We live and work in the information age. The opportunity to gather knowledge about your company’s competitors and industry as a whole has never been easier. This practice — commonly known as “competitive intelligence” — can help you maintain responsiveness in the marketplace while avoid being left behind as innovation surges forward.
Before you dive into competitive intelligence, however, it’s important to establish a formal policy governing your efforts. (If you’ve already gotten started, consider slowing down and integrating a policy as you move forward.) Generally, a competitive intelligence policy should follow four primary principles:
- Be authentic. When gathering information, don’t hide behind secret identities or misrepresent your affiliation. For instance, if you sign up to receive marketing emails from a competitor, use an official company address and, if asked, state “product or service evaluation” as the reason you’re subscribing.
- Respect all formal agreements. In the course of gathering competitive intelligence, you or your employees may establish sources within the industry or even with a specific competitor. Be sure you don’t encourage these sources, even inadvertently, to violate any standing confidentiality or noncompete agreements.
- Abide by all intellectual property rights and laws. As you may know, the technicalities of intellectual property law are complex. It can be easy to unintentionally run afoul of the rules. When accessing or studying another company’s products or services, proceed carefully and consult your attorney before putting any lessons learned into practice.
- Monitor consultants closely. When it comes to competitive intelligence, the Achilles’ heel of many companies isn’t their employees but rather, outside consultants. If you engage third parties for any purpose, be sure they know and abide by your policy.
With the Internet booming and social media thriving, there’s a wealth of information out there about your competitors. It can help you shape your strategic planning and stay in better touch with your industry. Please contact Alerding CPA Group for assistance in integrating competitive intelligence into your profit enhancement goals. We can be reached at 317-569-4181 or www.alerdingcpagroup.com.