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It is easy to misunderstand the concept of competitive intelligence if you are not accustomed to working within a strategic organization. It is not merely guessing at what the competition will do. It is not simply monitoring the competition so that you know what they are doing while they are doing it. A successful competitive intelligence program is more proactive and more engaged with the competition on a comprehensive level, without the competition necessarily knowing they are being watched.

The game of business is played in competition. Companies with similar products and services compete for business or market share. In order to win a piece of the pie you often have to take a piece from another company. But to do that you need to know several things about yourself, your competition, and the market, such as:

  • What do customers like about the competition and its products?
  • What do customers like about your products?
  • What would customers like to see in a product that isn’t currently being offered by anyone?
  • What weaknesses, or perceived weaknesses, do your products have?
  • What weaknesses, or perceived weaknesses, does your competition and its products have?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking. Some of these questions can be answered by having a member of your staff or a friend purchase your competition’s products and evaluate them against yours. Surveys and polls are other ways to get feedback – especially if conducted with anonymity so respondents don’t know who’s asking.

When it comes to competitive intelligence, it makes sense to asking the tough questions of your own company as well as the competition. The idea is to know what’s happening in the minds of consumers as it relates to your business and the competitive playing field. It’s not easy, but necessary.

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