How do I undertake detailed competitor research?
I need to undertake detailed research of my main competitor (a large multinational). Some of the publically available financial information will be useful, although I will need to go further that this to gain information on:
- Sources of revenue
- Geographic areas of operation
- Market share and growth for each point above
Any suggestions as to sources of information (free or paid) that would be useful in conducting this research?
I would look at it differently:
1. Identify Existing Competitors
2. Identify Parallel Competitors
3. Identify Latent Competitors
Now brainstorm and wargame scenarios how will Existing Competitors and Parallel Competitors and Latent Competitors will outflank and outmaneuver you in markets.
If you’ve read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and if you adhere to the Protagonist School of Thought and view business as a battlefield then you will agree that the most important designation in times of war is the Spy.
The Japanese call it “Comparative Advantage”. The idea is to send someone, an associate of your company to work with the competition and learn as much as possible. For some businesses, 6 months is more than enough time to gather intelligence. For businesses that require more detailed information, the “Spy” may work for the rival for 2 years while regularly sending data to its own company. While effective, this may entail risk as the Spy maybe influenced by the culture thriving within the competitor.
The question of ethics is largely a personal one. But big businesses have been known to do comparative advantage to stay ahead of its competition.
We've done extensive competitive analysis for many companies over the past couple of decades, most including multinational competitors and very large corporations. In addition to the items you've indicated, we would suggest going much deeper. This service is provided for a fee, a proposal would be sent to you once we have a better idea of what you're looking for. We can also provide samples of our work. Please let me know if you need our assistance. Thank you. Dave Cochran, Cochran Edwards Capital Partners, Seattle, WA
Check out these great sites for simple step-by-step advice. Lots of good ideas in the comments below as well.
You could pay someone to do it for you though if you have the time to do it yourself you will find you learn a lot about the market and industry. Then you pay a service for monitoring the primary competitors for you to keep your work up to date and informed.
Andrew, two great sources of "free" information are LinkedIn and headhunters.
On LinkedIn, you can find out about the backgrounds, interests and group memberships of your direct competitors (CEO to CEO, CFO to CFO etc.) which I've found to be both useful and a good way of understanding their future strategy. For instance, if the CFO joins an outsourcing group, this would indicate that they might be considering a transformation project to cut costs.
The other source are headhunters as they will generally know what's happening within your competitors business (if they specialise in your market) faster than anyone.
I hope that helps.
Most times, their website gives some secondary information.The rest will be availabe in trade magazines and financial journals. Competitor research is like intelligence gathering - it requires patience and a build up over a period of time. Follow the military intelligence cycle- collection, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination.
You can approach company pages on Linkedin, go to the company as a prospective customer, browse their facebookpage- it has to be a combination of anumber of techniques/ methods to get a picture.This picture can change over a period of time and hence constant monitoring and updating becomes essential.
Most of the information you are looking for are available in a number of formats already covered. You may also like to break it down by state and product range and market segment. They primary clients. It's all there.
However before you undertake such as desk audit you should be asking.
Why do I what this information?
What am I going to do with it once i have it?
How important is this information?
Which aspect is of greatest importance?
How much time do I want to spend on this?
Is this the best use of my time and resources.
What is the economical cost (what else could I be doing, and would that generate more income.)
Is this something I can get someone else to do?
Would it be cheaper to hire a professional company to do. After all they would already have the resources to complete this much faster and maybe even they can present a usable report.
Good luck with your project.
I agree with Mike Horn, you can better look into what is your strength. Ask your clients what they think of your business and what they want to be improved.
Where are You located ?
You have many publications : FT, statistics from the Chambers of Commerce, their annual reports, web sites. That's not difficult.