No matter how successful your business is, you can always aim to do better. Simply staying in business is not enough. In order to get ahead of the competition, you need to continually reinvent yourself so that you don’t become complacent.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, and your environment is always changing. If you want to get a leg up, you need to know what opportunities and challenges lie ahead so that you’re not operating in reactive mode. Competitive intelligence is one way to do this, and it isn’t just about looking at what your competitors are doing; they are likely studying you as well. It’s about gathering information on all aspects of your environment so that you can make strategic decisions that will allow your business to become more competitive. These aspects include everything from suppliers and distributors, to the economy, to upcoming legislation, to emerging technologies, and more.
Here are two examples of competitive intelligence in action:
- Discovery: A study of demographics reveals a new, rapidly growing, untapped market for your line of swimwear.
Your response: Undertake R&D to create items that will appeal to this new market
Result: You become the first business to target this demographic, and you see a dramatic rise in sales
- Discovery: Conversations with your salespeople reveal that customers are buying your product for another purpose than intended
Your response: You modify the product and/or packaging and launch a “new use” marketing campaign
Result: Your product takes off and you gain a larger share of the market
As a small business, you may not have the resources to handle this kind of information collection and analysis. You may want to hire someone who specializes in competitive intelligence or invest in software to support your efforts. The process is ongoing; your environment (including consumer preferences) will change over time.
Remember that there are many variables in the business equation. You might gain some leverage for a period of time and feel like you’ve managed to outsmart the competition, but never assume that you have “won”. You must continue to work hard and strive for excellence or risk being outdone.
This content is provided by the Canada Business Network – government services for entrepreneurs