With so many business opportunities available, possibly one of the most lucrative right now is competitive intelligence. Companies need to have someone who can seek out what their competitors are doing while still being within ethical and legal boundaries. And while your competitors may not appreciate this activity, chances are they may be doing the very same thing with your company. The idea is to get basic ideas from one another so each one can do something better to feel more competitive in the marketplace.
Businesses that provide competitive intelligence still sometimes struggle with how people deem them. In a sense, they’re basically a spy agency based on how they send people incognito into a competitor’s territory to gain information. However, they have to do it legally or they’d be shut down within weeks by law enforcement, alongside myriad lawsuits. What places will they go in order to glean information you can use to your own competitive advantage?
Much of it can be done straight through the Internet and legally through sites that offer information for a fee.
Online Information on Competitors
Inc. did a piece about an independent competitive intelligence agent and what he did to help scope out information for companies. He could find information online that you wouldn’t believe, which proves anything you want to know can be found, if for a price. In some instances, something as detailed as a cell phone number of secret competitor contacts, or even the names of those suing your competitor can be found.
While the above might seem inconsequential, they can tell you plenty about what your competitors are doing. Regardless, going directly out into the field offers plenty of other available information. One of the most typical is at a trade show.
Gaining Information from Trade Show Booths
As insidious as this process is, there’s nothing illegal to send a spy into your competitor’s trade show booth and see what products they’re introducing. After all, you don’t want to go there yourself and make your presence known when it would be obvious you’re there for your own benefit. Someone anonymous can be there and take notes on what’s being done so you can make decisions on doing the same thing or improving on competitor ideas.
The worst side here is when trade secrets are scoped out. This can come close to illegal territory, even if it may be extrapolations rather than outright theft. Since companies are more aware of spies in their booths, they may be keeping a closer eye on things and pull off strategies that throw spies off the trail. Someday, this may be one of the lesser ways to gain truly useful competitive intelligence.
Other Target Areas
Your competitive intelligence team will also check out your competitor’s advertising to see what demographics they’re trying to reach. They can even find information on the people that work in your competitor’s company to see what their salaries are. This way, you can make your own workforce happier and more successful with a more competitive pay structure.
One of the most legal ways to perhaps gain secrets from a competitor is to find out which employee from there would most likely be swayed to work for you. If you can hire an employee who worked for a competitor, you might be able to find out internal information that could benefit your own business.
As shady as it all sounds, the move above is the most legal way to gain trade secret information without turning into an outright thief. With so much skirting of the law for the supposed sake of common good, you’ll at least be satisfied that so much information can be found without feeling unethical.