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Competitive Intelligence: Continuous Feedback for Increased Sales and Profits Part II

By Enrico Codogno |

This is the second of a multi-part discussion on Competitive Intelligence (a system of continuous feedback) gives businesses the winning edge over competitors and profits - even in hard economic times.

In the first part of this series we provided a definition of Competitive Intelligence (the active, ethical and legal gathering, and analysis of information from the business or competitive environment). In short, Competitive Intelligence is legitimate and legal, and active and continuous in its implementation. Finally, we showed that Competitive Intelligence provides clarity for smart decision-making.

In this segment, we will define the competitive environment and give some examples of how companies use Competitive Intelligence to anticipate or react to business challenges.

Competitive Environment: It’s not just your competitors

For most businesses, the main focus of their Competitive Intelligence is on their competitors, with pricing and product/service offerings as the main areas of concern.

Directing one’s focus solely on competitors is understandable and provides some useful insights, but having your company’s radar and response capability focused on a small part of the competitive environment can leave your business exposed to being blindsided.

The competitive environment includes the following:

  • New technologies;
  • Demographics (New or changing markets, changes in product/service demands, development of new population centres, etc.);
  • Supply chains and the availability and pricing of raw materials;
  • Legislation (actual or proposed) and special interest groups

New Technologies: the Quick and Dead

New technologies may be either technologies recently developed or technologies adopted from non-related industries.

We forget how Napster took the recording industry by surprise. Polaroid and Kodak were overtaken by digital photography, because they were too slow to change.

Is your company at risk because of changes in technology or an inability to adapt? Or is there a technology being used in another industry that can give your company an edge over the competition?

Demographics: New or Changing Markets

Demographics are not usually considered to be important in business decision-making. This is unfortunate because we can see the effects of changes in demographics all around us.

For example, the aging baby-boom generation has seen many products and services developed just for them: whether it is retirement communities, financial services or personal care products, this large and generally wealthy population group has had its needs taken care of.

Growing economies in China, India and Russia, as another example, provide businesses with the opportunities and challenges to do business in those markets.

Is your company in a position to profit from changing demographics or socio-economic conditions in Canada and around the world?

Supply Chains and Raw Materials

Companies may be vulnerable because they are dependent on raw materials from overseas. Whether it is fuel or rare earth metals, if a company’s sources are threatened or if there is a sudden price increase, then the company’s survival is imperilled.

In this case, Competitive Intelligence will play a part in the development of contingency plans to offset sudden price increases or cuts in supply. Plans may include creating a reserve supply, developing business relations with alternative suppliers, or even seeking or developing alternative raw materials that are less susceptible to shortages or fluctuating prices.


Legislation can affect a company’s profitability with new regulations or deregulation. If your company can anticipate changes or quickly adapt to changes, it will be able to overcome and profit from the turmoil that may put competitors out of business.

Monkey Traps: Separating the Quick from the Dead

In some parts of world, monkeys are hunted using a monkey trap. This trap consists of a heavy pot with a hole large enough for a monkey to insert an open hand, but not withdraw a closed fist. Monkey food is put in the pot, the monkey grabs the food and, refusing to let go of the food when the hunters approach, is caught, killed and eaten.

Businesses that do not use Competitive Intelligence and are not prepared to quickly make the changes needed to compete are soon caught, killed and eaten. Don’t be a monkey.

In our third segment, we will show actual examples of how Competitive Intelligence has been used by companies to retain a competitive edge. Our fourth and final segment will deal with counter-intelligence.

Articles in this series:

Canadian, Eh!

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