1. Establish your goals
Before you get started, take some time to consider your industry space. Who are your major competitors? Which product lines compete most directly with your own? Who are the new, up-and-coming players on the scene? What kind of insights do you hope to gain?
When answering these questions, try to include stakeholders from every department and level of your business. What interests your market research team might not interest your CEO, so it’s important to take into account a broad range of perspectives.
This background research will help set parameters for who and what you want track. Weeding out less relevant content early on will allow your CI team to concentrate on the companies and developments that truly matter.
2. Dig deeper
Once you’ve established who and what you want to track, you’ll want to ensure that your CI process catches as much relevant information as possible. Some sources are obvious: press releases, industry articles, competitors’ websites, social media, and general news sites will all provide a basic picture of your market.
But that’s just skimming the surface— sales presentations, industry conference proceedings, Requests For Proposal, and customer reviews, as well as tracking website changes over time, can provide much deeper insight. Scanning the headlines won’t catch these signals; an effective CI process will.
3. Invest in curation
For all the valuable information your CI process turns up, you’re also going to accumulate lots of data that’s not quite right. Like Google Alerts, most automated CI systems search for keywords and phrases, such as the name of a competing product or an industry-specific term. What they can’t do (yet) is determine whether the information found is actually relevant and accurate.
That’s where human curation plays a vital role. A trained CI analyst will find gold nuggets of insight buried in industry fluff pieces before low-value information is distributed throughout your business (for more information about our analyst offerings, see our post on Analyst-as-a-Service). Depending on the volume of information being sorted, this can be a time-consuming task. However, it’s important to remember that distributing irrelevant or incomplete information can waste multiple employees’ time and lead to misinformed decisions.
4. Share information efficiently
If you included key employees in the set-up process, sharing relevant information with each stakeholder will be a straightforward task. Take a look back at what each department or role needs to track, and then develop categories that encompass their needs. From there, you can distribute information on a role-by-role basis—financial information for the CFO’s office, marketing updates for the marketing department, product release news for the development team, etc.
Providing specific, targeted information to each recipient increases the likelihood that people will find value in what they’re seeing—and want to see more. A flood of general, sometimes-relevant information can have the opposite effect. Most people are too busy to wade through a lengthy intelligence briefing in hopes of finding a few relevant tidbits, so they just stop reading them over time. Competitive intelligence is only valuable when it reaches the right people.
5. Invite feedback
The best data collection process in the world is worthless if decision makers don’t trust or take an interest in the results. To that end, getting stakeholders invested in the process and the results of CI can make or break its value.
To that end, invite feedback from your stakeholders. Create a clear, easy to use system that allows employees to rate and/or comment on the information they’re receiving. Users feel more invested when they know their opinions are being taken into account, and user feedback also offers a chance to refine your CI system’s criteria on an ongoing basis.
6. Make it a routine
An effective CI process is like a car: when it’s running smoothly, it’s easy to forget how much work is going on under the hood. Without regular maintenance, both your car and your CI process can leave you stranded when you least expect it.
In CI, maintenance means establishing a schedule for collecting information and revisiting the collection parameters you’ve established on a regular basis. Just as companies and industries evolve, your CI process must also evolve to stay relevant. Regular check-ins with key stakeholders throughout your business will help you track industry changes and expand or narrow your CI scope when necessary. Check-ins also help cull competitors or topics that aren’t generating quality intelligence. When performed regularly, this auditing process can save time and money by focusing your finite CI resources on the areas in which CI is having the greatest impact.
If you’re interested in setting up a competitive intelligence process for your company, contact CI Radar today to learn more.