March 2009

How Can Intelligence Make Your Business More Competitive?

Dear Reader,

Welcome to ‘better insight’, the newsletter dedicated to keeping your business well ahead of the competition.

Competitor intelligence will help you outwit, outmanoeuvre and outflank your competitors. Keep reading to find out how you do this!

How much do you know about your competitors? What are they doing, how and why are they doing it, and where are they doing it better (or worse) than you? How much do you know about the markets in which you and they operate? And how are you using that knowledge?

Armed with answers to these questions, you’ll dramatically increase your competitive advantage!

Needless to say, an off-the-shelf solution from “Fabbo Market Research” (see our cartoon) won’t be much help since you’ll need research tailored to your precise needs…and that’s where we can help.

Happy reading!


Martin Holliss

What are the Seven Steps to Getting Competitive?

So how do you outwit, outmanoeuvre and outflank your competitors?

1.  Know what your competitors are up to. You probably know who your competitors are. But you may not know that much about what they do or how they do it. And even if you have a fair amount of information, are you sufficiently independent to make a truly objective assessment?

2.  Decide what you need to know about your competitors. There are two main levels of information you may want to consider. The first is competitor profiling, designed to give you financial, strategic and marketing information. The second is ongoing news about your competitors’ activities. This could be delivered to you via daily news alerts or a weekly digest. A monthly or quarterly summary could form the basis for a Competitor Intelligence newsletter.

3.  Gather information from a variety of sources. A lot of information can be gathered using desk research, for example by reviewing websites, articles, annual reports and bulletin boards. A word of warning though: be wary of what your competitors say in their blogs. Blogs tend to be used to put forward views and opinions – and often contain hype designed for public consumption. By contrast, what you need is robust, reliable and provable fact about what your competitors are up to.

4.  Supplement desk research with targeted telephone interviews. These might be with your competitors’ customers, journalists and editors of trade journals, trade associations…and even directors/managers working for your competitors (see #6 below for more on this). It’s amazing what people tell us when we ask them! At Research Insight, we think of this phase as ‘detective style’ interviews. Designed to elicit nuggets of information, they enable us to build a rich fact-based picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor(s).

5.  Keep a careful eye on online activity. Search engine positions – both sponsored and ‘natural’ – can reveal a lot about your competitors’ strategy and tactics. For instance, you can spot competitors with a strong natural search engine position, find out why and apply this knowledge to your own website. Another powerful tool is regular, structured reviewing of competitor websites to see which pages they’ve changed (e.g. visuals, headlines, sections of text). This gives direct insight into their latest sales, marketing and product development decisions.

6.  Consider employing a specialist market research agency. Of course, we’d say that, wouldn’t we! But it makes sound business sense. You could do the work yourself, but we know where to go to find the information you need. Consider also that your competitors are unlikely to tell you what you want to know, but they’ll usually respond very positively to a call from an independent agency such as Research Insight. And, being detached from your market place, it’s easier for us to see things and to spot opportunities that you might miss.

7.  Be willing to act on what you discover. There is little point knowing who your competitors are, and how/why they’re being successful, if you’re not prepared to change your business strategy or tactics in response. But if you do, then you’ll dramatically increase your competitive advantage.

Competitor Intelligence Case Study

One of our clients places such a high value on gathering competitor intelligence that they commissioned us to provide thethree different strands of information:

  • Regular searches for competitor news and announcements, feeding into a weekly “Competitor News Alert” and a quarterly “Competitor Newsletter”.
  • Extensive analysis of search engine performance fortnightly, to highlight “natural” and “sponsored” positions (for Google, Yahoo and MSN) both for them and for several competitors, across a range of markets and keywords.
  • A detailed review of every page of the websites of their main competitors, highlighting all changes and additions.

The results give them a clear snapshot of their competitors’ marketing and positioning, and reveal both strategic and tactical opportunities for their own business. There is no question that this competitive intelligence is placing them in a stronger position.


Business Link has a huge amount of incredibly useful “DIY information” on understanding market trends and keeping an eye on your competitors. This includes a fascinating case study on Bladonmore a firm that had the time and motivation to conduct competitor research themselves.

The Office of National Statistics has produced a thorough guide to effective internet searching, which although it’s now a few years old, includes, in Part 10, useful tips on gathering competitor intelligence.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing have an excellent 7-page introduction to competitor intelligence on their website and are offering a 1-day course dedicated to competitor intelligence on 11 May 2009 .

What else do we do?

At Research Insight, as well as undertaking market/competitor intelligence in a huge range of markets, we also carry out qualitative and quantitative research for our clients.

Qualitative research usually involves interviewing a relatively small number of people. It’s ideal if you need to understand the feelings or motivations of your customers.

Quantitative research tends to involve larger numbers of people. It’s ideal if you need statistically robust data to tell you what percentage of people think x or y about something, or how many own a particular product.

And if you’re not sure which research methodology (or combination of methodologies) is most appropriate for finding out what you need to know, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise.

Lastly, if you choose Research Insight to handle your competitive intelligence research we guarantee unconditionally to deliver robust results and clear, action-focused recommendations.