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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.

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The competitors who will produce the greatest threat will vary depending on your business’s phase of professional development. For newcomers to the industry, monitoring the actions of direct and actual competitors will be the most productive. For those who have been practicing for a while and are in the process of expanding or developing a new arm or division, the greatest threat will come from indirect and potential competitors.

Counteracting your competition

Offering exceptional service and unmatched selection of hard-to-locate retail goods always has been the best way to subdue the efforts of competitors, but there are other methods that you can use to slow down your rivals. You can develop a niche not served by your competition and saturate the market before your rivals know that it exists. You also can build upon your current treatment practice concept by launching a major distribution campaign, such as the aggressive franchising efforts that recently have been witnessed in the medical spa market. And, of course, you always have the option of developing premier status by taking your goods and services to a higher level.

Commonly overlooked challenges

Breaches in security are becoming more common because we are in an information age. Improprieties range from benign, accidental disclosures of information to near-cataclysmic, deliberate acts of industrial espionage. Even the most loyal of your team members—those who are considered more trustworthy than most—can be taken off guard by a charming new client who is, in reality, an agent for your competitor. Within a matter of minutes, your team member can end up revealing enough pertinent information about what your business does and how it’s done to create a very real threat—one that could, ultimately, result in the loss of thousands of dollars of revenue.

Then there are those team members who have been recruited by zealous competitors for the specific purpose of uncovering secrets about your business. Unfortunately, modern technology supports these efforts. The increasing capabilities of difficult-to-detect portable storage devices—from tape recorders to cameras—is beginning to raise legitimate concerns from more than a few fearful spa employers. Many worry about the significant losses that they could incur if one of their team members decided to use a cell phone camera, iPod or MP3 player as a means of removing sensitive data such as architectural renderings for upcoming build-outs, client lists or training systems. In fact, there is a slew of technological innovations on the horizon that promise to produce even more efficient data retrieval devices that will make espionage even simpler for people who are determined to smuggle sensitive records and other privileged information out of their employers’ workplaces. Given the inclination, it appears that just about anyone these days could simply plug a USB drive or a digital music player into their company’s computer and secretly download files right off of their bosses’ network. In an attempt to control proprietary data from being stolen and placed in the hands of their competitors, some employers are prohibiting their team members from bringing their personal laptops or USB keys with them to work.

If you are a high-level team member, consider yourself among the most vulnerable to espionage recruiters. Expect to be the first to be targeted, since you are likely to have the greatest security clearance of anyone in the facility, not to mention access to classified information that is held in highly protected databases that your employers’ competitors are seeking to obtain.

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