Practical Competitive Intelligence: Step 2 — Data Sources

But where is the data? What are the best sources for competitive intelligence?

This is the second post in the series on Practical Competitive Intelligence, and is the next step after defining what your competitive intelligence needs are. And these tips work for product marketers, marketing directors, CEOs, in a small business or a corporation.

Detective in Profile Finding Competitive Intelligence

Finding Competitive Intelligence is detective work. Sometimes it’s easy: you find a recent analyst report that has the data you need, and you actually have the budget to buy it. Other times, it is piece work, and diligence and patience are needed.

Oh, and speaking of diligence or patience: one of the best ways to learn something about your competitors, ahead of their moves, is to monitor indicators that are changing. In military intelligence, this is called watching for indicators and warning (I&W).

Sources for Competitive Intelligence

Allright, on to sources: you know about google, you know how to search for news articles (click on “news” in your google search), but did you know:

That job openings on job boards are a great way to learn:

  • what technology and processes your competitors are using
  • how fast they are growing
  • if they have more or less turnoverthan you
  • the salaries they pay (and thus infer their financial health).

LinkedIn is a great source, that can not only tell you what technology they are using, but also what their key people are currently working on. And you can find where they recruit from and where they want to go.

My all-time favorite source of CI is talking to customers: either via a formalized win/loss analysis, or just by chatting and having your normal client contact. This leads me directly to:

Make sure you collect information from your personnel: your sales staff may have great intelligence based on being up against one competitor or another in a recent negotiation. They may not only be able to speak to pricing level and pricing structure, but also to sales strategy used, recent changes of focus.

And let’s not forget what I mentioned in the beginning: if you are lucky enough to be working in an industry niche large enough to warrant the attention of industry analysts, their reports are, of course, a great source of information on your competitors. Go beyond reading the reports, call “your” analyst, discuss trends from your point of view, and get their insight in return.

What’s your favourite unconventional source of competitive intelligence?

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