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One often overlooked source of competitive intelligence is public information documents. These are documents that are a matter of public record and you’ll often be surprised at what you can find in those places. Here’s an example:

(Source) We once found sales and profit numbers for a large privately held company that were included in the transcript of an Environmental Protection Agency hearing. The company was trying to show that it couldn’t afford a large EPA fine, and in doing so had sent its CFO to testify at the hearing. He brought along his spread sheets for the prior three years, which became part of the hearing, and subsequently became a matter of public record through the minutes of the hearing.

Sales and profit numbers are not the only data you might find through public information documents. You could also find web data that typically would not be pubic information. Just as in the case above, companies looking to impress others or engage in CYA tactics might use their private information to make an effort at persuasion in a public meeting. That data then becomes a matter of public record and is accessible to anyone for the asking. All you have to know is where to go to find it.

If you have government oversight agencies for your industry or regulation agencies in any country in which you do business then information from the meetings of these agencies could be public depending on the country. If that is the case then you can mind the meeting minutes of past meetings and see who in your industry made public presentations. Request that information from the agency through a formal information request and you could have your hands on some good competitive intelligence data.

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