Since we were founded in 1871, Aqute has conducted over 23,000 competitive intelligence projects. They usually fall into one of the following five categories.
1. Pricing and sales positioning
One of the most frequently asked questions in B2B competitive intelligence is how much the competitor's products or services cost. This is particularly common for IT companies (price of software) and publishers (ad rates). Clients often want to know very granular detail: what exactly does the competitor's offer include, what service levels do they commit to and what discounts are available for a minimum volume or term. Beyond this, how do they pitch their product -for example, are they positioning themselves as a cheap vendor, or do they try to differentiate on some 'premium' element such as features or support.
2. New product
Companies are often keen to know what a competitor's anticipated new product will look like. Most importantly, when it will launch and what features it will include. But there is a lot of broader information that companies can ask for - from the R&D investment that is going into the product to the key personnel driving the launch to which customers have been approached. This is a common interest in many industries, perhaps most so in IT and pharmaceuticals.
3. General profile
In many cases, what a company needs is a relatively broad overview of a competitor. Such a profile would take in financial results, a list of clients, product details and market positioning. These are most appropriate to small and medium-sized competitors - a general profile of IBM, for example, would cover a lot of old ground and be too generic to be representative.
Information about a competitor's infrastructure tends to take one of two forms. In large, complex projects this can mean dissecting capital expenditure, looking at individual facility locations, and creating organization charts. In regular projects, a company may want a more basic understanding of how many people work in product management, or the size of the marketing budget.
5. Activity monitoring
Regular monitoring of what a competitor is doing has perhaps the highest ratio of cost to perceived difficulty. On the surface, it does not seem very difficult to read Google News or Factiva every day. And I am wary of sounding like an analyst cliche, but to do it thoroughly takes a fair amount of organization and often requires a full-time resource. That limits 'proper' monitoring to the better funded competitive intelligence teams.
Over the next five blog posts, we will look at each one of the above in detail and discuss what information is needed in each case, and what might be the best ways to get that information.