However, no organization is an island. There is a larger world beyond the walls of any business. A market in which that business operates, and (I’m afraid to say) competitors who want to help your customers in similar but subtly different ways.
A company that does not pay attention to its competitors will not last long. Indeed, there are numerous lessons to be drawn from this tragic tale of corporate demise. But there’s no denying that a failure to notice and respond to what was going on around them played a role.
In short, the business failed to recognize the direction of the wind and (famously) underestimated the new kid on the block Netflix.
They were lacking in competitive intelligence. And the rest, as they say, is history. If you want to avoid the same fate, or if you want to help others avoid it, keep reading.
What is competitive intelligence?
Most of us believe we understand our competitors and, as a result, the concept of ‘competitive intelligence.’ In layman’s terms, it’s “ensuring we know what a shortlist of our direct competitors are doing.” That is part of the story, but it is not the whole picture.
To gain a better understanding of competitive intelligence, it is helpful to first gain a better understanding of competition itself. While we often think of our competitors as other businesses that sell similar products to us, this isn’t entirely correct.
In fact, research from the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) estimates that an unknown player currently outside the industry will pose the greatest competitive threat to any given business 91% of the time.
Competition is better defined as follows on this basis: “Any other way our customer can reap the benefits of our product or service.”
To give just one example (of an infinite number), mobile games may be viewed as a competitor to newspapers because they both help us pass the time while waiting in line. When we consider competition in this light, competitive intelligence expands to include:
- The activities and events involving our direct competitors
- Changes in market conditions, technology, and consumer behavior may have an impact on our success, as well as news about emerging new competitors that pose a threat to our current market position.
At this point, it should be clear that competitive intelligence is a broad field, and staying on top of all potential sources of competition is difficult. Let us now discuss how we might go about doing so.
Identifying meaningful competitive intelligence If you are fortunate enough to have a small number of competitors, each with a distinct name, competitive intelligence is simple. The majority of the work will be done for you by Google News alerts. Unfortunately, as we have seen, that is not the case in real life. In fact, every company must be aware of constantly changing market characteristics, new competitors, and more traditional competitive activity. It should be obvious that this is not a job that can be adequately covered by standard alerts.
It is also not a task that a team of analysts, no matter how large or dedicated, could reasonably be expected to perform, at least not without outside assistance. Even for organizations that are in the business of selling competitive intelligence platforms (many of which are Bytesview customers), this is not a viable option. Fortunately, such outside assistance is available in the form of thousands of journalists, bloggers, reporters, and researchers who publish news and opinions about business (and indeed the wider world) every day.
We will have competitive intelligence worthy of the name if we identify, classify, and share the content relevant to our specific challenge within this output — whether for our own business or for sharing with customers.
This is why the Newsdata.io News API was created. It allows organizations to scan the horizon for relevant news content as it emerges and track the evolution of topics as they unfold.
Newsdata.io, in particular, ensures that the right competitive intelligence content is delivered to the right people in a timely and accurate manner. It works like this, but any solution you want to implement should aim to do something similar:
- Aggregate news data from thousands of sources worldwide and make it available via a single news API to ensure that nothing of significance is missed, including specialist publications and longtail sites, as well as those in languages other than English, to ensure that competitive intelligence is not limited solely to stories covered by mainstream media.
- Natural language processing should be performed on each article ingested to add structure to unstructured content, making it exponentially easier and more efficient to find the relevant news you’re looking for. The Newsdata.io News API NLP features entity tagging for over thousands of entities, from different categories and industries, sentiment analysis at the entity and document levels, and extensive metadata extraction.
- Clean, structured news data in JSON as an output that can be easily delivered to wherever it is required, so that the competitive intelligence your company (or client) requires is available to be consumed in feeds, dashboards, or sites as needed.
- Of course, in order for such a system to work, it must first understand what the company (or client) is looking for. It is important to remember the broad nature of the challenge here: when establishing the entities and categories that you wish to monitor, do not focus solely on the obvious, but on the larger context.
The right way to react to competitive intelligence
It is one thing to gather competitive intelligence. What to do with this knowledge is a completely different story. A blog post like this cannot hope to provide a comprehensive primer on how to navigate the competitive landscape (if only it were that simple), but it is possible to share some thoughts and recommendations, such as:
- Keep everything in context. It is easy to become obsessed with competition. However, delivering a great product and keeping customers satisfied remains the key to success. It is critical not to overreact to every event, but rather to carefully assess its significance first — it may have very little.
- Keep an eye out for ‘emerging risk.’ That said, it is especially important to recognize and respond too slowly emerging trends that may not seem significant today but can become an existential threat if left unchecked. Understanding and identifying precisely what these threats may look like requires imagination and creativity, which is, of course, part of the challenge.
- Be open to new experiences. One of the lessons of the Blockbuster story is that the company became so enamored with its way of doing things that it became unable to change in response to a new set of circumstances. Large organizations may find it difficult to avoid this trap, but do everything possible to create an agile, responsive organization. Alternatively, as independent entities within a larger corporate structure, incubate new ways of doing things.
- Recognize the power of mutual forbearance.’ With due respect to Isaac Newton, not every action necessitates an immediate and opposite reaction. Consider where your organization succeeds and where it fails. Defend the former vehemently, but be willing to give up markets (either geographical or vertical) if it makes sense and puts you in a better overall position.
- When you DO move, move quickly. It takes experience and judgment to know when to respond. However, if you realize a response is required, don’t put it off any longer. Ensure that your organization is set up to make tactical decisions quickly and to communicate a new approach in the same manner.