WHEN A COMPANY positions its brand in a customer’s mind, it is positioning that brand against other brands. It is critical to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each of those competitors along with the industry structure itself. (In fact, wise organizations dedicate a person to understanding the competition.)
Important sources of competitive information include:
- Competitor websites.
- Press releases. There are free online services that can send you daily e-mail messages with press releases on topics of interest to you.
- Industry analyst reports.
- Financial analyst reports. (If you have a Charles Schwab or Fidelity account, you can use their research functions to view company research reports from a wide variety of financial analysts.)
- News clipping services.
- OCRInternational (www.ocrinternational.com) and Avention (www.avention.com) consulting and research services.
- Harte Hanks (www.hartehanks.com), Hoovers (www.hoovers.com) and other company databases.
- Online database searching services, such as FirstSearch, ProQuest, and Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe.
- Services that track advertising spending.
- Search engines and intelligent agents.
- Online chat rooms, bulletin boards, and discussion groups.
- Product/brand review websites e.g. epinions.com.
- Trade magazines.
- Trade shows.
- Competitor direct mail campaigns. Add a friend or relative to their lists.
- Your field sales force. Responding to the information they send from the field will encourage them to send more.
- Ex-employees from competitors’ firms. They may be under your employ now, or they can be identified from job search databases.
- Current customers. Many of them will pass on competitive communications they receive.
- Primary and secondary research (qualitative and quantitative, including brand equity studies). Make sure to investigate syndicated studies. Syndicated studies are typically published by large research firms such as ACNielsen, Harris Interactive, and Forrester Research. An example is IntelliQuest’s Computer Industry Media Study.
- Purchase and use a competitors’ products (i.e., become a customer). Your entire management team should do this; it is an excellent way to understand competitors’ customer experiences.
- Market tours. If you work in retail, visit stores that carry your competitors’ products and talk with the sales associates about their products and services and what the companies are like to work with.
- Competitive intelligence firms
Reprinted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here. © 2015 Brad VanAuken