These days, new firms come seemingly out of nowhere, preempting existing companies with different technologies or approaches they never saw coming. Think about how craigslist blindsided traditional newspapers or how Napster and iPod shook up the music business.
Marketers can no longer narrowly focus on dominant industry players. Instead, they must continually monitor the broader market for new developments that could affect their companies, products and brands, suppliers, and distributors, because all can significantly affect margins and profitability.
True competitive intelligence requires understanding how diverse audiences perceive your company. These audiences include customers, prospects, suppliers, distributors, competitors, and financial markets. To keep abreast of market activity influencing your business, start by understanding how your company is viewed as a whole, as well as how your brands, products, pricing, and customer experience are seen.
To this end, a strategic framework is needed to examine and understand the business across attributes including strengths, weaknesses, product offering, pricing, markets served, and needs met. At a minimum:
Use this framework as a guide for information you need to track. To understand how users perceive your products and the conversation around them, check the following:
Today's digital footprint, while increasing corporate transparency and yielding greater power to consumers in the marketing dialogue, enables marketers to measure conversions. From a competitive intelligence perspective, this means you must monitor conversations relative to competitors and their products to identify opportunities, threats, and trends. You must be able to discern whether the conversation about your product reflects a smoldering crisis, raving fans, or nothing at all. Make an ongoing commitment to listen to and assess public dialogue.
What you don't know can hurt you.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.
Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.