From information to intelligence – competitor analysis
Having scanned the press, searched online, spoken to the sales force, customers, suppliers, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, there should now be a large pile of data on your competitors.
Unfortunately much of this data will be repetitious, out of date, wrong or inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete. However like a jigsaw, each piece can help build up the compete picture. And even if some pieces are missing, you can often get a good idea of what the real picture actually is – even if other pieces are damaged and not all remaining pieces fit perfectly. For example,
- the company report can give an idea of a company’s health – which will be enhanced by information from trade suppliers, trade press articles, and credit information agencies such as D&B;
- patents give an idea of R&D activity;
- trade press gives an idea of marketing activity;
- market research can give feedback on the customer’s perspective.
And of course there are specialist organisations such as AWARE that have the techniques to dig deeper and get information that can lead to an idea of competitor strategy and future trends.
All this information needs to be collated – with any links and commonalities highlighted. The information needs to be verified or checked to ensure that it is valid and not misinformation or disinformation that may be put out to confuse researchers. It then needs to be indexed and catalogued – so that when new information comes along, it can be quickly linked to similar information that had previously been found. It may be stored in a custom-built or dedicated competitor database accessible via the company Intranet – although it can also be stored in much less sophisticated forms.
Finally, the relevance and importance of each piece of information needs to be interpreted, analysed and understood – on its own and in conjunction with other information, the other pieces in the jigsaw. This is where information starts to become intelligence.