CI? Yes, competitive intelligence.
In today’s rapidly changing marketplace it is pivotal that any new start up keep an eye on the competition. What are they doing that we’re not, what’s their value proposition compared to ours, who is their target customer, who is ours? These along with many other questions are what you should be asking yourself and always keeping those questions in the back of your head, and apply your answers to the core of your competitive strategy.

Having a great idea and bringing it to market is not enough these days, and unless you’re a first mover in a completely new market, chances are you will have competition, and chances are that competition will be as well if not better prepared than you.

So how do you protect your business and track what their developments as compared to your own efforts?

The good news is, that you're probably already taking some of the more important steps in CI gathering by simply reading industry news and following your competitors blog/twitter/facebooks etc… and subscribing to the relevant rss feeds. If not, then it’s definitely time to start. No better tool exists to build basic CI knowledge than to focus on the public information that is already out there.

But why would you want to involve yourself in basic CI gathering? And what can a young company get from actively disseminating the data that comes from CI?

The first and possibly the most important benefit of CI, is that as a young company it allows you to become more agile than your competition. Company agility is the ability to deploy rapid changes to your business model, and should a competitor with more resources enter the same space as you, having this CI will allow you to act by changing your value proposition, sales model or anything that will allow your startup to regain that competitive advantage.

However aside from agility, CI allows your startup to define certain market spaces which can allow you to establish a presence before your competitors, this along with Scenario Analysis can provide you with the tools to make the necessary decisions that can ensure a higher success rate in the face of stringent competition.

CI will undoubtedly also aid you in identifying root problems within your own startup, and is a great tool to compare your own organization to those within the same market space. However it’s important not to get caught up in becoming overly analytical of one’s own practices, instead use CI as a gauge of your activities to those of others.

Start there and you should be good to go regarding non formal CI. Remember as a startup, resources are scarce and should be applied as to create the most value to your organization, but basic CI gathering should be engrained in how you run your business.

If you want to know more on CI and how to apply it to your business, be sure to check out our resource page which we’ve updated with additional books to add to your entrepreneurial reading list / library.

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