Competitive intelligence. It sounds like something out of a spy novel. Intelligence can come in one of two general fashions. The first is covert. This involves spying, breaking into offices to copy papers, and other such activities. Obviously, a business owner would do well to steer well clear of these type actions. However, there is another realm of intelligence in which all business owners should be immersed. Analytical intelligence is simply becoming aware of and analyzing all information regarding your product or service, your competitors, and all other things that touch your segment of the industry. This information can be found in a multitude of sources. One can go online to peruse competitor’s web sites and pricing. One can visit a competitor’s store to gauge traffic and notice any unique marketing techniques which may be present. The avenues for gathering competitive intelligence are limited only by your imagination. Superior competitive intelligence can allow you to better price your product or service. It can also clue you in as to what drives a purchase decision by customers interested in your product. Knowing this lever is invaluable. Think of it as a key to your customer’s mind. Your marketing efforts are greatly enhanced with this insight. Competitive intelligence influences all aspects of your marketing and branding efforts. Your web site design is driven by the goal of attracting customers then keeping them there once they land upon your page. It proves impossible to devise effective content and graphics if you do not know what is in your audience’s mind. Traditional marketing avenues are similarly dependent upon good market and competitive intelligence. Postcard printing efforts are akin to your web site, if not even more important. With the limited space available on the postcard it becomes imperative to make each word count. Being cognizant of what your customers desire to know becomes even more crucial in this arena. Just as you seek intelligence on your customers, they seek intelligence on you. Everything from your newsletter printing to your business card printing must be done with care. All written materials need put your best foot forward and be written with the assumption all your customers will among its readers. Pricing is also a key arena in which competitive intelligence is critical. Being overpriced has its obvious disadvantages. Failure to know a competing product is priced significantly lower can be a real drag to your revenue line. Conversely, being significantly under priced to the market can be great for revenue but end up destroying your profit line. The difficult balancing act between revenue and profit is made much easier with good competitive intelligence. Be a good spy. Keep up to date on all news in your industry. Be a frequent visitor to trade group web sites and those of your competitors. An informed business owner often equals a successful one.