Clever ways to know YOUR COMPETITOR 

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Gather information from companies’ websites, customers, surveys, conferences and social media to understand more about products and other environmental aspects for strategic purposes. 

By LIZZ WAMBUA

Competitive intelligence (CI) is the act of gathering and analysing information in order to gain knowledge on competitors, customers, products and other environmental aspects for strategic purposes.

Information is gathered from companies’ websites, customers, surveys, conferences and social media. Benjamin Gilad, a professor of business strategy and author, in his writing “Competitive Intelligence Shouldn’t Just Be about Your Competitors” says CI is a perspective on changing market conditions. This means identifying risks and opportunities early enough to allow the company adapt its strategy or in extreme cases, change it.

CI is vital in today’s highly competitive business environment. It helps you gain insight on your competitors, the market and helps identify risks and opportunities. With this information, right actions can be achieved due to informed decision making. Remember, there are ethical implications to how CI is used, thus the need to observe caution to avoid negative impacts on business.

Tamar Garfunkel, Head of Marketing at Slidely, Israel, explains in her writing, titled “Is Competitive Intelligence Ethical?” that competitive intelligence may have gotten a bad name from those who have chosen to act unethically, but it’s actually a worthwhile way to gain pertinent insights about current market standards and practices.

Tactics and new offers

With CI, the firm is able to identify competitor tactics and new offers, new entrants/competitors and adjust its strategies. Relevant data is needed for proper analysis and sustainable success.

Information about competition can be accessed through press releases for new product offers, customers and the internet. The company’s website is reliable for information on financials, products, innovations, sales and customer complaint policies. With CI, you are able to know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Competitive benchmarking will, therefore, help you to make informed decisions, lead to enhanced operations and higher financial benefits.

Trust employees and customers

CI informs the marketing strategy in various ways. First, sales persons become more effective since they are armed with the right information about customer preferences, adjustments and choices.

The sales team gains a lot of information about competitor products and services, plans on new product/service offers and can advise on the right adjustments. This knowledge with rightful actions will improve sales and market share.

To achieve success, a company needs to be customer oriented. Joel Le Bon, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, observes that being customer-oriented means focusing on long-term customer satisfaction and placing their needs first, while actively endeavouring to develop solutions that enable customers to reach their goals.

Once this information has been received, a company must involve sales representatives in decision-making that will inform the next step of action. This will motivate both the sales representative and customers as their contributions and concerns will be put into consideration.

Unique products

CI is an important source of information for research and development. It provides information on customer complaints, competitors’ new products, as well as innovative ideas on products and services. Strive to create and develop your own unique products and identity that can counter competition and keep your customers satisfied. Do not copy your competitors.

CI also helps in better allocation of company resources and avoidance of unnecessary costs hence increased chances for business success. By anticipating competitors’ moves, the R&D department is able to decrease response time and avoid unpleasant surprises. It will reduce uncertainty about external developments in addition to minimising risk. CI will help you to develop a market niche that will lead to sustainable winning strategies.

New information brings about fresh ideas and understanding of situations which leads to solutions and accelerates innovation. This is vital for business survival and competitiveness in changing markets. Turning those ideas from research to a commercial product or process is the development part. A business case study article on the journal “Research and Development” notes that research involves designing new ideas to solve a problem or create an opportunity, while development involves converting good ideas into a commercial product.

Fluid Company, a strategy competitive consultancy, offers some excellent advice on CI – it should incorporate external competitive and market forces into strategic planning, and generate strategically relevant insights from research and structured analysis.

CI should enhance marketing, finance, operations and help reduce decision risks, and uncertainty about external developments.

Email: enwambua@yahoo.com

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