It is important for us to know how to collect enough information about our competitors. Understanding competitors should make a good business sense. However, we should do it in a reasonable and ethical way. As an example, we should ask questions properly. We should know whether the information is accurate. Intelligence efforts are admittedly common in the business world, but we should always try to be ethical. Competitors, consumers and market as a whole won’t react well to our unethical information gathering efforts. Being ethical is also about knowing what kind of information that we should get. Business secrets should be out of our reach.
Improper information gathering could cause legal actions or at least reciprocal intelligence war. In order to avoid unnecessary problems, we shouldn’t do it , it doesn’t seem right. We may contact our attorney to determine whether our information gathering effort is acceptable based on law. There are consequences of breaking the law and some of them can be quite expensive, while perpetrators may need to serve time in prison. Even if we are able to escape legal consequences, it will become an adverse publicity to our brand, products and company. In fact, competitors would be happy to see our company being publicly disclosed on the newspapers.
It is also important that we choose legitimate information source. The safest source is public sourcesm such as magazines, newspapers, TV news, published articles and others. Brochures and advertisements can also be used to gather information about our competitor. On the Internet, such as competitor’s official website, social media, online news and others; we should also be able to find a niumber of details that can be useful for our information gathering efforts. Information about our competitors could also be found on public filings, such as litigation records and patent filings. Analyst reports should also be useful for gathering information.
Another good way to get information is from customers. In this case, we should be able to know more about competitors by talking with customers. Customers should be able to divulge their opinion about competitor’s products and services. We will know what they like and don’t like about our competitors. This is a legal practice, as long as we don’t attempt to gain confidential information. It is also possible that we get competitor information through suppliers, especially if we share the same suppliers with competitors. Again, we shouldn’t ask suppliers about confidential information to avoid any kind of legal consequences.
We also often hire new employees who previously work for our competitors; due to similarity in skill and expertise needed in our company. In this situation, it’s quite easy to try to divulge proprietary and confidential information from these new employees. However, it can be considered as an illegal practice that we need to avoid. As an example, a new IT employee shouldn’t be pressured to divulge information that allows us to access the administration pages of competitor’s website or other online systems. Any hacking and spying attempt shouldn’t be performed, because it can be easily detected, which is finally traced to our company.
New business owners should know what to do before establishing their own business. The most important thing that they should do is by defining their business. It can be performed by creating vision and mission statements. In some cases, our business plan requires a unique brilliance to make it stands out from other competitors. We should be very clear about what we want and whether we can achieve it. Unclear plan could cause us to go many different directions. Consumers want to see the best product in each category that is sold at the lowest price. It is even better if we are able to introduce useful functionality and features.