Research is a key element at any stage of company growth and while this is common knowledge, it’s something that also requires focus and strategy. Competitive intelligence means not only gathering company data on your corner of the market, but also analyzing information about competitors and target customers and applying the findings to your own practices.
Company Intelligence (CI) is an ethical method and should only be conducted in terms of open source data. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available for this, most useful of which are the various web tools which can give you access to a database of companies in the UK or elsewhere. From basic information on company structure to financial reports, some sites will allow you to download documents for a small fee, while others act almost as a professional network, giving you a summary of a company’s public face.
There are numerous ways you can confirm and expand on this information, through both online and personal research. If you’re operating at a local level, apply your strategy to the area, profiling the population, economy and business statistics before you hone in on the specifics. At this stage, business journals, conferences and trade shows can be invaluable for getting a grasp on what your competitors are doing and how successful this has been.
Don’t neglect the customer side of CI either. You may already have a good idea of where you’re aiming your services but it pays to do some digging on how they view your competition. Identity customer needs in relation to how they respond to other companies and investigate buying habits via news and social media sites. Conduct individual research in the field, not only drawing information from target sources, but speaking to professionals in government, economics and public service where relevant.
Winning a client or tender depends heavily on knowing where the best decisions have been made, how you can improve on your own and how this will benefit the customer. Though competitive intelligence may sound like a slick corporate phrase, it could mean arming yourself with the most reliable and powerful weapon of all: knowledge.