Business intelligence is gathering information on your competitors. You use this information to improve, increase your customer base, and remain competitive. Hiring reputable companies to handle the task of reviewing and analyzing government regulations, industry competitors and new products is always the most ideal path to take but today, it's not always feasible. It's important to know where you stand in the market and what your competitors are doing and how to apply this to your business strategy.
You can gather competitor insight relatively easy if you understand what you're looking for and how it's used. Monitoring your competitors helps you identify where your company stands in relation to the market and is a great guiding point of what needs to change now or in the future. When you monitor your competitors ask these questions. The answers will put things into perspective and offer you some direction.
1. Why are they here? Profit?
2. Where do they add customer value? How essential is their customer service to the bottom line? How do they do it? Higher quality, lower prices, or simply better service?
3. Do they want your customers? All or a select few? Why or why not?
4. Like you, are they developing a strategic plan? What is their mission? Do they intend to grow year after year? What are their goals?
5. Are you better than them? How do you rate in comparison?
Another key factor is your business sustainability is forecasting. How grand life would be if we could predict the future but we know that's not possible. So how do you determine trend? Luck! Seriously. Change is consistent, you can count on it. You'll really need to pay attention to your market and where they are going. Customers don't know it, but they drive the direction and you need to be intuitive. So pay attention!
Your assumption of the market may put you out of business quickly if you're not careful. In 2002, it was assumed that customers wanted SUV's and auto industries continued to manufacture them. At an average of $2.00/gallon this was a sound assumption. But by 2008, gas prices climbed to $4.00/gallon. Does this mean their assumption was wrong? No. They marketed favorably for a few years but what it does tell us is that they would have been more profitable if they carefully analyzed the external factors that affected SUV sales.
It is important to respond and analyze external factors. Complete a few what-if scenario's and plan for change. Nothing remains the same and you must plan for change and be in a position to accept whatever that change may be.
Business intelligence by itself won't make you sustainable. You must consider the durability of your business. Because of change and your core resources, your product may become obsolete so it's wise to invest time in determining what it will take to be sustainable. Knowing how your competitor values their customer doesn't mean you'll replicate their success. Companies have long since tried to reproduce trade secrets and failed. Use your knowledge of their success to guide you and focus on your company's center of gravity (its core competencies) and leverage them. A little R&D never hurt any business. Your continued focus must consistently be to improve your bottom line and knowing what your competitors are doing is important to that success.