When we think of things that we can do better at work to increase our chances of promotion, a lot of things come to mind. Efficiency initiatives to make business processes operate faster, a new leadership technique to inspire the team to higher levels of performance, or a new way to reduce costs while simultaneously increasing service to customers.
These are all great ideas, but a lot of them and similar methodologies, may already be in progress. You may also be in the middle of existing productivity and efficiency initiatives within your organization and unable to start new initiatives. One of the best ways that you can make an immediate difference in the success of your company and set yourself apart from your peers is by becoming an expert on understanding, learning, and communicating about your competitors within your company. Here are some tips how to incorporate competitive intelligence concepts into your daily life at work.
1. Competitive Intelligence Focuses on Customer’s Needs – Present & Future. We often believe that a look at the competition starts with the competition. Right? Not so fast. In business, we always need to focus on the current, emerging, and not yet defined needs of the customer. From a pure Marketing perspective, nearly everything in the company should be aligned to help design, create, build, distribute, sell, and improve products and services for the customer. Any understanding of the competition and why they are doing what they do always needs to be against the backdrop of why customers purchase products in the first place.
2. Competitive Intelligence Focuses on Understanding the General Business Climate. How is your industry affected by the general and specific macro-economic and micro-economic trends in the economy? How are your customers affected? Providing this information on a consistent basis with standardized research on the primary economic drivers through an easy-to-use technology platform gives your entire company a common point of information and uniform understanding of the key drivers affecting your business. The top business newspapers and periodicals are some of your best sources.
3. Competitive Intelligence Focuses on Understanding the Impact of New Technology on Your Industry. Often times, technology changes the game faster and more drastically than competitors. Remember Blackberry, the once dominant mobile hand set maker? It was Apple, not the existing competitors of LG and Nokia, that changed the game with making a mobile phone handset look and operate like a small computer. The central point is that companies must be on the constant look out for any technology that redefines the competitive strengths within the industry. Technology can be new or re-deployed within a new product or service to make the difference.
4. Competitive Intelligence Focuses on Potential New Competitors. Just like emerging technology, new and often unthought-of competitors change the game. For the US Army, most of their military vehicles were made by General Dynamics, BAE Systems, AM General, and Oshkosh Corporation. However, for one of the new contracts for a light vehicle, Polaris, the maker of snowmobiles, ATV’s and motorcycles is becoming one of the hard-to-beat competitors. New competitors often combine new technology to introduce new products and services, and then have a refreshed sales process to satisfy the customer.
5. Competitive Intelligence Draws Conclusions to Create Insights to Actionable Steps. Just like good senior officers, good senior executives dislike analysis that lacks conclusions with definitive, concrete action steps to make the company better with the new information. Intelligence should always seek to understand, analyze, war game, and then recommend what the company’s best response should be to satisfy customers and mitigate the competition’s effectiveness. Good competitive intelligence yields more effective business operations to produce better results.
6. Competitive Intelligence Passes The Newspaper Headline Test – Always. Frequently, people wrongly assume that competitive intelligence does not pass the highest ethical tests for the company. The use of the newspaper headline test is primary for competitive intelligence activities: If you would not want your company’s activities on the 1st page of every newspaper in the country, then you should not do it. Some of the best competitive intelligence work uses ONLY information from the public media space and then uses technology to distribute and create dialogue on how the company should act. Always be ethical in everything that you do for your employer.
A focus on competitive intelligence makes your company and customers better. The ultimate objective of competitive intelligence is to yield greater insights on how your company can do more to satisfy customer needs so you not only mitigate your competitor’s actions, but you also create and maintain new customers. By adding a focus of competitive intelligence to your career skill sets you make the company better and better position yourself for promotion.
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About the Blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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