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Competitive Intelligence Tools – First Steps in Gathering Online Information about the Competition

Competitive Intelligence Tools – First Steps in Gathering Online Information about the Competition

In a global environment where the Internet provides customers with instant access to information about price, quality and service, business owners and executives need access to competitive intelligence tools. With the information learned from competitive intelligence, marketing programs could be created to not only react quickly, but also anticipate a competitor’s moves in the market.

Competitive intelligence gathering refers to the process of defining, analyzing and distributing knowledge about products, customers, and competitors with the aim of helping executives and managers with strategic decision-making for an organization.

The key phrase is intelligence. If the information gathered about competitors is not usable or actionable then it is of no use.

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Intelligence about competitors can come in many forms. Tools are available, for example, which automatically collect all documents related to your competitor, which are then filtered and scored for relevancy according to your industry or market segment. With specific regard to the Internet, competitive intelligence tools are available that monitor your competitor’s websites and identify their major traffic sources – since on the Internet traffic is often regarded as a principal competitive measure. Competitive intelligence tools, in this context, track which websites are responsible for sending traffic to a competitor’s pages (including search engines), which keywords are most used to send traffic and which keywords are being bid on in a competitor’s paid campaigns.

Whilst information can be gathered on the Internet relatively easily and can be used to predict future trends and market requirements, it is, nonetheless, public domain information and may not provide insights that are unique to the target organization. In fact, some researchers eschew such information as potentially misleading pointing to the possibility of intentional misinformation. According to this philosophy, primary research, involving networking with industry players, attending trade shows and conferences and directly interacting with customers and suppliers is regarded as providing more robust data for decision-making. In this context data, while necessary, is not sufficient in itself to provide true competitive intelligence.

Instead human intelligence and experience is regarded as key to providing a more sophisticated qualitative analysis that relies on creative analysis and which anticipates future trends and actions rather than simply reacting to them.

Competitive intelligence must draw on a wide variety of data sources from multiple stakeholders to draw actionable conclusions: competitive intelligence, therefore, is not simply a collection of facts (although they are required) but also a particular view of, and approach to, those facts that enables successful competitive performance and innovation.

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