Why competitive intelligence is not for copying your competitors.
You know competitive intelligence is not for copying your competitors. Your dangerous competitors are good at what they do because they focus on their products. And what’s missing in their market and what customers want. The idea for this article came from wandering around ASDA. Following the better half around, trying to look interested. We noticed their new party section. Now, you may wonder what a party section in the local Asda has to do with competitive intelligence. Well, seeing the multi-coloured balloons, party hats, and cakes made got us thinking.
Asda and Morrisons
Asda and all the other supermarkets in the UK and beyond have insight managers coming out of their ears. Busy detecting buying patterns changes and working out how to sell more stuff to more people. All valuable and powerful stuff.
But with all these insight managers, big data, and super platforms in place, Asda has done one thing. They have just copied the supermarket down the road. They have had a party shop for a couple of years. On the face of it, they are doing OK with it. Morrisons, Gamston was the place to go to buy oversized balloons and pink unicorns.
This is not uncommon in any industry. And we are not criticising ASDA in any way. We are sure they have many original ideas, some of which their competitors have copied. And, of course, they may not have copied the idea, but you get our drift.
Many think competitive intelligence is only about looking at what competitors are doing. And then making sure they do the same as them. They are wrong. Knowing what your competitors are up to and understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and possible future plans is essential. But just copying them is a pointless waste of time.
It’s easy to copy, but are you really wanting to create a me-too strategy?
Using competitive intelligence to get 2 or 3 moves ahead of your competitor is essential. Not match them stride for stride. To go to the next level and wrong foot your competitors to carry on doing what they are doing. To strive to innovate, stand out and bring new ideas to the table.
Those competitors looking to imitate what you do will not be disruptive. They become very predictable. Being too predictable is a perilous position to be in. If competitors know what you are going to do or where they are, they can move you around your chess board. Predictable allows them to train their artillery onto you. To make you do what they want you to do. They do things, and you respond.
Apple and Microsoft
While it’s easy to copy, it’s more challenging to have the same success as the originator. Remember Microsoft’s attempt to create their own iPod or HP’s Ipad equivalent? All those alternatives to iTunes? Sony’s next-generation Walkman? No, we can’t either. Well, OK, I admit I bought the Sony 100 song disc player and thought it was ace for about a month.
Marmite Simon Sinek has a story about Apple and Microsoft that most have heard. Here it is:
This may be a true story, but both companies have Competitive Intelligence teams. So Apple’s culture of not looking at what competitors are doing is misleading. And when you think about it, Apple could be described as the ultimate copycat company. They find an idea, produce something different and market the heck out of it. Again they dont copy. They enhance and improve things. They didn’t invent the computer. Nor did they didn’t invent the phone or the music player. And there is no argument that they didn’t invent the wristwatch. Or the pen, for that matter.
Difference between what you say and what you can deliver
Expect a competitor to see what you are doing well, and they copy you.
We welcome anyone to copy how we present competitive intelligence. But talk is cheap, and looking at some of their end product; the talk doesn’t match the actions and commitment. This is why world-renowned Ben Gilad and Octopus were attracted to each other. More of Ben Gilad and Academy of Competitive Intelligence here.
Take a look at Apple, Facebook, Google and Tesla. None of them was first to market. Being first to market doesn’t guarantee success.
Your competitive intelligence should be directed towards the future. Not just to copy your competitors. You can have all the battlecards in the world. But what happens if no one reads them? Or are they looking at the wrong competitors? Or you are not doing something better than them and wasting your time.
Listen to your team, your customers and suppliers. Direct your competitive intelligence teams to find things people want. Stuff that’s not available now. Look at what’s going to happen next in your industry. Assess how you can turn that and associated tech into successful products. Products more customers will want.
Dont waste your time worrying about competitors and their customers. Focus on yourself and competitive intelligence on your current and future customers.
Ignore the noise of what people are saying about the latest and current trends. Yes, blockchain and AI may be helpful to you, but what’s the next thing? What’s going to improve your customers’ experience? Putting AI or I into your marketing message will not fool anyone. Well, may it will for a time until they work you out. Think about how these trends will change you and your market.
Never be complacent. Golf club 19th greens are full of people who have sold their business for not as much as they think it was worth. Never assume your competitive advantage will be valid tomorrow. Letting your experience get in the way of reality is dangerous.
Those who have not made their move – yet
Look for the competitors out there who are not there yet. Developing something new or refining what you are doing. They may be in a different industry. And with immeasurably superior capabilities to yours, regarded you with envious eyes. And slowly and surely, they drew their plans against you. Sorry, we went all War of the Worlds there, but you get the point! They are looking for your weaknesses and the points where they can attack. They are talking to customers and looking to offer something better.
Quality competitors aren’t wasting time analysing your website, social media and keywords. They aren’t building bloody battlecards ready to smack you over the head with them. They are focused on their products and what is needed or missing in the market. What, of course, your customers want.
Why competitive intelligence is not for copying your competitors.
This article started talking about balloons and ended up quoting War of the Worlds. But in conclusion, competitive intelligence is not for copying your competitors. Good competitors are not wasting time analysing your website, social media, or products. Yes, they will know all about you. But they are using competitive intelligence to determine what’s missing in the market. Using that insight define what customers want. And what you customers want too of course. So, if you’re looking to stay ahead of the competition, focus on your own business. Using competitive intelligence to improve your products and services.
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