What is competitive intelligence? Product pricing, packaging, designs, materials, fabrics, distribution network, scope of sales, customers? Generally speaking is it insight into the scope and strength of your competitors? It is the stuff that they are doing or not doing that you are dying to know about.
Entrepreneurs are innovative, creative and talented people that produce product and services that separate them from the rest. Do you want to know if someone is ripping off your ideas? Who is capitalizing on the creativity and good will of your brand? Do you want to know who your contract manufacturers are shipping to and what types of quantities? Most importantly do you want to know this before your clients, customers and distributors do?
Are you doing market surveys in regions where you do not have distribution? Would you like to know if you contract manufacturers are selling your product to non-authorized distributors? Is tracking how much and to what regions your contract manufacturers and distributors are shipping important to you?
Do you verify that the information your contract manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and vendors are providing is accurate? Namely the principal’s/officers names, businesses address (es), licensing, insurance, and trade references.
Most business owners are interested in having this type of information, but don’t know how to get it, how much it costs and most importantly they are concerned that someone will be tipped off.
Additionally, most business owners are searching Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other resource they can get their hands on to police their manufacturers and distributors. They also rely on their sales organization and distributors to pass along information that is often unverified, incomplete and would not stand up in court due to the conflict of interest.
Test purchases or samples buys are a great way to know what is going on in the marketplace. They can be very useful in determining how products are distributed, pricing (wholesale & retail) and the customer service provided by the competitor. Additionally this is a great way to tangibly inspect products that could be counterfeit, diverted/gray market or in fact genuine early on in the product life cycle.
How can this be done discreetly and confidentially in a timely and cost effective manner? It comes down to the resources and the expertise that you investigator has to offer. The scope of the front companies they have in place. The resale permits, business licenses and other necessary business information that allows them to pose as a legitimate entity that the competitors would want to do business with.