies should we acquire to develop market share in that area? 
  8. Should we move into that market? 
  9. Where do we not want to compete with them? 
  10. Whom do they target? 
  11. Are they a cheap brand or exclusive? 
  12. Modern youth or traditional?
  1. Why do their customers buy their products? 
  2. What are their key product features? 
  3. Which channel partners do they engage with? 
  4. What are the key technical areas where X are focusing their research & development? 
  5. What new products are they developing? 
  6. And what are their intentions or plans to launch or extend brands/ products? 
  7. Do they have new packaging and delivery systems? What developments are underway in terms of product, production and packaging technologies? 
  8. What is the expected product launch date? 
  9. How quickly can they bring a new product/service to market?

Sales and customer-associated questions?

  1. What are their key brands? 
  2. How do they sell into their market? 
  3. What vulnerabilities can we exploit? 
  4. Who are their key customers? 
  5. Where do they compete, and which customers and niches? 
  6. What do their customers like about them? 
  7. What do your customers like about them?
  8. Competitor pricing questions
  9. What is their pricing strategy? 
  10. And, what are the implications for our company if we move into that market? 
  11. What is the planned filing procedure in Europe for regulatory approval? 
  12. Is the company aiming for a premium price? 
  13. Are they following an established trend for companies in the market to trim prices? 
  14. Was an industry-wide price reduction expected? Was your competitor the first to implement this? 
  15. Does the price cut affect the whole range of your rivals’ products or just one or two key ones? If just one or two, then why?

Strategy and forward-looking questions

Obvious questions like, what are they going to do next? And what are their competitive advantage and strengths? And also:

  1. Whom do they see as their key competitors in the market? 
  2. Are their strategic objectives achievable, and will they clash with yours? 
  3. How are they going to fight in the future? 
  4. How and where might their objectives conflict with ours? 
  5. What is the range of options open to us for dealing with unfolding new realities?

The usual questions about profit and revenue but also:

  1. Who is backing them, 
  2. What’s their real financial state? 
  3. What is their actual financial performance? 
  4. How strong is the financial management function? 
  5. What is the company’s overall rate of return? 
  6. In total? By product line? By business segment?
  7. What’s the company’s return on investment (ROI)?

Key people questions 

  1. Who are their key people? 
  2. How are the top three layers of the organisation structured? 
  3. Are there any unfilled positions at the manager level or above? 
  4. Does the company formally identify backup candidates for critical positions? 
  5. Who are they? 
  6. What characteristics are crucial to ascend to top management positions?

Supply chain

  1. How is their supply chain structured? 
  2. What is their supply chain cost structure? 
  3. What is their production capacity? 
  4. Where do they manufacture their products? 
  5. What does their supply chain look like?

The questions you can ask are endless; these are just a taster to get you thinking. Here is an online questionnaire based on this article. Feel free to fill it in, and we will get it back to you. 

Starting a Competitive Intelligence Project 

In conclusion, many businesses would like to take advantage of Competitive Intelligence. However, there seems to be reluctance actually to move forward. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Competitive Intelligence can be a time-consuming and complex process to get right. We can take the strain on this, of course. Nevertheless, Competitive Intelligence benefits can be vast and should not be underestimated.

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What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the finding & critical analysis of information to make sense of what’s happening & why. Predict what’s going to happen & give the options to control the outcome. The insight to create more certainty & competitive advantage.

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