This article called why Competitive Intelligence can help any size company – always feel someone is watching me came about due to an excellent networking lunch last week in Nottingham, and I got into a conversation with a senior accountant about one of his clients.
Of course, the client’s name was not revealed, but the accountant stated that they were suffering from rivals out-competing them and being consistently one step ahead of the game. They were outperforming them, beating them to work and seemed to know everything they were doing.
No such thing as a coincidence
My first reaction is that it’s likely his client’s competitor undertaking Competitive Intelligence activities on them. The priority for them is to look at their systems and communications to tighten up unintended information leaks. Suppose a competitor is growing faster than you. In that case, they appear to be more profitable and more innovative despite the general industry saying what they are doing is daft there must be more to it than a fabulous management team.
If they anticipate and respond quickly to industry changes and other competitor actions. Suppose they counter your products very quickly and seem to know your pricing. Launch their products just before yours, attack new markets with ease and manage to get the best people into their organisation the chances are they using Competitive Intelligence.
I have not met this company yet (and may never do so). But if I do, I would recommend they act strategically in a calm and considered way. Ask themselves questions to ensure they know their strategic battleground and point them in the right direction to get to know their competitors better.
Before looking externally, they must look at themselves to define their strategies and understand what they are getting from them. What factors are affecting these strategies? And are these factors based on facts or urban myths/ industry experience? I would ask the company what are they are doing to understand, monitor and respond to their competitor’s actions and strategies.
Now looking at their competitive external environment. Several questions spring to mind to help them distinguish what’s happening. Questions like:
- What issues are facing your industry?
- What does your competitor appear to believe about its relative position? In terms of cost, product quality, technical sophistication
- What is the strategy of each competitor?
- How do they compete? Cost, speed, niche or service?
- What do they do better than anyone else (and you!)?
- Where are their weaknesses compared to others?
- Where are they similar to you and others in your industry?
- Who are their main customers?
- What business do they focus on and avoid (and claim not to do)?
- What are they doing that is interesting?
- Who are the key players in your competitors?
- What is your competitor’s annual revenue?
- How many people are employed? Is that the right level?
- Are their teams managed to achieve financial or human objectives? How does this affect the company?
I would love to conduct a basic war game with this company challenging their thinking. To understand their market place and where they fit within it. They would gain a lot from the exercise. Once they have a good picture of their competitive environment, the first stage of any Competitive Intelligence fight back is the isolation of what they want to know in detail about their competitors.
This article Why Competitive Intelligence can help any size company – always feels someone is watching me and describes a situation many companies face. Competitors getting the better of them.
And here are some more articles from Octopus: