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Competitor Intelligence – marketing

As Prime Minister John Major once quipped when asked why he didn’t sack the dissenters in his cabinet,  “Keep your friends close…and your enemies closer still.”  A quote attributed to 6th Century Chinese general & military strategist Sun-Tzu.  Sun-Tzu also said “If you know your enemy and yourself, you will win every battle.  If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every battle won, you will suffer a loss.  If you are ignorant of your enemy and yourself, you are a fool and certain to be defeated in every battle.”


Your competition is a significant part of market intelligence.  The only way to be aware of what your market is doing and who is engaged with it, is to research.  That means both secondary desk work and primary questioning.  Without understanding your competitors strengths and weaknesses, how can you possibly recognise your own position in the market place and what makes you different?

Researching what our competitors are up to can help us make more timely and perceptive decisions about our own business strategies.  If we can get early warning of competitive activity then we may be able to compete more effectively for business.  Don’t forget the newcomers to the market place.  It is as important to keep an eye on new and emerging competitors before they become a significant threat.

1.  The Value of information

Identify what you want to know and why you want to know it. What piece of competitive intelligence would be most valuable to your business? For example:  pricing, customers, supply chain, financial data, margins, gross profit, net profit, delivery expectation, customer satisfaction, data base, deals, sales techniques, advertising returns, copy, commercial and geographic positioning.

2.   Effective questioning techniques

Get good at asking the right questions and taking note of the answers.

  • Bracketing Technique – Establishing the boundaries of a number so are we talking about 10 or 20%? or would you say its nearer £20 than £30?  How old would you say 5-10 years?
  • Challenging Technique – Challenging the respondent with an incorrect statement.  I heard that the stock inventory for Gadget Ltd had increase by 75% this year???
  • Restatement Technique – Repeating back information already provided to get further information.  So what you are saying is … how interesting!  Do go on …

3.  Intelligence indicators

When you have your competitor intelligence you need to analyse and measure the impact on your own business.  There are many ways you can plot the outcomes.  The purpose of which is to recognise the gaps and build in some tactical and communication strategies to negate the risks, maximise the strengths, exploit the opportunities and minimise the effects of any weaknesses you have in your offer.  The POWER SWOT is a useful tool …

4.  Internal and external resources

The online social networks – LinkedIn is a wonderful source of competitor information for many businesses.   Make sure you know where else they talk on social media.  This is a useful list of social media communities

Ensure you belong to and are active in trade networks.  Who are your contacts?  What do they know?  Invite your competitors to lunch – why not?

With thanks to David Cotterell for the inspiration for this post

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