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Using Competitive Intelligence to find a Competitive Advantage

Rivalries are exciting. Whatever “team” you’re on – Red Sox vs. Yankees, Coke vs. Pepsi, New York vs. Los Angeles – having a rival keeps you sharp and makes you want to improve so you can remain competitive, and win. Whether your company is a cutting-edge technology business or provides tried-and-true consumer products, competitive intelligence (CI) should inform your plans for business growth. An effective CI strategy won’t have a singular focus. Competitive intelligence is as much about paying attention to ocean waves as it is about monitoring ripples in the pond. Relevant CI insights can be gleaned at the macro- and micro-level, spanning the spectrum from market trends to details about a competitor’s online presence. What should your company look for to give you an advantage over competitors?

Take the Wide Angle View First

While competitive intelligence focuses on what’s happening with rival companies, it’s important to understand the broad backdrop of historical and current global, societal, and economic changes in your market, your target market, product usage, and gaps in available product offerings.

Competitive intelligence works best if you understand what’s happening in your own backyard for comparison with your competitors. It pays to understand what your target market looks like and how they behave. If sales for a particular product don’t measure up to your expectations, take action to find out why. Is the consumer need for the product not what it used to be? Look at how product usage and customer behavior have changed since the start of the pandemic. Is there an untapped market for the product that could be reached by taking your marketing campaign in a new direction?

By analyzing historical data and trends in product usage, you can find out why fluctuations in product need have occurred in the past. When the “why” is revealed, leverage the opportunity to help your business anticipate what’s ahead. Is the “why” something that’s likely to occur in the future? Businesses need this kind of information in order to align their product and marketing investments wisely.

Focus Your Sight on the Competition 

Companies are nearly always making improvements to existing products. Ask your CI team for consumer opinions data about a competitor’s product. You might be able to gain some market share if you can satisfy the needs of the buyers before your competitors launch their improved version of the product.

Likewise, if your business is thinking of altering or offering a new product or service, you need to find out what products and services your competitors are investing in right now. Take a look at how they are faring. Will your planned investments measure up to their success and avoid their failures?

When a company wants to add capacity or capabilities fast, sometimes a merger or acquisition is the solution. Your CI team will have a keen eye on what M&A deals are happening in your industry, as these will signal a potential course change by a competitor. Consider how these deals may impact your business. Will the deal make it more difficult for your business to compete? Is their business expanding in a new direction, opening up opportunities for yours?

At times, it’s third parties talking about your competitors that will lead to insights. A technology vendor announcing the win of a global client for their workflow, logistics, or social media analytics program may signal where your competitors’ focus is as a company. Likewise, if the CEO of a competitor company speaks at a conference or is interviewed in the media, there may be some signal that can be gleaned. And, industry pundits who are watching and writing about trends can sometimes make connections between concepts based on their ongoing research that can be useful.

You Can’t Drink from a Firehose 

Business rivalries are long lasting for a reason. Competition for consumer attention, time, and share of wallet are increasing, not decreasing, making competitive intelligence a business imperative.

The challenge for companies, however, is that the quest to gain consumers’ fractured attention is leading to even more data that needs to be sorted through and synthesized for insights. With the average lifespan of a tweet calculated at 15-20 minutes, even today’s news is old. Making matters worse, the internet is overrun with junk sources and an overwhelming amount of data. Competitive intelligence is not a periodic endeavor to keep score, but a living, breathing part of a large company’s marketing ethos.

Competitive intelligence relies on access to a wide range of internally- and externally-generated market research content. Mining for relevant insights, whether from business news, journals, social media, or government databases, can be overwhelming. There just are not enough hours in the day to search for results, synthesize the data, and share it across teams. Businesses, ready or not, are operating in a time of digital transformation. The current pace of change is incredible, and keeping up with it is crucial for survival and growth.

Your Search is Over

Luckily, Northern Light can help. SinglePoint, our AI-powered knowledge management platform for market research and competitive intelligence, is bringing an end to traditional, inefficient, stove-piped search. Whether a document was produced in-house, is accessible through a subscription, or is from a credible online news source, you’ll get it all in one place with SinglePoint. And thanks to AI, you can get answers to your questions by letting the machine write a report on the results that it finds.

Northern Light can help your business manage and mine the market research and competitive intelligence content stream. If your company is ready for an AI-powered approach to competitive intelligence, contact Northern Light today.

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