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Spy Away

What you don't know <i>can</i> hurt you.

This story appears in the March 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Jay Bloom leaves a trade show, his pockets are stuffed with his competitors' brochures. When he reads trade journals, he scans the pages for new products, promotions and other changes at rival firms. A clipping service sends more articles containing selected key words. If the customers who call his service center mention competitors, he asks for details. Partners and investors provide gossip about rivals. Employees patronize competitors to investigate others' offers and service from a customer's angle.

Bloom is no spy, merely a practitioner of competitive intelligence, or CI. Keeping tabs on the competitive environment helps the 32-year-old founder of Pet Assure Inc., a provider of prepaid pet health plans in Dover, New Jersey, with everything from marketing to acquisitions, explains Bloom.

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