"Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to secret agents; of all matters none is more confidential than those relating to secret operations." Sun Tzu
We live in an Age of Knowledge. The competitive edge lies no longer only in gaining new sales lead or finding new partners and alliances. Gaining competitive intelligence over your industry, customer, competitor, suppliers, and potential partners are the new prerequisites of your competitive advantage and your marketing managers are the secret agents of this new battlefield. The goal of competitive intelligence is to convert raw data into something that can lead to a competitive asset. It gives you insights into what might happen in the near future. This process requires that we go from data to information to intelligence. Here is a basic example:
Data = Prices for our products have dropped by 5%
Information = New offshore facilities have lower labor costs
Intelligence = Our key competitor is about to acquire a facility in India that will . .
The differences between data, information, and intelligence can be subtle, but very real:
Data = Unconnected pieces of information: Nice to know, but so what!
Information = Increased knowledge derived by understanding the relationships of data: Interesting, but how does it relate to what I do!
Intelligence = Organizing the information to fully appreciate the implications and impact on the organization: Oh really, then we better do something!
Given this relationship between data, information and intelligence, now you are armed to visit your competitors' trade show booth and ask them questions on:
Product/service features and benefits.
Recent product/service introductions and upgrades.
Installation and maintenance.
Pricing strategies: commercial, non-profit, governmental
Special pricing policies - do they offer: credit, discounts, incentives, consignments.
Corporate and business philosophy
Be gracious and subtle. Remember: “Knowledge is what you are after. Information is the raw material you use. Intelligence is what finds and processes information.” The Intelligence Edge by George Friedman, Meredith Friedman, Colin Chapman and John S. Baker, Jr.
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