By Guest Author Lee Doernberg of Liquid Capital Funding
Every business has a strategic decisions to make, but a lot hinges on what your competitors are doing. In a recent Management Today article, Arthur Weiss, founder and managing director of UK-based Aware, a Competitive Intelligence (CI) firm, said, “If you only start doing competitor research when you are being hurt, it may be too late. You want to know what your competitors’ plans are for two years’ time and how they will affect you.”
CI industry experts say a company needs to constantly analyze its market for relevant changes, and to succeed, it must adapt to changes. Here are a few ways a company can monitor what competitors are up to:
Google Alerts. This free service enables you to receive information by email of the latest relevant Google results based on your choice of query or topics. You can monitor news of your competitors as well as your own company. To set up Google Alerts, click here.
Make a Purchase. Unless the products offered are cost-prohibitive, this direct approach will enable you to find out firsthand how they handle new customers. Ask questions about their structure and policies – e.g., is there a warranty/satisfaction guarantee, what kind of customer support staff is on hand, and what you can expect going forward (emails, telephone calls, etc.) when new products/services are available.
Talk to People. There are a wealth of people who know about your competition – suppliers, customers, journalists, former and current employees. Trade shows, meetings and conferences are good places to find these resources. Explain you are conducting market research and ask for help.
Use the Information. Tony Nagle, a managing director at CI firm Fuld, explains that CI gathering should be linked to an action the company plans to take. “We always try to establish what decisions the intelligence will support. Once you’ve defined the problem, the information needed to solve it should be obvious.”
If a company isn’t equipped to handle Competitive Intelligence in-house, there is the option of outsourcing the service. Here are a few sources for finding a CI professional:
- Association of Independent Information Professionals (http://www.aiip.org/) – they have members worldwide
- Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (http://www.scip.org/) – they have chapters throughout the United States, one in Toronto.
As always, I hope this e-newsletter provides ideas your clients and prospects can use. If we can be of direct service to them by providing working capital, please let me know.
Liquid Capital Funding
* Sources for this article include Management Today, and Inc.com.