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Practicing Competitive Intelligence

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on April 27, 2009

There have never been more communications channels available to businesses looking to promote the value of their product or service. Likewise, there have never been more channels for competitors hoping to challenge the value of your company’s product or service.

Today, with the mainstream acceptance of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, information spreads in real time. Companies not only struggle to maintain control of their own messages but also to stay abreast of the ever-changing competitive landscape.

One way to keep up is to apply competitive intelligence techniques that go beyond gathering and analyzing competitor moves to anticipate and uncover threats. Here are some tips for putting such strategies into practice:

Keep your eyes on the horizon. Often, businesses get caught flat-footed by a competitor when they limit competitive monitoring to news coverage or press release tracking. By the time an official announcement is issued it’s often too late to respond adequately. Instead, focus on tomorrow, not today. Stay abreast of changing attitudes or behaviors and mounting tensions to identify threats or opportunities before they occur.

Participate in the dialogue. Tap into social media tools by joining relevant groups, reading and contributing to blogs, or popping into user chat rooms. Also, use every in-person opportunity to ask questions, solicit information, and build trust with sources. Most important, listen. The more you tune in and engage, the more comfortable a source will be in disclosing information such as predictions and rumors—the content most helpful to your competitive de-positioning pursuits.

Act on what you learn. Many businesses gather and analyze competitor information but fall short in transitioning the insights they collect into strategy and action. Use your research to build a "ready to go" comprehensive competitive toolkit with rapid response plans, pulse point calendars, competitive counter-messaging guidebooks, and competitive landscape maps. Preparation allows you to harness the power of your competitive intelligence to create compelling communications.

Kerry Walker
Porter Novelli

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