Competitive Intelligence: Know Your Competitors, Don’t Copy Them
In a recent article, we highlighted the importance of establishing a competitive intelligence program for your business in an effort to build more effective brand strategies.
A process of improving strategic decision making, competitive intelligence (CI) brings a focus on your competitors, the markets they serve and the initiatives they have in place.
When business leaders look at their competition, there is often an urge to take what a competitor has done well and attempt to apply those strategies and tactics to their brand. However, that may not be the best approach – at least not always.
In today’s article, we highlight why you should use your competitive intelligence program to inform your decision-making – not dictate it.
Competitors as a point of reference
At first glance, the results of your competitive intelligence program may look like an indication of what others are doing well, and what you should be doing better. However, while an awareness of relevant trends and techniques is a key aspect of market advancement, it is just that: awareness.
Whether it’s operations or finance or anything in between, no two companies are alike in what strategic decisions are the ‘right’ ones to grow their business. There are so many factors to consider before launching a new initiative – no matter how profitable or successful it has the potential to be.
Some of these factors to consider include:
Brand Positioning: Consider the elements of brand positioning that are unique to your firm. What is the relevant message you want to communicate to your target audience? Think about how you differ from your competitors, as well as how you overlap. Will your customers understand what differentiates you from your competitors or are you creating market confusion?
Brand Perception: Reflect on your unique relationship with your target audience, as well as existing brand perceptions in the eyes of your customers. What perceptions do you have about your company? Does the market and your customers have the same perception? If not, then there needs to be some alignment to ensure expectations are met and to ensure that how you are perceived is the way you want to be perceived. Don’t let the market define your brand.
Market Position: Are you a challenger or a leader? Depending on whether you are a leader in the market or a challenger to it, will dictate how you market your brand. Understanding your role and that of your competition will help in defining the types of information you need to collect and analyze in order to ensure your competitive intelligence program is effective.
When you look at the data from your competitive intelligence program, it’s important to maintain a consistent eye on what competitors are doing well (and, not so well). While your competitor’s actions can help guide you, they shouldn’t control your decision-making. The key to implementing a competitive intelligence program is to consistently gather and analyze the data you are collecting and put it into action. Share it with the team and ensure it’s being factored into your strategic decisions.
The most important word in the phrase competitive intelligence isn’t competitive – it’s intelligence. Continuously learning about what is going on in your industry by having a full picture of the competitive landscape allows you to be proactive and not reactive in your competitive posture.