What’s the minimum for competitive intelligence?

I found a link to Paul Allen’s blog while reading the Social Customer Manifesto. Anyway, Paul was discussing 11 things an entrepreneur must do before he will discuss their business idea, and 4 of them had to do with competitive intelligence.

They are:

  • You must know your company’s SIC code and have a list of any publicly traded competitors that you might have. I want you to be familiar with SEC reports and gaining competitive intelligence. Too often entrepreneurs have an idea, think they are the only one doing it, and they are unaware that there are large well-funded competitiors doing the same thing. This doesn’t mean you can’t succeed by being faster and smarter than the larger company (in business, often large=slow), but I don’t want you to be unaware of your competition.
  • If you do have publicly traded competitors, you must have a My Yahoo portfolio listing all their stock symbols, so you can stay current with their news and financial status.
  • For your privately held competitors, I need to know the Alexa rankings of their web sites and how many employees they have. (The best way to get this info is to download the Alexa toolbar.)
  • You must have set up Google Alerts so that whenever any of your competitors are in the news, you will hear about it and know what they are all up to. I want to see a complete list of your Google Alerts keywords.

I think if someone asked “what’s the minimum amount of competitive intelligence activity I need to have?”, for an operating business, this list would be a pretty darn good answer. I especially like the part about seeing a complete list of Google keywords – even the most creative people lose all imagination when coming up with keywords to search for. But I would add/change a few things:

  • I would substitute Goliath or Hoover’s reports for the Alexa ratings on private competitors, or at least add them. For a non-web centric business, Alexa doesn’t have much value.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of who your competitors are, and their various subsidiaries.
  • Add something like Copernic and a literature search service – don’t let Google goggles fog your vision, and there’s still a lot printed on paper which isn’t on the web. This type of thing can be outsourced to someone like Nerac.
  • Last but not least, I would add some training on counter intelligence. There’s no point in developing lots of valuable and presumably confidential stuff if you don’t know at least the basics of keeping it confidential. While this can get quite complicated, at a minimum people should be trained to:
    • Make sure they really know who they’re talking to, and to be wary with strangers on the phone (especially consultants doing “background research” on a seemingly innocuous subject) and at trade shows.
    • All those copies of your plans and strategies that didn’t make it to the meeting because of bad margins & scanty toner need should be shredded
    • And beware of who’s within earshot when discussing work in public.

4 thoughts on “What’s the minimum for competitive intelligence?

  1. My experience with Copernic has been that it’s not nearly as “sophisticated” as I wish it was. With all of the different sections, you’re left with the idea that it will find a lot more than Google, but that hasn’t generally been the case with me. Instead, I get the same 50 links Google finds, but have to click on different sections to find them.

    Nice link to the Allen blog.


  2. My experience with Copernic has been wtih the professional version, which may have more features than the version you’re using, but one of the keys to Copernic is to make sure the number of results per engine is high – more than 100. Also, turn on the link analysis, to remove bad links, duplicate links, and additional searching if necessary – this is where the real power of Copernic is leveraged.

    If you only take 10 results per engine, and just collect the hits, I agree – it’s not much better than Google.


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