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Evaluating competitors and what they’re doing

The final C is understanding the competitive landscape. Competitive intelligence is tricky. It’s hard for companies to know how much they should obtain, and it’s even harder to actually obtain it. In my experience, larger companies are likely to dedicate resources to competitive intelligence (CI). Smaller companies like the idea but usually don’t have the resources to commit to it.

They argue that what the competition does is irrelevant, because the company is pursuing a particular direction and doesn’t need to respond directly to competitors. Others believe they are small enough that they need to focus on their clients alone, not the competition.

These arguments don’t hold up, because the point of CI isn’t to copy the competition but rather to know what the competition is doing so that you can do something different that aligns with market needs and your company’s strengths.

A company needs to know what the competition is doing to maintain a sustainable, competitive advantage. What information about competitors should you gather? Basic CI includes identifying who the competition is (both direct and indirect competitors) and obtaining an overview of their characteristics:

Product lines, distribution, pricing, reputation, market share, business development process and team, and any other parameters you identify as crucial. You may not need to gather all of this information—select the topics that are most relevant for the competition you face and the marketing decisions you need to make.

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