Improve Your Competitive Intelligence Skill: Move out of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday I impatiently waited for the lady driving the car in front of me to turn left onto the Freeway. The coast was wide open. Her head just kept wagging from left to right for what seemed like an eternity. So I went around her onto the right hand lane to turn left. As I swung onto the Freeway, so did she. She was going straight across the Freeway to a restaurant. I never assumed that’s where she was headed, as I always turn left from that lane as does most of our neighborhood. Fortunately, I stopped in time and she got to her destination.

How often do we get stuck in patterns and either make mistakes or don’t see events coming?  In competitive intelligence, we look for what is missing or what looks odd or out of place since oddity often is a precursor to change. How many people predicted that the overturn of the Tunisian government would lead to the riots in Egypt and the resignation of 30 year dictator, Hosni Mubarak? And now the wave continues to grow in that part of the world as other country’s citizens express discontent with their government. It reminds me of the surprise the world felt when the Iron Curtain tumbled in 1989.

There is always surprise in life and business. How we prepare ourselves for surprise is what separates the excellent from the average. I find I react better to surprises if I move out of my comfort zone more often.

  • Don’t rely on RSS feeds too much! That’s too much the same old same old.
  • Be spontaneous and pick up magazines you don’t normally read.
  • Pursue Twitter links that are out of your mainstream.
  • Comment on blogs out of your mainstream.
  • Go to a trade show which is not relevant to what you do.

In cooperative intelligence, I follow the time tested “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” Retain and cultivate your Gold relationships, but keep your connections fresh!

Don’t always rely on the same colleagues to support your research projects. Reach out to new people, and prevent yourself from being blindsided by industry changes, new competitors, innovative technology and regulatory change. Seek new sources of intelligence on the Internet and social networks, but don’t forget the reliable standbys. Did you know that Highbeam Research is coming out with a business research product that will compete with Hoovers? Connect with people on LinkedIn that you don’t know, who are not “relevant” to what you do. You won’t believe how many more people you can connect with for research projects when you have over 10,000 first connections rather than the 300 people you already know!

The explosive growth of e-publishing makes me squirm as a prospective book author. However, I am squirming less as I just attended a class on “how to” given through our Denver Author U by the good folks at Darkfire Productions! Darkfire Productions will format your book for e-publishing. I’m excited as a first time book writer, since I don’t have to wait 1 year to get my book published! I have only myself to blame for any delay in getting published.

10 Tips to Find Competitive Intelligence Online

Yesterday I listened to a most engaging and informative AIIP webinar presentation by Arthur Weiss of CEO of Aware. I have taken many of Arthur’s Internet tippers especially to beef up Google Chrome searching and connection to improve my specialty,  primary research, that is finding information by talking to people. In a spirit of cooperative intelligence, I share these tippers which will help you both locate better information and identify relevant people more expeditiously.

The 10 Tips

1. Know What You are Looking For. Switch your perspective and look at the target company as though you were them, their competitor or a customer.

2. Create a Collection Plan. Identify sources: Why will the information be available? Where will you find it? How can you find it ethically?

3. Use Advanced Search Techniques. Start with the search engines & take advantage of the innuendos of key word searching, advanced search techniques and language translation. I like Wonder Wheel which visually mindmaps your Google search, which I didn’t realize was so easy to enable through Google Chrome. Arthur also reminded us to search Amazon for sources and to take advantage of the Even More features of Google and Google Labs. One Google Chrome extension I like in particular, is the Augment Search feature, which allows you to add/change search engines to your search.

4. Search the Deep Web. Arthur shared numerous Deep Web sites. Some of my favorites are NorthernLight, Deep Dyve, Biznar, Highbeam Research and Silobreaker.

5. Don’t Ignore Competitor websites. Aside from reading them thoroughly, don’t forget Domain Tools and Open Site Explorer since sites linked to your target company can be very telling, and may also provide you people to talk to. Don’t forget to search cache memory for some history of the website over time on Archive.org.

6. investigate Social Media. Aside from Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook and industry Nings, don’t forget Slideshare, YouTube and Glassdoor. One of my favorite takeaways was the Rockmelt browser, a one stop access to all your social networks! Talk about a time saver!

