Competitive Intelligence: Beyond the Jargon
The world of young entrepreneurs is a world full of buzzwords and smarmy business lingo. While the term ‘competitive intelligence’ may initially seem like throwaway jargon, it’s worth giving it a second glance. Of course, it’s good for a new company to be competitive and intelligent, but competitive intelligence is about more than just this.
Competitive intelligence is all about doing market research, knowing your industry, and being an expert in your field. In short, it’s about knowing your stuff.
Fail to prepare – prepare to fail
Although it sounds simple, competitive intelligence is crucial in ensuring the survival of your business. According to the BBC, four out of five start-ups do not end up making a profit in the long term. Although it’s easy to convince yourself that your business won’t be one of them, the odds are very much stacked against you.
Competitive intelligence is not an absolute insurance for your business, but it certainly helps. After all, the free market will quickly determine the worth of your company. Before you let the free market decide your fate, isn’t it better to anticipate its success? After some market research, you may discover that your product already exists at a cheaper price than you’d planned to offer it. Or you might find that, with a few simple tweaks, your product could cater to a niche you hadn’t yet considered.
Expect the unexpected
By definition, it’s not possible to expect the unexpected. However, competitive intelligence requires going beyond due diligence; it’s about predicting things that will happen outside of your control. Fluctuations in the global economy are inevitable, yet most small businesses don’t have a plan for every eventuality. To boost your start-up’s competitive intelligence, think five years in the future – and then 10 years, and then 20.
Although survival for the next six months is the number one priority for any young business, it’s no good if a preventable market change takes place in two years that makes your product redundant. Read up on legislation, new technologies and other potential game-changers, and you’ll give yourself time to work around any possible issues.
Ask the Experts
Competitive intelligence is based on a relatively simple premise – it’s not possible to know too much about your business, or the industry you’re operating in. There’s always going to be aspects of your business or industry that you don’t understand fully. The solution is to identify what you don’t know and seek help from those who do.
New businesses in the UK are spoilt for choice when it comes to organisations that can help you outline aspects of your industry that you may never have thought of. For example, the Prince’s Trust and Business Gateway in Scotland both provide guidance for young entrepreneurs without any charge.
Starting a business is undoubtedly a major challenge. In many ways it’s simple: find a product or service that’s in demand, and sell it at a competitive price. However, getting to that stage requires a thorough knowledge of the market, and what you’re up against.