Every business has competition and in many case executive leaders ignore competitors. Unless your business has an absolute monopoly on a life-essential product, there will be competitors offering alternative and substitute products and services. That level of competition is revealed in the competitor intelligence report. Competitive intelligence helps your company define and understand your industry and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. This includes the process of data collection, interpretation of the data, objective evaluation and dissemination of the data and defining productive methods for managerial decision making.A competitive intelligence report (CI) is an important requirement in any business plan because it (a) reveals the firm's competitive position in the "marketplace", and (b) assists you to develop strategies to compete. If you ignore or diminish the impact of competition, you will have an unrealistic and slanted approach to designing a strategy for sales perfection. The internet has dramatically accelerated the speed and availability to utilizing data and compiling a CI report. Do not fall into the trap of devoting too much time and effort to tracking this information. I have seen instances where company executive allot to many resources to this process thinking it will harvest a large reward, to the contrary, this exercise is designed to draw objective conclusions about the environment in which you operate. It will not provide you with detailed information on your competitors; only make you more aware of the environment and to avoid surprises by anticipating competitors' moves and decreasing reaction time.The success of your strategy depends on the quality and content of your CI report. This analysis utilizes the SWOT analysis as the initial stages to the process which will help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. You will need to answer some basic as it relates to your competitors:
Who is Your Competition and identify the range and types of competitors that participate in your industry.
Categorize your competitors as direct, indirect, or emerging. Identify all the elements that create this unique profile list.
Finding your competitors is the easy part, you already know who they are for the most part and for those companies expanding into new product and business categories, there is a wealth of resources available.
Foot soldiers - your sales team, both inside and outside.
Suppliers who your company share in common.
D & B (Dun & Bradstreet) reports with a database of over 30 million companies worldwide.
Hoovers is a subsidiary of D & B which holds considerable information pertaining to public companies.
Patent databases such as Thomson Scientific's patent services or Google patent search.
Search engines, search utilities, etc.
Financial information sources (Company filings / public & private company data).
Legal documents - PACER (public access to court electronic records).
Newspaper and news resources.
Trade & industry sources.
Geographic / Country information & maps, satellite images, etc.
Marketing research sources.
Legal information sources.
Competitive intelligence database software suppliers.
Other public information sources.
Analyzing your competition with the list of information you have compiled by populating data in a competitor intelligence grid (see below).
Writing up the results of your analysis.
Define Your Competitive Position, identify opportunities that were discovered and resolve any apparent threats uncovered during the process.
When we think about competitive intelligence, naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on. You can derive a lot of information form these sites and you need to assign a member of your sales team (support person) to track your competitors on social media. It will provide you a wealth of information like who they are targeting, how they are interacting, if they are placing paid advertisements, and the frequency of their posts.In contrast, if you are paying attention to their social media presence, and if they are savvy business leaders, they are doing the same to your company. Pay attention to what is posted on your own social media sites and carefully monitor and analyze the content of the posts. The general rule is this, think about what you would say to an anchor person interviewing you on television, obviously you are not going to provide any sensitive or misleading information in this interview and you certainly should maintain the same policy as it relates to social media. More information on social media profiling, demographics and psychographics was discussed in chapter 2 under marketing.Competitive Intelligence has its drawbacks and limitations. First of all, you would most likely not take an automobile trip without a road map or GPS device, but let's assume you did. More than likely you are going to take a few, maybe even many wrong turns and even lost, but eventually will find your way to the destination. However, if you plan the trip in advance and rely upon past experiences, your journey will turn out completely different. The same is true in the process of gathering data on competitors, much of it could turn out to be useless and completely wrong leading you in the wrong path. A skilled executive manager will make decisions to eliminate erroneous information by pointing the team in the right direct and also disseminating the information to relevance and applicability.Conclusion: A thorough evaluation and competitive analysis will help you, your company, and your employees to grasp the intricacies of effectively defeating you're the competition day in and day out.Formulate a strategy to attain organizational uniformity. This is the concept of aligning and balancing the performance standards throughout your company. Organizational uniformity is based upon the assumption that all sales territories, sales and operating regions, and divisions operate in unanimity and consistent.A competitive SWOT analysis will help your company and your sales people operate with confidence.