7. It’s the people that make the difference! In addition to the common social media connections, Arthur recommends Quora. Other people search tools include Jigsaw, Yasni, Wink, Spokeo. Arthur wasn’t as keen on Zoominfo, since they have converted to fee based mostly. Be aware that these sources all need to be cross-checked. Look at your own profile and note the errors.

8. Remember the Quality of Paid Databases. Many of us at AIIP take advantage of the discounted rates from these service providers such as Dialog, Factiva, Skyminder, Morningstar and Lexis Nexis to name a few.

9. Keep Up-to-Date! I particularly valued Arthur’s tipper to follow industry and competitive intelligence experts on Twitter. This is so easy and you can clump their Tweets so easily in a Tweet Deck column. I also like to stay current with CI Ning, SCIP, AIIP and IntelCollab.

10. Think Differently. Look for things that are odd or out of place. If something doesn’t look right, feel right, or sound right, find out why.  Be a critical thinker.

This is just a smattering of what Arthur shared! These webinars are one of the key benefits of AIIP membership. They are all taped so you can listen to them anytime, and AIIP members can download a copy of the slides as well.

Assess the Reliability of Your Research Network

No Matter what form of research you are doing, when you talk to people, you need to assess the reliability of their information or insight. I have a rule of thumb when locating the best people to talk to. How motivated are they to know the information I am seeking? Generally those who are the most motivated, are the most reliable sources if they will share with you, and if they speak the truth. Another good connection is the person who might know what you’re looking for, but not realize the value of the data so will readily share.

In America, many people try to be helpful when you call them. It’s our culture. However, in their desire to be helpful, people can unintentionally misinform you. If you have done your secondary research before making your calls, you’ll often have learned enough that you’ll have a sense when the information doesn’t sound quite right. That’s where you need to trust your intuition. This is the art and science of primary research collection.

When setting up a competitive intelligence process, you locate diverse and reliable sources both within your company and externally. These are people who you will connect with periodically, and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence, you share information and connections that they value. Since we all seem to do more in less time, it’s important to pinpoint the right people to connect with, to stay connected with, and realize when the connection is no longer working. In that vein I developed some questions to ask about people. Positive answers and strong responsiveness help me stay focused on those who will be most helpful.

  • How responsive is each person when you reach out in meetings, by phone or e-mail?
  • Does s/he always get back to you within a few hours, a couple of days, a week or are they unpredictable?
  • When s/he gets back to you, does s/he share useful information or knowledge?
  • What is the quality of this person’s knowledge sharing?  Is it commonly known news, less known news, and do they offer any insight?
  • Do you have a good enough working relationship with this person so as to know their biases?
  • Does this individual connect you with people who are valuable to you, or are their connections not so useful?
  • How often do you interact with this person?
  • Is this person highly regarded by another person you know?  Who and why?  If not, how did you get linked to this person?

I am writing this blog to help my SCIP friend, Paul Nimalan. He is looking for some ideas about how people assess the validity of human source contacts when they do CI for his thesis at the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst College. He posed this question on our CI Ning and Trip Krant shared some of his ideas from the military intelligence world.

Do you have any best practices to share? Paul was thinking about creating a evaluating grid like Dax Norman developed to assess the credibility of web sites.

Denver Writing & Competitive Intelligence Event

When fellow Notre Dame alumni, Lynsey Strand asked me to speak about writing, I wondered how I could measure up since I haven’t written a book or published any of the music I have composed over the years. Then it dawned on me that I have published numerous articles for Competitive Intelligence Magazine among others. I also publish this cooperative intelligence blog and a newsletter, Naylor’s Mailer. Early this year I started a personal blog in honor of my dear Dad who died almost a year ago.

Like many things in life, my experience with publishing is part of my journey. In my case writing has been mostly in the field of competitive intelligence since that’s how I have made my living since 1985. Writing has helped me gain credibility in competitive intelligence and helps me develop as a person to dig deeper and be more expressive.

I think sharing my journey will help others feel encouraged about what they have done and where they are right now in their lives around publishing. I will also share where I am in the book publishing world which is where I am treading water. I will share some local Denver publishing venues like CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) and Author U. So in the spirit of cooperative intelligence I decided to say YES to this opportunity.

The evening will start with our featured author, Jenny Shank whose book The Ringer will be published early in March 2011. It sounds like a riveting story, and she will read some excerpts from it. Jenny is 20 years my junior and so accomplished. Unlike me, who has fallen into writing, Jenny is a trained and accomplished writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. I am looking forward to hearing her story and her words of wisdom.

