These days it is critical that executives understand the constantly changing competitive environment. The pandemic has changed supply chains, production processes, customer interactions, technology use, staff interactions, and so much more. So with all these changes going on around us, how can we each still make sound decisions?
90% of everything we need to know about our competitors is available online
Right now more than 90% of what we will ever need, in data or information to help with those decisions, is already in the public domain – that means it’s all available online. Maybe not in the form that will directly answer our specific questions about, for example, our competitors but the pieces of any jigsaw are always there.
Let’s take one example. What if a large Asian/European/US firm decided to enter the Australian market. We would estimate that they were planning on entering the market well before any actual launch, undertaking research to review existing players, identify market growth opportunities, government legislation, consumer requirements and so on.
Yet, as a player, how could we have detected their intentions before they actually entered the marketplace? And, what can we find out about their intentions?
Firstly, market expansions rarely occur without changes in personnel, particularly senior personnel. In the above example, this could also mean increased management, skilled and unskilled labour, equipment and floor space. Wouldn’t all of these considerations be part of our own business and marketing strategies if we were to consider the growth of this kind?
So why would a competitor be any different?
The pieces of the jigsaw are all there – each carrying a little message.
Now, as we know well, not all information is of equal value, worth or credibility. Information may arrive distorted, almost always incomplete and usually with bias either from its source or from the user….even if it has been published. Remember just because it is on your computer screen and in Google, does not mean it is true! Information needs to be verified.
There are four main sources of information, each able to validate the other in some way. These are:
- Human Sources: Oral information by way of business networks, seminars, friends and experts. At MindShifts, our company’s greatest asset is our staff. After all, they attend industry webinars, research online, look at social media, just to name a few sources. To tap into this wealth of information we need to find out who knows what and develop a method for gathering and processing the information. We may also need to attend specific additional industry webinars or listen to expert podcasts, online product and service demonstrations, or connect with the local council and industry associations and join social networks.
- Economic & Financial Sources: This includes annual reports, trade publications, general media. What has been written about a company locally or in other countries? What publicity have they received in their industry press? What about the individual partners, board members, connections?
- Corporate Sources: This includes customers, suppliers, innovation hubs, Facebook pages, web sites, advertising etc. In this area, staff should be listening and gathering information about the competitive environment as part of their everyday activities. Simpler still put yourself on to some e-newsletter lists or join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups. Now, with a new perspective, we will have competitive information delivered to our desk.
- Technical Sources: This includes technical reports and journals, product manuals, IP/patents, even cases.
Don’t hesitate to use all four sources to build your competitive puzzle.
A question I often get asked is ‘How do I identify disruptors?‘ One great way is to get on the newsletter listings from organisations such as Kickstarter, Springwise, Indiegogo, TrendHunters, and the Aussie Idea Spies- just to name a few. These all identify start-ups and the products and services seeking funding or being launched. These days nothing is really that far from you.
The important thing to remember is that understanding competitors – whether disrupters, medium or large players – can give a business advantage and provide us with the right information at the right time to perceive and avoid threats, and utilise opportunities for a profitable business in today’s constantly changing environment.
Learning about, and understanding, the business environment in which you compete is really your only competitive advantage.
Want to know more? Get in touch.