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How to Produce Stellar Competitive Intelligence and Edge Your Competition Competitive intelligence is about understanding your client or competitor's needs and desires while identifying opportunities and threats. It's about knowing what will make your business successful in the long run.

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Competitive intelligence, or CI, is a crucial component of business strategy. It helps you understand your competitors, identify new opportunities and better predict market trends.

Competitive intelligence is a continuous process, not a one-off briefing document. It is also not just about the competition. It also includes insights into your client and their needs, which can help them to get ahead of the game in their industry. You'll be able to anticipate trends and opportunities before they happen, giving your clients a competitive advantage over their competitors and allowing them to grow their business faster than those who don't have access to this kind of information.

Related: Your Business is Failing Because You Have a Bad Strategy. Here Are 5 Hacks for the Perfect Business Strategy

Don't rely on what you think your clients or competitors want

We often assume that we know what our clients or competitors want — this is a mistake. It's easy to do this when you're working with a firm from a similar industry, but it's important to remember that every client has unique needs and interests.

You should always start by asking questions about the business objectives of your client or competitor. These questions will give you insight into what they are trying to accomplish and how they hope to achieve it — information that can be invaluable when crafting reports for them in the future.

Gain other perspectives

There are four primary groups you need to speak with:

  • Users of your product or service, including current and former users. They can tell you how they use it, why they like it or don't. They can also give insight into the people who don't like it. And if they're former users, they may have valuable information on why they left. You'll want as much detail as possible so that you can make use of that data in competitive intelligence analysis later on (for example, "Users say this feature is confusing.")
  • People who do not use your product or service but would potentially be interested in using it if they knew more about what it does and how well it works. These are potential customers for whom there may not currently be an opportunity for purchase — they don't know enough about your offering yet! Get them talking about their business needs so that you can market effectively in the future. For example: "This company thinks our product could help them solve their problem."
  • People who do not currently use a competitor's product or service but would potentially become a customer if offered one at an attractive price point or with better features than those offered by competitors (e..g., "These guys love our product because we provide X at only half its competitors' price.") If these folks were already using something else — and had a good reason why — you'd want to know if there's anything specific about those products/services which makes them unsatisfactory; if yes then perhaps these shortcomings could be remedied through innovation efforts within yourself?
  • People who are already using your product or service but have not yet been convinced of its value (e.g., "We're working on getting these guys to see the benefits of our product; we think they will like it once they try it."). These are potential customers that you may need to spend more time educating about why your offering is better than competitors' offerings.

Related: Customer Intelligence As a Revenue Predictor

Fully understand your audience and their needs

It's imperative to understand the needs of your audience and the needs of your competitors. A comprehensive competitive intelligence program can provide a wealth of information that will help you better understand the landscape, your customers' needs and how they behave toward their competitors.

Understanding the needs of your audience is essential for any successful business venture. You need to know what matters to them so that you can meet those needs with an innovative solution or product. This can be as simple as knowing who they are (demographics), where they live (geography) or what they like (lifestyle). It could also mean understanding what motivates them; why would someone buy one product over another? How many people do I need to sell my product annually to break even?

Related: 9 Ways to Meet and Understand Your Audience

Identify different audience segments

Once you've identified your audience, the next step is to segment them into different groups based on their needs. This will allow you to craft a solution that meets all those needs. For example, if you're selling a product aimed at helping people lose weight, one group could be people who need something simple and easy to use. Another group might be more tech-savvy and want something more complex and customizable. Knowing how each audience segment views fitness products will help you see what aspects of your offering are most important for each audience type.

Related: 7 Outdated Habits That Will Paralyze Your Business

Experimentation can help understand clients and competitors and identify new opportunities

Experimentation is a vital part of the process. Experimentation can help you better understand your clients and competitors, identify new opportunities and discover how to make your offerings more competitive. Such an example is A/B testing. This type of experiment compares two versions of a single element to see which one performs better by improving conversions, sales or whatever else you're looking for. For example, it could be an email subject line A/B test comparing "Doing these four things will help you grow sales" with "Doing these four things will help you grow sales 50%."

Ensure you are fully informed before you move forward with a new product or service

To stay ahead of the curve, you must constantly gather information from as many sources as possible. Talk to your clients and ensure you are fully informed before moving forward with a new product or service. Conduct interviews about what they think are missing in the market, and see if a gap needs filling. Look at data from recent surveys, reviews or complaints that your company has received. Look at what competitors are doing and take notes on what's working for them and what isn't. Talk to people in your industry who can give feedback on how they perceive your business and suggestions on how it could improve its services or offerings.

Chris Massimine is the CEO of Imagine Tomorrow, a firm that shepherds and sources capital for creative works. Massimine is also a business development consultant, an international theatermaker and executive producer of the upcoming film "The Inventor."

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