BTW, our connection is our alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. In fact, it’s the women from the Denver Notre Dame Club who are sponsoring this event which takes place on November 5 at the Good Shepherd Catholic School Cafeteria at 620 Elizabeth St, Denver 80206 starting at 6 p.m. More details can be found at the Notre Dame club website. If this interests  you, I hope you will come!

Jan Herring’s Words of Wisdom for Info Pros

I spent most of this week in New Orleans at SLA’s annual conference. I really enjoyed it, and this blog hails competitive intelligence pioneer, Jan Herring. While his communication was geared to information professionals, competitive intelligence professionals take note!

Jan is so supportive of the competitive intelligence profession and I think is a true cooperative intelligence practitioner in that he is so giving. He was the CI division’s breakfast speaker, as well as a panel member on two consecutive panel discussions, Ask The Competitive Intelligence Experts and Competitive Intelligence Transitions for LIS Professionals. Jan is regarded as the father of modern competitive intelligence as he started Motorola’s first formal program, after a distinguished first career with the CIA.

Behind each successful CI process is a corporate library or at least librarian support, as timely, focused secondary research is a valuable component of CI. Bonnie Hohhof of SCIP fame, was the corporate librarian at Motorola that Jan selected to help form the CI team. Jan still quotes Peggy Carr’s 2003 book, “Super Searchers in Competitive Intelligence” as a good resource on how research and CI are tied together.

Jan reviewed the basics of competitive intelligence including the traditional intelligence cycle and the knowledge pyramid to build insightful, actionable intelligence. Intelligence is the right information, delivered and prepared for the people in the company who have the authority to make decisions. In this vein, Jan shared former Motorola CEO Bob Galvin’s parable. Bob had made a bad decision around a market entry. There was one employee who didn’t share some key information, and Bob wondered whose fault it was that the employee hadn’t shared this information. His or the employee’s? Jan asserted that it was the employee’s and honed in on connecting with the right employees around key decisions.

Another gem was, “Get your information and insight into the Heads of decision-makers, not just their Hands.”  A great quote he shared from Robert Steele, “Information costs money. Intelligence makes money.” Jan recommends is that the insight created by intelligence findings and conclusions be measured or valued through ROI. Jan wrote an article on this topic in the Mar/Apr 2007 Competitive Intelligence Magazine published by SCIP.

Jan suggests that you learn to think like your leadership and communicate with them in their words being careful not to insert competitive intelligence verbiage. Know how they are motivated since what makes the management team successful isn’t what makes Info Pros or CI professionals successful. Tim Kindler of Kodak ties his CI deliverables to corporate management’s calendar of needs and events. Respected CI professionals are humble as they set aside their egos and false assumptions, but not too humble so as not to persuasively communicate findings to management.

There are three areas where information pros and CI professionals can improve:

  1. Financial based reporting – work with the finance department to develop and monitor financial benchmarks against your major competitors
  2. Early warning – build innovative secondary source monitoring as a base for your primary researchers to verify findings through people to develop early warning alerts
  3. CI software – develop software applications to support the monitoring, collection, storage and dissemination of information. More refined software is developed all the time such as Link Analysis and Evidence Based Research. A supplier to consider which assesses almost all CI software providers is Eastport Analytics. You can find some individual CI software providers at SCIP’s website.

A final key finding that Jan and Paul Houston uncovered during their research of 20 companies: it’s most important for firms to have a savvy CI manager/director who produces what management wants/needs. You need to do CI on your own leadership to keep a pulse on their ever changing needs.

