CI for the small company or individual
We are often asked whether a small company or an individual can make use of CI, particularly if they have limited financial resources. This question becomes self-answering if it is rephrased as “Should we know what our competition is doing, and where our market may be moving?” Obviously, the answer is yes.
Once stripped of the mystique of the term competitive intelligence, finding out what is going on in your world becomes relatively straightforward.
• Look at trade publications, and at the presentations being made within trade organizations
• Look at newspapers and magazines for stories relating to the field, and to people and companies involved in the field.
• Look on the internet for anything relating to the field or people and companies involved in it.
• Talk to people involved in the field, or business related to the field.
To a large extent this covers most of what is done in CI. It is true that there is information that is most-easily available from for-pay services, but much of it is also available for free, although at a greater investment of time. Your tradeoff therefore becomes one of time against money.
On the other hand, if you are a small enterprise your need for masses of information are much less that of a large enterprise. And, cold as it might sound, your risk is less: If a one-person goes out of business it is tragic for that person and his family. If a company misjudges and closes a business it may be tragic for several thousand people and their families.
One might compare CI to running or some other athletic endeavor. For the beginning runner any shoes which fit comfortably will be acceptable, and a pair of $200 running shoes will bring no competitive advantage over a pair of $80 shoes: You are simply not good enough to have the shoes make a significant difference. As you get better and come closer to your personal limits, equipment will start to make a difference. But better running shoes will not make the difference between running a 3 hour marathon and a 6 hour marathon: At best they will make a difference between a 3 marathon and a 3:10 marathon.
The moral of this is that you need to know your business, and have some idea of the kind of information you need to prosper, and the amount and depth of it. As you grow and your information need grow, then your expenditures on information can grow. Until then, let common sense be your guide in gathering the information you need to run your business.