Competitive intelligence as a discipline goes well beyond monitoring competitive activity. True competitive intelligence is an ongoing process that involves gathering information about external factors that could impact your business and analyzing that information to identify and anticipate opportunities and threats. These factors could include changes in the economy, regulations, culture, technology, suppliers, competition and anything else that might change the competitive landscape.
Ideally, competitive intelligence is a core component of strategic decision-making – impacting all functions of your business. For small organizations with limited resources, however, this knowledge is often gathered on the fly and is limited in scope. Knowing this, I like to stay fresh on best practices in this field so I can pass along learnings to my resource strapped clients.
Earlier last year, I shared a collection of the best competitive intelligence articles from the first half of 2015. Now I have continued that work by gathering the best posts from the second half of the year. I favor pieces that are educational – providing in-depth information about either the competitive intelligence discipline or best ways to execute on activities that support it.
I have also created a resource section on this site with tools that can be used to monitor your competitors. Although it may not be possible for a small business to employ a competitive intelligence professional, staying abreast of the discipline and the resources that are available can be useful when you are ready to put time into planning.
So, without further ado, below are the best of the bunch from July to December of 2015:
Companies Collect Competitive Intelligence, but Don’t Use It
Benjamin Gilad produced the two most shared “competitive intelligence” articles of 2015. This post, “Companies Collect Competitive Intelligence, but Don’t Use It” and another titled “Competitive Intelligence Shouldn’t Just Be About Your Competitors.” At first I wondered if this could be credited to the fact that they appeared in Harvard Business Review, but although I am sure that didn’t hurt, if you read these posts I’m sure you will agree that their quality warrants their success.
In this article, which was published in July 2015, Mr. Gilad points out that many executives consider how their customers will react to business decisions and the potential impact on business operations, but they neglect to consider how their competitors will react – an oversight that could derail the success of their initiatives.
To make matters worse, this behavior occurs even in organizations that invest heavily in the collection of competitive and market insight. Management provides the information and it is used in presentations and reports to support decisions, but there is no system in place to determine whether the information is being used correctly. The author suggests that companies avoid costly mistakes by requiring an audit of major decisions (to ensure that competitive intelligence data is being properly applied) before approving them.
Another article of note by this same author is “How to Actually Put Your Marketing Data to Use” (Oct. 2015), which critiques how we apply big data. He points out that while big data may provide us with a more accurate snapshot of today it is not helpful at all toward imagining the future.
He recommends that the competitive intelligence function should be responsible for analyzing big data to suggest hypothetical market and competitive outcomes then tracking progress toward those hypotheses. He further suggests that the users of intelligence information be involved its collection – which would increase their confidence in the data and instill a sense of accountability for the results.
Mr. Gilad concludes with the observation that marketers often find themselves executing on strategy rather than creating it. He suggests that this is no longer an effective approach in today’s fast-paced, noisy environment where companies need to be more strategic than ever. He feels that organizations need to look at the big picture, analyze the potential impact of today’s reality on an imagined tomorrow, and make thoughtful and strategic (not rushed) decisions.
Six Tips for Speeding Up Decision-Making at Your Organization – Turn CI Insights into Action
The issue of competitive intelligence underutilization is also explored in an article titled “Six Tips for Speeding Up Decision-Making at Your Organization” by m-brain (published August 2015). This piece speaks to the frustration suffered by competitive intelligence professionals when their work is applauded, but not used.
The author provides a list of tactics that could be employed throughout a competitive intelligence project to better understand and engage the ultimate users of the information. She suggests more collaboration throughout the project and a management workshop at its conclusion during which decisions could be made using the findings.
The idea is that by engaging all parties throughout the entire process the project will be better supported and the resulting decisions more quickly deployed.
Don’t Get Ubered: Rethinking Your Competitive Intelligence Approach
This in-depth article, titled “Don’t Get Ubered: Rethinking Your Competitive intelligence Approach,” from Sept. 2015 stresses the importance of assuming a start-up mentality to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing market.
The author, Andrea Wahbe, uses Uber’s impact on the taxi industry to support a more forward thinking competitive intelligence effort that considers all the possible directions the business could go, assesses the direct and indirect competition, and anticipates changes that may occur in the environment. The benefit, of course, is that if you plan for a likely future you may avoid getting blindsided by a massive change to your industry.
Ms. Wahbe recommends a start-up method for reviewing the competitive landscape and highlights specific tools for gathering information. She then brings in the role of market (customer) research as a complimentary and necessary component of competitive analysis, a nice addition that is sometimes ignored in competitive intelligence focused articles.
This article is worth an in-depth read (if only to harvest the tool suggestions) and a bookmark.
Create a Winning Advantage: Competitive Intelligence in Content Marketing
This post, titled “Create a Winning Advantage: Competitive Intelligence in Content Marketing,” is less about competitive intelligence as a discipline and instead focuses on gathering information about competitors to improve content marketing results. It was published by BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson in October 2015. I am including it here because content marketing is my area of focus (so my clients would likely find it useful) and because I actually used the tool that is highlighted while researching this article.
BuzzSumo is a tool that is widely used by content marketers. It allows you to easily research articles that have been written on a specific topic and see which ones have received the most shares. You can also use it determine which content has performed well for your competitors, which was the focus of this article.
Although the BuzzSumo tool is targeted toward content marketers, it could be useful to competitive intelligence professionals since it provides an easy way to see what is and is not working for your competitors in terms of their content strategy.
Whether or not you agree that these are the best competitive intelligence articles in the last 6 months, I hope you found this information useful and informative. Although the focus of my work today is on content marketing, my background in market research and competitive analysis influences my approach, so I will continue to keep a keen eye on the evolution of this discipline. Feel free to contact me for further discussion.