Boost Competitive Intelligence Effectiveness through Databases

Last month I blogged about “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa.  As promised, I am focusing on each tactic. This week’s is #4.
Tactic #4 Build an information database
I look at building two databases: one as a repository of data that you gather on the competitive environment either through daily monitoring or analytical reports which can include material that is externally generated such competitor data, industry reports, relevant articles, regulatory trends, technology trends, distribution channel news, financial reports and relevant economic news as well as internal reports such as competitor profiles, win loss analysis, trade show analysis, product plans, strategic plans, technical assessments, wargame results, scenario planning results…all the material that you need at your finger tips for those quick turnaround projects as well as to detect patterns in the marketplace that make you pause, stand back and say “ah ha, something is up” or “something doesn’t look right”.
When selecting a software solution, you need to keep in mind the technology your company is already using, and piggyback off something that already exists, such as salesforce.com to get the scoop from Sales. Perhaps PR uses software for delivery of the news, which you can extend off of. Perhaps your industry relations folks get financial reports from Thomson, which you can build from. Get a grasp of what’s already out there and build rapport with your IT people since you will need to work closely with them for installation, depending on the size and complexity of your software solution. There are competitive intelligence software providers you might consider: I have a partial list here.
There are a few things I look for when building an information database for competitive intelligence other that installation and cost!
1. How easy is it to browse and find what you’re looking for?
2. How easy is it to update the system and refresh the data? How much time and expense do you need to factor in for updating? Many people underestimate both, so the system becomes outdated quickly and loses credibility with users for obvious reasons.
3. Is there a process to delete data when it becomes outdated?
4. How will the system maintained?
5. What are your security considerations around a software system?
6. Who will you allow to make changes to the system?
7. How will you control the integrity of the data?
8. How will you encourage people to make contributions?
A contact database is the second type of database and is crucial for competitive intelligence personnel and anyone who does research. This database contains contacts both internal and external to your company who are great sources of information about your industry, the marketplace, the competition… Mine is organized by skill set, and how and where I met each person. Perhaps your company’s directory lets you do this: you still need to connect with external contacts continuously to keep from being blindsided.
Quick access to people and information greatly speeds up your research timeline! I also keep track of my projects through my contact database, and specific topics my clients have queried about. That way when I find cool stuff, I can quickly sort those people who are interested in this topic, and communicate with them directly. Clients appreciate this since I don’t send them irrelevant stuff, but rather build on what they’ve asked for in the past. This promotes cooperative intelligence since it’s cooperative communication. I like to use ACT! http://www.act.com/ for my contact database although there are plenty of options: just pick one and learn how to use it!
Social media has opened up ways to connect and be found. I also use Twitter’s Tweetdeck to sort comments by the category where they’re an expert, which I perceive as another form of connection. LinkedIn groups are another great source of connections by subject matter expertise. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search option.

Use Trade Shows as Fact-Finding Missions

Recently, I blogged about “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa. As promised, I am focusing on each tactic. This week’s is #3.

Trade shows are a Mecca for competitive intelligence. Nowhere are there more people who want to share their knowledge and insight with you: industry experts, prospects, competitors, other industry participants such as suppliers and distributors and journalists. This is cooperative intelligence at its finest since everyone is marketing to you whether at formal presentations, exhibitor booths or even informal places like the conference bar or hotel café.

Here are some tippers to help you be more productive at the trade show:

Beforehand: Do your homework and prepare a game plan that includes both formal and informal intelligence gathering opportunities. Study the exhibitor floor plan and all the presentations to decide how best to use your time. Write out the questions you will ask to the various audiences to help you be more articulate.  Keep your action plan rough as you’ll need to be flexible to jump on opportunities as they arise. For example, you might find out about a cocktail party that you didn’t even know existed until you arrived at the conference! You don’t want to miss it since alcohol consumption makes loose lips. Just make sure they aren’t yours and drink very little or none. I learned that lesson in the late 1990s when I was invited to a cocktail party and had to return to the scene the next day. I was lucky that the show was on for that third day. The competitor’s employees were quite attentive as their exhibit area was almost empty except for me. I don’t recommend what I did there, although I made good connections and got great information!

At the Conference: Be observant. Most people think about gathering competitive intelligence from competitors’ exhibit areas and formal presentations. However, I have found the best intelligence is gathered at informal settings such as the conference coffee shops, the conference hotel cafe, the elevator, cocktail parties, the bus ride to the airport, even during the airplane ride–by simply listening.

It’s a great time to practice your elicitation skills. I spend my time sorting out how I will approach each competitor or press personality prior to the show and often have to revise my approach mid-stream since I meet so many people for the first time, cold. If you read body communication you can figure out who is most approachable and how they might be motivated. Who is leaning forward as they talk to the booth visitors? Who is the technical person you see fiddling with cable and the computer at the booth? They probably have technical knowledge and are willing to share.

