3 Key Ways That Competitive Intelligence Is Different than Spying: B2B Market Research podcast

Sean Campbell
Authored bySean Campbell

Episode 77: – 3 Key Ways That Competitive Intelligence Is Different than Spying

During this podcast we cover three key ways competitive intelligence is different than spying. This includes:

  • How Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Spies differ in how they disclose their identity.
  • How Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Spies differ when it comes to how they practice of their craft.
  • How Competitive Intelligence Professionals and Spies differ in the types of educational opportunities they seek.

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Modified transcript:

Welcome to another episode of the B2B Market Research podcast. In this episode we’re going to talk about three key ways competitive intelligence is different than spying. Before we get into that though, a few brief programming notes.

First, if you want to find past episodes of this podcast you can do so on iTunes, on Stitcher radio, and on our site. You’ll also find on our site a wide array of free B2B market research and competitive intelligence resources, two of our very popular e-books, Going Beyond Google: Gathering Competitive IntelligenceVoice Of The Competitor and a host of other resources. With that, let’s go ahead and get into the podcast.

Spying and competitive intelligence come up a lot in combination. If you do a Google search for competitive intelligence, I can guarantee you’re going to find spying in a lot of the titles of articles that talk about competitive intelligence. I find this really fascinating, because the reality is they’re quite different.

Here are the three ways CI professionals are different than spies:

CI professionals are out in the open

The first and primary way that they’re different is that competitive intelligence professionals are who we say we are. In other words, we’re not sneaking into the back of buildings, we’re not trying to hide who we are in some type of interview or conversation with a competitor customer or competitor partner or things like that. We’re not trying to obscure who we are when we look for information on the Internet.

Now,you contrast this with a spy where you could consider it somewhat life-threatening if they disclosed who they were upon landing in a foreign country where they’re going to do some spying. The differences right there are pretty profound. The reason these differences exist is in large part because of the skip code of ethics and the ethical and legal codes that individual firms follow. That’s going to change right out of the gate how a competitive intelligence professional behaves versus a spy. This is going to impact a lot of the research we do.

Now, much like market research professionals though, we don’t have to disclose who our client is. Again, this is basically identical to market research whether it’s secret shopping activities, or whether it’s just kind of studies that are done in the blind. So it’s very, very similar in that regard.

We devour business books

Secondly, we read more business books than your average spy. What I mean by that is your average competitive intelligence professional is going to basically have, in short term memory, knowledge of most of the major frameworks, strategies, and tools that not just strategists use but even tacticians use in individual parts of the business.

CI folks tend to be, really good CI folks, kind of conversant in not just strategy issues but product development issues, marketing issues, sales issues and the like. They’ll go from reading the latest and greatest strategy books, something like Big Bang Disruption, or something like Anti-Fragile, all the way back to having really good knowledge of the classics like Innovator’s Dilemma, Crossing the Chasm and things like that.

A spy is certainly probably going to be a little more conversant in languages perhaps, and their reading and book-list is going to look a little different, but fundamentally competitive intelligence professionals are probably one of the more well-read folks you’re going to find in a lot of cases when it comes to business topics. Also, like I said, competitive intelligence tend to have a really good 360 degree view of most business processes.

We understand the business world

Lastly, spies may understand the world of martinis, but competitive intelligence professionals understand the world of business. The difference here again is pretty significant, obviously. Spies, we’ve all seen the movies, they have a slightly different lifestyle. Competitive intelligence professionals though, we understand things like supply chains and value chains and business partnerships and business models, and we recognize new business models when we see them for what they are.

We can crack the code of different types of models like different partnership models and different go-to-market models. We can look at M and A decisions and we can look at financial issues, and we can look at cost structures. In short, we can crack the code on a competitor, in such a way that our client or our organization can take good advantage of that information.

If you wrap it up there’s really those three main ways:

  • We are who we say we are,
  • We’ve read more business books than your average spy
  • We understand the world of business.

These things are what make competitive intelligence professionals distinctly different than spies.

With that, I want to wrap up this podcast. Thanks for listening and if you have any questions about the podcast at all, either about a past episode or this one, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at Sean@cascadeinsights.com.

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