Finding online informationabout your competitors is easy - the difficult part is finding meaning.When researching the competition, you can avoid pitfalls by seeking'intelligence' instead of 'information'.
The difference between'information' and 'intelligence' is twofold: purpose and process.Having a purpose and a process for gathering information ensures thatthe results will be useful - instead of merely informative.
A well-defined purpose allowsyou to search the Internet broadly and deeply without drowningin a flood of marginal information.
The process for gathering goodcompetitive intelligence is straightforward: identify industry/markettrends and competitors; define your questions; find the answers;analyze the results; and act on them.
The process begins with a widesearch of the Internet to define trends in your industry/market andcompetitors.
Usefulresources include search engines, newspapers, business journals, andtrade press and online newsletters. Consider resources such as title="opens in a new window" href="http://www.newsisfree.com" target="popup">NewsIsFreeand other topical news 'clipping' sites. href="http://www.prnewswire.com" title="opens in a new window" target="popup">PRNewswire and title="opens in a new window" target="popup">BusinessWire can be useful sources fornews releases and competitive PR.
Beginning with a broadindustry/market search decreases the likelihood that you'll overlookpotential competitors and non-competing businesses in the industry thatmay pose as sources of benchmarking, market insight and inspiration.
Once you've identified trendsand competitors, you can identify the questions you want to answerabout your competitors. Finding competitors' identities, pricing,plans, strengths, weaknesses, suppliers and customers play a veryimportant part in formulating an effective business strategy.
Finding answers often begin ata competitor's own web site. When visiting competitors' web sites lookbeyond product/service information. You can also learn by viewing acompetitor's employment opportunities, organization chart, supplier andvendor lists, and press releases.
After you've explored acompetitor's web site, use other web sites to learn about theirorganization. Conduct keyword searches on search engines, publicrecords sites, discussion groups and blogs.
Theserepresent only a handfulof sites that are useful for gathering competitive intelligence. Basedon your industry, competitors, questions and creativity, it is possibleto find a wide selection of useful online/offline resources.
According to the title="opens in a new window">Societyof Competitive Intelligence Professionals,more than 95% of information that is required for gathering competitiveintelligence is publicly available from open sources.