The IT professionals role in competitive market intelligence

The successful company will be driven to increase stakeholder value and profitability while creating a working environment that encourages and nurtures the growth of personal creativity and development as well as nurturing a sense of well-being for all members of the organization.

When dealing with the forces that drive industry competition, a company can devise a strategy that takes the offensive. This posture is designed to do more than merely cope with the forces themselves; it is meant to alter their causes.
The IT professional\'s role in competitive market intelligence

The IT professional is increasingly being called upon to be a sleuth in the quest for the competitive market intelligence that is so necessary to support the enterprise\'s overall business strategy. In today\'s fast-changing marketplace, it is essential to monitor the techniques of similar businesses, and IT is being called upon to fulfill that functional need.

IT must provide marketing with answers to vital questions such as:

1. How are competitors getting business?
2. Where does the enterprise look for new customers?
3. How are prospects targeted?
4. What services, products, and prices do competitors offer?
5. What images do our competitors project, and how does that compare to our image?

The combined strength of marketing and IT

Enterprises have depended on marketing for too long to provide competitive intelligence. It is crucial for IT professionals to contribute their specialized expertise to successfully adapt to the changing dynamics of the market arena. Marketing cannot do the job without the cooperation, tools, and willing support of the IT department. With the combined strength of the two complementary functions, a winning competitive market intelligence program is within the enterprise\'s reach.

Useful and sometimes surprising insights can be gained from exploring the terrain of actual and potential competitors. Hardly an academic exercise, sizing up the competition should become an ongoing, regular, and systematic process of gathering, analyzing, and acting upon relevant data, which will provide businesses with two tangible benefits:

 It will reveal the steps that management must take to preempt competitive strikes.
 It will signal new market opportunities.

Competitive monitoring enables management to develop practical strategies and measure the success of their actions.

What you should know

Simply knowing who your competitors are is not enough; you should also ferret out what their strategies and objectives are. You can gauge their strengths and weaknesses by learning about their products and services (current and new), pricing, features, and the level of customer satisfaction. How are your products or services positioned relative to the competition? Do your customers and prospects see your service as having the highest quality and still selling at the lower price? Is your product viewed as the low-cost brand, the premium-priced brand, the old standby, or the leader?

After getting some comments, it may still be neither possible nor desirable to change your service\'s features. Instead, research could point out what to communicate and how to communicate to your market. For example, you could tell your marketing department what potential customers are looking for and highlight the features that are valued by your customers. Your information will enable the marketing people to create materials that tell customers what they want to hear and sell them what they want to buy. Differences can be subtle but they really do matter.

Are yesterday\'s customers and clients being lured away by today\'s competition? Are they being tempted by the competition\'s siren song? Are they saying yes to your rival\'s lower fees or discounts? Are they buying new products or services that your company has not even thought of offering? Who will provide the answers? IT can, at the very least, provide meaningful data to formulate the correct solutions.

Potential market threats

While management understands the importance of keeping an eye on the competition, some members of management mistakenly believe that the marketing department alone has the resources to do a proper job. This is simply not true. Much valuable information exists in the database mines of the IT function. The IT professional must do some of the digging in those mines to find it. Most IT professionals are already in an excellent position to obtain and use primary competitive information and need only the encouragement or permission