Be creative: If the booth staff doesn’t seem friendly, just wait, in time they’re likely to be relieved. Perhaps you can ask another booth visitor if you can tag along with them. Be smart about who you pick: I accompanied one of the competitor’s key clients, so the account rep answered all my questions and remarks to impress the client. The client had a number of additional questions that I would never have thought of since my product knowledge in that industry was not as deep as his!

After the Conference: Start writing up your findings during the conference and see if your home office has more questions based on what you’ve uncovered. You can pull more information out of a conference especially if you have a few people’s input, even if you’re attending by yourself.

I have even ducked into the ladies room to write out some technical details after a booth visit before I forget. I review my findings every night and often wake up with better questions. I don’t write up anything in the airplane ride home since there might be other attendees around and I don’t want to arouse any suspicion. Also they might start talking about the conference among themselves. Share your findings ASAP with co-workers upon returning to the office!

Note #1: Your competitors and other industry experts are collecting information about your company at trade shows too. How do you qualify who you will share what, and how much to share? Your booth personnel are a target, as are your company’s presenters. Have you thought about how you will answer difficult questions in public? Have you trained your employees not to have private conversations in public places like the elevator, the restroom, airplane or restaurants?

Note #2: Here is an article with more detail on cooperatively collecting at trade shows.

Connect Cooperatively to Internal & External Experts

Recently, I blogged about “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa. As promised, I am focusing on each tactic. This week’s is #2.

Tactic#2 Talk to internal and external experts

If you work for a company versus consulting, your co-workers can be such valuable sources for scoop on the competition and trends in your marketplace. Sales is one of the best places to start since this is part of their job, to win business over the competition. Many folks have trouble getting sales to cooperate, but that’s usually because they don’t understand Sales’ point of view, and expect Sales to cooperate without giving them useful information in return.

A good way to think about who to connect with internally is: who is dealing with my competitors, customers, the investor community, suppliers, distributors, regulators or attends trade shows? This list of internal connections is longer than you would think and includes: investor relations, product managers, product developers, market research, and trade show personnel.

Externally, you need to consider who tracks the marketplace you compete in, in all its aspects: technology, innovation, the environment, economic conditions, politics/lobbyists, regulatory, social issues and the competition. When you’re new, you find these people gradually. I found that product managers, investor relations and market researchers often subscribe to publications and connect with many of the same external people I want to meet. Our incentive for knowing them is different, but why not be cooperative and share your external people sources, and buy fewer copies of the same report.

You can also find these experts using social networks such as LinkedIn groups or #Twitter groups such as #prodmgmt for product management or product development. You can find experts through the Question & Answer sections of LinkedIn. Sometimes someone else has already posed your question on LinkedIn, so no one can track your interest in that topic or competitor. You need to be wary of this since the Q&A on LinkedIn forms a permanent record. The same this is true of your Twitter Tweets.

Use a cooperative connection approach with internal and external experts regardless of how you reach them. I noticed when email came into vogue in the mid-1990s, people tended to be quite rude sometimes. They would email messages that they would never have delivered face to face. I notice that people using social networks can often be quite rude, and just push stuff at me without any regard for my actual interest in the topic. Next thing I know I’m on someone’s newsletter list, and they’re a recruiter or a business coach looking to expand their business. I’m not a good prospect.

Here is a little test to think about before you issue communication: Put yourself into the receiving end of your communication, and think how you would feel.  If you still email, pare down the list to those who care. If you do social media, share other people’s blogs, news, and comment on other’s Tweets, blogs etc. Social media is meant to be shared, but for many it is one-way, SELLING!

Be sure to thank your experts and send them information you come across that they might find helpful. This two way communication and connection is invaluable to your knowledge pool, whether co-workers, folks you deal with regularly outside your company or your social media contacts.

Capture Win Loss Analysis Cooperatively

Last week, I shared a summary of “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa. As promised, I am focusing on the first one, and will cover Tactics 2-5 individually in future blogs.

#1 Conduct win loss analysis
Win loss interviews and the ensuing analysis are one of my favorite cooperative intelligence tools, since it’s a win/win. Your company receives valuable information from your customers and prospects, and you make them feel important since you care enough to query them and give them an opportunity to provide honest, candid feedback on what they like and don’t like about you, and what they like about the competition, for example.

During these interviews, uncover the motivations behind their decisions and learn from what they impart to improve product development, tweak your existing products or service, change your marketing message, learn how and when in the sales process your competitors are successfully unseating you and so much more.

