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Making Competitive Intelligence Work
Why Some CI Strategies Fall Short & How to Ensure Yours Don’t
Doing a Google™ search on “competitive intelligence” yields more than 10.5 million results in less than a second, and judging from the first few pages of results, people define CI in many different ways. This white paper explores the limitations of some CI definitions and how companies can enhance their CI strategies to work smarter and improve decision making.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Let’s start by clarifying what competitive intelligence is not. As the author of Competitive Intelligence Advantage: How to Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World and founder of one of the first competitive intelligence firms in the United States, Sharp Market Intelligence, CI expert Seena Sharp knows all too well how companies struggle to define and execute competitive intelligence effectively. During a recent American Marketing Association Webcast, Ms. Sharp emphasized that “Competitive intelligence is not data, or information, or software, or from the Internet or even focused on competitors. These are all components of competitive intelligence, but they are not CI, per se.”
Look Beyond Competitors: A Cautionary Tale
Many companies operate under the misconception that CI begins and ends with competitors. During the Webcast, Ms. Sharp offered an example of what happens when you focus on competitors to the exclusion of other factors that influence business risk and growth.
In 2008, readers in the Denver, Colorado region had two major daily newspapers to choose from—Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. One year later, Rocky Mountain News announced it was going to press for the last time, ending the publication’s 150-year reign as the oldest daily in the state. Many saw the closing as just one in a long line of daily newspapers that succumbed to mounting pressures of lost ad revenues and declining circulation.
Ms. Sharp noted that when the publisher of the Rocky Mountain News spoke at an industry conference some months later, he shared some of the factors that led to the paper’s decline. The most unexpected revelation? The editors often held back on publishing breaking news to its Website. Why would a daily newspaper hamstring itself in such a way? The editors worried that if they went “live” with a story on the Web, the Denver Post might “steal” it and post the same news on their own site too. In reality, the fear that they might give their competitor an edge on reporting alienated readers who only saw that the News was consistently being “scooped” by the Post.
The Rocky Mountain News was more focused on its competitor than on its customers. The lesson? If you only look at strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats in comparison to competitors, then you only capture a fraction of what influences success—or failure—in a global business environment. The hyper-awareness of the competition prevented Rocky Mountain News from seeing the big picture and contributed to its downfall.
Download the full white paper to read more expert insights into broadening the horizons of your competitive intelligence research to gain a competitive advantage.