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Competitive intelligence is one of the most important aspects of doing business online. If you don’t know your competition then chances are you can’t beat them. You might win a few terminal successes along the way, but you won’t win the competitive rat race in the long run. You can’t be No. 1 in the marketplace unless you know the competition.

But how do you get there?

Competitive intelligence is a process. You’ve got to outline the process and work it strategically if you expect to excel. Here are five steps you can follow to better competitive intelligence in any industry.

  • Decide which areas of market intelligence are most important to your strategic positioning.
  • Make a list of companies in your industry that excel in those functions or that have an upper hand to your business – these should be companies that you want to know more about and/or that you want to study for the purpose of beating in the marketplace.
  • Collect information on each company regarding those areas of market intelligence you identified in step 1; compile information from the SEC, press releases, trade journals, articles in the media, credit reports, clients, the companies themselves, trade associations, government offices and anywhere else you can get information on the companies that is legal and ethical.
  • Start a file on each company and keep all compiled information on each company in their respective files.
  • Rank the companies in order of most proficient for each market intelligence category you are tracking then rank your own company for each of those same tracking metrics to know where you stand against the competition.

The whole idea behind competitive intelligence is to know where you stand against the competition. If you are not No. 1 then you should target your efforts to overcome obstacles and challenges that prevent you from besting the competition. But it starts with knowing who you’re up against.

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