Competitive Intelligence Empowers Great Leaders and Great Teams

It can be your secret weapon and it’s easy to make it part of your routine.

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“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Jim was unshakable. Nothing ever seemed to surprise him. Every twist and turn in our industry was handled smoothly and confidently like he saw it coming a mile away. He was always prepared. He was also the one that taught me about competitive intelligence.

We all want to be like Jim. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a room knowing they’re ready for anything? Surprisingly, it’s easier than it sounds. The secret is making a few minutes of comp intel part of your daily routine. Absolutely anyone can do it. I’ll show you how I’ve made it work for me.

My competitive intelligence routine

Every morning I wake up and open up my RSS reader. I’ve piped in all my data via RSS feeds. My feeds include news on comp intel and feeds from several other topics I follow. But, more importantly, they include all my google alerts for the companies I’m tracking. It also includes rss info with change detection on competitor’s websites (pricing changes, messages/branding, etc.) and social posts from a few key figures and keywords that I follow.

Essentially I get full spectrum coverage of my whole competitive landscape in an automatically generated daily news feed. It’s convenient and fast… super fast.

It’s like having an analyst in my pocket. For a bit more guidance, check out McKinsey’s coverage of Desjardin and the way they use rss via flipboard (it’s in the last 4–5 paragraphs).

Want your own custom rss feed? Reach out and I can help you get started. Get in touch.

I also take 5–10 minutes before every meeting to get some background information on whoever I’m meeting with. It’s an incredibly easy task but I’m amazed at how many people don’t take the time to do it.

My basic routine to prep for every meeting

First I take 5 minutes to google the company I’m meeting with. If you’re not doing this already, you should be.

  • Review their landing/about/PR pages. I think of this as establishing a brand’s messaging pyramid. What’s the top message they have prioritized on their homepage? What is the main action you are directed to take? What are the top 3 subject mentioned in their brand collateral. What are the last few press releases about? If you want to find something specific on their website use the google search operator to search a specific site: ‘site:apple.com press releases’
  • Look for recent news articles. I prefer news.google.com. Search for the brand name and top executive names.
  • Check their glassdoor reviews. If you’re working with a specific department dial in your search for that department. Use this google search structure: ‘site:glassdoor.com [company name] [department name]’
  • Patents/Trademarks/SEC Filings. If they’re big enough I check for recent public records. I use google patentsUSPTO trademark search and the SEC EDGAR database.
  • Look for hiring trends. I use indeed.com for this. It can give you insights into the company is working on: i.e. if they’re hiring iOS developers, that tells you they’ll be working on an app.

And, if I need more information it’s easy to dig deeper. Follow me here on Medium and I’ll make a few more posts explaining how.

If I have a meeting that is focused on a person, I take 5 minutes to:

  • Find any public social profiles. This takes a couple steps:
    - first search their name on LinkedIn — this tells you how they want to be seen by other professionals
    - then look for public social profiles — I start with twitter, facebook and instagram.
  • If you find a unique username/slug for any of their accounts, google it. Example: if I find their twitter account, and their username is @jimSC161, I take that username and search for that exact term in google: “jimSC161”. This can quickly uncover other lesser known accounts.
  • Check for mentions in the news (again, I use Google News)

Obviously looking at people’s online presence can be a bit contentious/uncomfortable. I believe that my public online presence is fair game. In all honesty, I have dodged several bullets using this technique and I think the value is very real.

Note: If I need a bit more insight about a client’s business, my first step is to enter their website on similarweb.com and get a sense of backlinks and traffic sources. This helps me find out where their customers/users are coming from. It’s a level of insight few people bring to the table in a first meeting.

So why is this worth the time?

In the end, this routine adds a maximum of 10 minutes of prep for my meetings and I spend 30 minutes in the morning or evening reading my RSS feed. If I want to go deeper, I can, but this is usually enough to get me way ahead of the curve.

We’re talking about dedicating less than an hour to appear credible and feel prepared throughout my day.

Getting started is easy. It’s just a matter of taking the time to build the habit. Try it out before a few meetings. Keep track of the effect it has. I’ll bet that within a week you’ll be more involved, engaged and proactive. Your teammates will notice.


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