This article is called the key to a great strategy is Competitive Intelligence. So why is it that when it comes to it, Competitive Intelligence is often overlooked or not even thought about it in the first place? We offer our thoughts on what, where and why using Competitive Intelligence is excellent for strategy. And that’s strategic competitive insight.
Let’s start with some questions. How about your own strategy? How is that going? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ positioning? When it comes to their content, what subjects perform well for them? Are you at least matching or exceeding what they are doing? What are the gaps in their strategy that you can take advantage?
If you don’t know, you have to realise there is a mountain of content out there, and you have to be seen as the thought leader for your sector. Even digital marketing strategists tend to ignore Competitive Intelligence or buy access to a platform that is neither Competitive, Intelligent or useful. But what is Competitive Intelligence?
What is competitive intelligence?
There are many definitions of Competitive intelligence, but basically, it’s identifying and gaining insight into how your market will change. It’s keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry and isolating current and potential shifts so you can decide sooner rather than later what you will do about it. It’s the continuous collection of information, followed by collation and analysis. And should result in actionable insights. Competitive intelligence is also about the industry as a whole and your individual competitors. And that’s strategic competitive insight.
What isn’t Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence is not corporate espionage, spying, collecting a lot of data, or even big data and thinking you have done enough. If you are looking, asking the right questions and have the resilience to keep looking and analysing, you will find the answers.
It’s called Competitive Intelligence, not Competitor Intelligence.
It is also wise to be careful and not concentrate on one competitor. Obsessing on one competitor will open you up to missing more. Focusing your attention on a single competitor (or just your competitors, period) will mean you will miss the trends from the smaller and emerging players in your market. These new and smaller players are agile and see the next big thing and other trends. The trends more established “bigger” companies will miss. These trends and associated new products and services will creep up on you and surprise you. Perhaps kill your offering overnight.
Using Competitive Intelligence to keep track of more than just your competitors will allow you to see patterns and make the most of new opportunities that present themselves.
Where to use Competitive Intelligence
Competitive intelligence has to be a critical component of your business strategy. You have to understand the market you play in, the key players in the industry (the people and Competitors), their pricing strategies, profits, cost of sales and what they are working on.
How to Avoid Competitive Intelligence
Of course, you can build a strategy on how it used to be in the past or bury your head in the sand until the new normal becomes the norm. But it will end in tears.
Sensible thinking can go out of the door once the company has grown and experienced some success. Even in companies with transformation directors and Insight Managers on their books, Competitive Intelligence can become diluted to the point of uselessness.
Why? If you have been in the industry a long time, there is very little you can learn from a Competitive Intelligence project. This is the situation when we are told that a company has no competitors. Only to find with the most rudimentary Google search revealed 20 plus competitors, including three many times bigger than them. These sorts of broad-brush statements are widespread.
Egos are just brilliant for competitors. Companies with strong leaders sometimes resist Competitive Intelligence projects and the alternative thinking that comes with it. Because they have been successful in the past and they are so experienced, no one can tell them about how to do things. And the senior team will agree with the boss, which becomes dangerous.
Blockbuster knew all about the threat from streaming services but did nothing about it. Streaming services did not creep up on Blockbuster. Netflix and its predecessors wandered down Blockbuster’s garden path, took a leak on the roses, kicked over the trash cans and shouted into the letterbox. Blockbuster knew better and chose to close the curtains and stick their expensive popcorn in their ears. It was a whole board of directors in Blockbuster’s case. What stopped Blockbuster from moving into streaming? They were too comfortable and lacked any foresight and drive to do something about it.
Incidentally, another company that is often given as an example of failure to see the future is Kodak. But guess who invented the digital camera? Yep, you guessed it. Kodak. Why did they not see their problems coming? There are many reasons, but the key one was that they did not see themselves as camera makers. They saw themselves as a chemical company. Even when they moved into printers, the critical reason for doing so was to sell more ink.
Now in the case of Kodak, it is debatable if they actually failed. They are still leaders in certain types of chemical markets but have moved from B2C to B2B. They are specialists and market-leading in photography-related chemicals. Maybe they got out of the B2C market at the right time.
As your costs grow, do you think an excellent competitive Intelligence project with external people involved is too expensive? The new graduate in the marketing department will be able to do CI on Tuesdays. We have heard this recently from one of the Scandinavian disruptor banks. We can tell you there is something more expensive than a quality CI strategy. A bad one or a lack of one will seriously screw things up.
Focus on the internal data.
Your data accumulates through your sales, marketing and customer services team. Your team is very experienced, and you start to ignore your biases. You start reading the data that tells you how well you do every month and how great you are.
You focus on how your customer speaks to you, and as you get bigger, you have lost sight of your industry and customer needs years ago. Things change, and new competitors come along, and you ignore them or decide they are irrelevant. Then you start to suffer a bit from cheaper upstarts and clamour for more data to tell you what to do. You find all the internal data you need to weather the storm. You cut your prices, and sales go up. Then you find your profits are taking a hit, and you are on a slippery slope. Hey, you need Competitive Intelligence. Where is that transformational insight manager?
What you can get with Competitive Intelligence
Ongoing Competitive Intelligence is essential for an excellent business strategy. Competitive intelligence reveals
- What your current and prospective customer needs
- Isolate what your competitors are doing about their needs
- Be up to date on what’s happening in your industry
- Where opportunities and risks are before they show through evident through a lack of results
- Offers a clear picture of reality rather than a biased, dated, or limited view of your market.
- Gives you a reality check of your market
- Provides an internal bias check
- Raise red flags to the senior team about evolving trends, topics, tone of voice and new products and services in your space.
- Provide invaluable insights to your entire business and ensure your market teams remain relevant and a key to your business success.
- listening actively to what your audience wants so you don’t miss out and allow your competitors in
Integral Competitive Intelligence for Strategy
Deploying integral competitive intelligence for strategy establishes a foundation where informed decisions drive business progression. The intertwining of competitive intelligence with strategic planning elevates an organization’s anticipatory and responsive capabilities. When strategic planning is fed by refined, comprehensive intelligence, it transcends mere reactive approaches, morphing into a proactive blueprint that forecasts and navigates through market complexities with profound agility.
Harnessing Strategic Competitive Insight for Superior Decision Making
In today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, grounding your decisions in strategic competitive insight is pivotal. This goes beyond merely understanding your competitors. It’s about deeply comprehending the market shifts, analysing competitor movements, and predicting future trends. By harnessing the power of strategic competitive insight, businesses can proactively adapt to changes, make more informed decisions, and carve a distinctive niche in their industry.
The key to a great strategy
This article was called the key to a great strategy, Competitive Intelligence. We may have been a little edgy, but we tried to explain some overlooked Competitive Intelligence. We offered our thoughts on what, where and why using Competitive Intelligence is excellent for strategy.