At its core, competitive intelligence (CI) is a means of keeping tabs on your competition. Sometimes, the information you need is easy to obtain via a press release or social media post. However, there are limits to what you can learn from reading the news when and how your competitors want you to read it. You won’t learn anything that they don’t want the general public to know, and you’re not going to gain advanced knowledge or insight into their strategy.
That’s where document collection comes in. Finding and sorting through competitor documents can unlock a wealth of information that just isn’t available through traditional news sources. Where an official announcement is crafted to appeal to a wide audience, documents that are used internally or intended for customers can be far more revealing.
For example, sales decks and presentations are developed with potential customers in mind. Seeing the tone and strategy behind these documents can help your sales team understand what they’re up against when they pitch against a certain competitor. The info they contain is geared towards buyers, not the general public, so it’s going to be more exhaustive. You may find that they have in-depth product descriptions, pricing breakdowns, and implementation information. Since these presentations are meant to entice, they may even offer hints about upcoming product updates or service roll outs- all useful info for your product development and marketing teams.
Requests For Proposal (RFP) responses are another great source of insight. They show you exactly how other companies are selling themselves to would-be clients, in even greater detail than a sales presentation. RFP bids can include details pertaining to a competitor’s implementation processes, task outlines, labor and material costs, time estimates, profit rates, and licensing fees. Your intelligence team can often break a single RFP response down and find useful tidbits for stakeholders across your organization.
Document collection can also provide big-picture info, in the form of industry reports, financial filings, analyst presentations, and more. Industry reports and analyst presentations offer a look at the competitive landscape from someone else’s point of view. Meanwhile financial reports are a useful peak at the hard numbers that show exactly how well your competitors are doing, without much room for PR spin. By collecting these documents, you’re able to take advantage of work done by your competitors and other industry minds to keep executive stakeholders informed.
There are a few ways to go about collecting documents for CI. Manual web searches are by far the most commonly used method. Using nothing but Google (or another search engine), you can still locate useful documents, if you know the right techniques and syntax to use. This technique is technically free, in the sense that you won’t have to pay for specialized tools or outside assistance. However, it’s important to account for the man-hours needed to set up and maintain a manual collection process. You’ll need to establish search parameters, test different phrases, organize your findings, and set up a collection schedule. Most documents are only useful within a certain time frame, so it’s crucial that you find and curate them on a regular basis. Skipping any of these steps puts you at risk of missing valuable information in the long run.
For certain types of government documents, like contract RFP bids and other non-confidential reports, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Services, and similar request management services, have sprung up to help interested businesses. Rather than filing lengthy, tedious FOIA requests yourself, these vendors will handle the process for you, ensuring that you meet all the relevant deadlines and requirements. While these services can be pricey, they take the pressure off your intelligence team.
For companies that are serious about document collection and want to make the process as user-friendly as possible, automated document collection systems are a new approach worth considering. An automated document collection process uses advanced web-scraping algorithms to pull relevant documents from all over the web. Instead of manually checking competitors’ websites and performing web searches, documents are compiled for users to review based on keywords. These can include your competitors’ names, the names of their products, and other industry-relevant terms that you choose.
At CI Radar, our automated document solution not only finds relevant documents, it also categorizes and prioritizes them based on the keywords you select. Our assigned analyst services then go a step further by weeding out low-quality or outdated documents, so only the most current, strategically valuable documents are delivered to your inbox. Our system also enables users to curate and distribute custom document briefings via email. This allows you to target certain individuals or teams with documents that are relevant to their roles. Providing high-value, user-specific document briefings increases user adoption and minimizes the amount of time wasted reviewing irrelevant materials.
For more information about how CI Radar’s document solution can take your competitive intelligence process to the next level, contact us today for a free demonstration.