Many companies ask me to develop their win loss analysis process, and just want to focus on their losses. This is a shame as they get an unbalanced view of their win loss track record. Let’s face it: loss customers are gone, unless they buy other products or services from your company. In all cases those who continue to be your customers often care for your wellbeing, and usually give deeper answers that you can use towards product development. Remember they want you to continue to be successful since your product/service helps them in their business, especially B to B.

I recommend you conduct these interviews in cooperation with your sales force, rather than behind their back. Building trust with Sales is the biggest reason to include them as part of the win loss analysis process. Additionally, Sales can save you so much time by telling you how the people you’re going to interview are motivated to share. You only have a short window to conduct this interview, so having sales intelligence, recognizing Sales’ bias is a good use of time. Wow, that reason alone is enough to work with Sales. I shared this point last week since some clients want me to conduct win loss interviews without letting sales know we’re even querying their customers. This is such a bad idea. Sales will find out soon enough that this is going on and will often feel betrayed.

On a final note, it is also demoralizing for Sales if you conduct only loss interviews with their customers. How would you like it if only your losses were being queried and amplified about the company? I feel like Darth Vader when I am reduced to connecting with Sales only around their losses. They know when I call it’s always in connection with another loss. Is that how you want to treat your sales force? I don’t think so!

Here are a couple of articles I have written about the benefits of conducting win loss analysis:

Win/Loss Analysis: The Cooperative Angle + Increasing Sales through Win Loss Analysis

What has been your experience in conducting win loss analysis? Do you conduct it in cooperation with Sales? Do you prefer to conduct win loss analysis blind, where people don’t know the identity of the company you represent and Sales doesn’t know this is happening?

Be notified when our book, Win/Loss Analysis: How to Capture and Keep the Business You Want is published.

5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills

Recently I was interviewed by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa, and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence I am sharing some highlights. For the full article you need to subscribe to MarketingSherpa. Check out MarketingSherpa’s free trial. It is chock full of marketing information, studies, white papers and current articles like this one. I will summarize each of the five tactics, and then blog on each of them individually this month.

Tactic #1 Conduct win loss analysis
Interview new customers and prospects you lost to the competition. Your goal is to uncover the motivations behind their decisions and to learn whatever great information they impart to help improve product development, tweak your existing products or service, change your marketing message, learn how your competitors are successfully unseating you and so much more.

I recommend you conduct these interviews in cooperation with your sales force, rather than behind their back. Building trust with Sales is the biggest reason to include them as part of the win loss analysis process. Sales can save you so much time by telling you how the people you’re going to interview are motivated to share. Wow, that reason alone is enough to work with Sales.

Tactic#2 Talk to internal and external experts
Use a cooperative approach when connecting with internal and external experts. People inside your company tend to know a lot about your industry and can connect you with external contacts who might be helpful. Be sure to thank your experts and send them information you come across that they might find helpful. This two way communication and connection is invaluable to your knowledge pool.

Tactic #3 Use trade shows as fact-finding missions
Trades shows are the biggest Meccas for competitive intelligence. No where are there more people who want to share their knowledge and insight with you: industry experts, prospects, competitors and journalists.

Do your homework: Prepare a game plan before the conference. Study the exhibitor floor plan and all the presentations and decide how best to use your time and write out the questions you will ask to the various audiences.  Keep the plan rough as you’ll need to be flexible since you’ll need to jump on opportunities as they arise, which you can’t predict.

Be observant. Most people think about gathering competitive intelligence from competitor’s exhibit areas and formal presentations, but sometimes the best intelligence is gathered at informal settings such as the conference coffee shops, the conference hotel cafe, the elevator, cocktail parties, the bus ride to the airport, even in the airplane.

Tactic #4 Build an information database
Build a database for all the information you have on the competition and the marketplace that can easily be browsed and that is easily kept up-to-date. Also build a database of contacts both internal and external to your company who are great sources of information about your industry, the marketplace, the competition…and make this sortable as well! This quick access to contacts and information greatly speeds up your research timeline!

Tactic #5 Remain ethical and avoid deception
Make sure anyone you use to collect information is operating under the same ethical standards as held by your company. Check out SCIP’s website for its code of ethics.

Remember I will provide more detail about each of these 5 tactics in future blogs.

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