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Understanding the World of Competitive Intelligence

By: Victoria L. Rayner
Posted: July 22, 2008, from the March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

In today’s hypercompetitive business world, it is worthwhile to gain some knowledge of competitive intelligence. It is sometimes easier to play down the threat of competition or to completely ignore the devastating effect that a spy could have on a commercial operation, but the cold reality is that if your establishment is superior to most, chances are that it is already under surveillance by an ambitious rival.

Protecting trade secrets and uncovering the improper and dubious actions of those who are determined to reveal details of your operation to competitors is serious business. What can be done about it? Nobody in the beauty business is exempt from the theft of ideas or clientele. Plans for the expansion and growth of your enterprise could be ruined if they were to fall into the wrong hands.

Like it or not, industrial espionage is more widespread than ever before, and it comes from within your facilities as well as from outside them. Sometimes it takes a long time before you realize the full implications of what has been taken, so you must be ever-vigilant and protect yourself from those who wish to overtake your particular market segment or who wish you ill will.

Learn about your competition

There is an old Chinese saying that we all need to commit to memory early on in our careers and in our business dealings that can be applied directly to our perception of business competitors—“No one knows us better than our enemies.” Your rivals are certain to know your upsides and your downsides—how you generate profit as well as how you fail to do so. They must have this information so they can weigh their options. Not knowing these facts about your attributes and your discrepancies is a recipe for sure business failure.

You can reduce the potential for your competition to undermine you and obtain the maximum leverage against industry rivals if you learn things about their competitive actions and prepare yourself to counteract their business moves. If you are not familiar with your competition, you should launch a thorough investigation of your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses with a focus on developing ways to compensate for the differences. Draw attention to these competitive disparities by using the distinctions between what they are offering and what you can provide to your competitive advantage. Make certain you define all these dissimilarities in your marketing efforts.