Luscious Fruit: The Competitive Intelligence That Hangs in a Company?s Telephone Tree

24/09/2009

Luscious Fruit: The Competitive Intelligence That Hangs in a Company?s Telephone Tree

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Competitive ‘Intelligence:’ When Social Networking Backfires

23/09/2009

Today, I would like to take a minute and tell a story.  A story about an actual, real-life situation in which a high-profile player in an extremely competitive industry makes a huge mistake the rest of us can learn from.

At the small company I currently work for, we have a competitor I will call Randy.  Randy is Founder and CEO of the second-most recognized firm in our market space (ours being first) and has spent millions of dollars over the last few years marketing directly against my company; attacking everything from our product quality to our pricing strategy to our CEO directly.  The focus of the industry we are fighting over is a technical manual that spawns hundreds of ancillary products—including software, audio books, college courses, online learning classes, and other related items in dozens of countries and dozens of languages.  Randy and the CEO of my company both publish their own version of this technical manual, and between our two companies we possess well over 95% market share.  At the present time both books are in the process of being completely rewritten, and are scheduled for much-anticipated worldwide releases during the first week of April.

On the advice of a friend, last night I spent some time setting up my first Twitter account.  After choosing a theme for my Twitter landing page and subscribing to a few news feeds, I spent the next few minutes looking for other people I knew—relatives first, then friends, then business contacts.  Although I was disappointed at the number of friends and relatives I was able to find (this is supposed to be a social networking site, after all) none of this mattered when I discovered my arch-nemesis Randy had a Twitter page.  And it was unprotected.

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In just a few short minutes, the wealth of competitive information I was able to gather from Randy’s 30 or so ’Tweets’ was nothing short of astounding.  For starters, I know my recent decision to increase the marketing focus in his home city is working, because he used his Twitter account to complain about several lost local customers.  I also know what cities and organizations Randy is visting to promote his book release, and which industry experts helped him write it (I always suspected he wasn’t working alone).  But most importantly of all, I know that although Amazon.com says his new book will be released during the first week of April, Randy will never meet his deadline . . . because as of yesterday, he was still writing it.  Actually, he was technically still ‘editing’ it—which means the best he can hope to achieve on a release date is the week of April 20th.

With this single piece of knowledge, I now have a decision to make.  I can either time the announcement of my company’s book for a couple of days before Randy’s simply to be first to market (which I know would bruise his immense ego), or I can time the release of our book for the day after his, and make sure Randy and his company get less than their day in the sun.  Thank you, Twitter, for giving me choices I can work with.  After being a member of Twitter for less than 30 minutes, I was able to double (if not triple) my knowledge of my closest competitor.  And more importantly, I really didn’t work that hard for it.  Imagine what Randy must be revealing on his Facebook page . . .

With social networking sites, there is an implied barrier of confidentiality that really doesn’t exist.  In about half an hour, I was able to assemble a profile on the CEO of my company’s closest competitor.  And because I’ve been doing small company strategy for more than a decade and a half, I know how to use this information to either make money for my company, or simply push Randy’s buttons when I get bored.  If you are an owner, manager or executive at a small company in a competitive industry, you need to understand something: competitors are always watching what you do. If the social networking bug happens to bite you, be smart about what you post online—stick to the personal stuff, and lock your profile.


Social media: The pathway toward gaining competitive intelligence

23/09/2009

o smart b-to-b marketers use every available source of information to learn about developments in their competitive spaces? Not necessarily, according to a recent Hoover’s poll gauging our audience’s use of social media for gathering competitive intelligence.

The poll—which surveyed 314 marketers online in May—asked a simple question: “Does your business use social media for competitive intelligence?” It was heartening to learn that 33% of the more than 300 respondents chose the answer “Yes, we find valuable competitive information this way.” These pros grasp that people who care about their industries use blogs, Twitter, forums and other social media to talk about their companies, their competitors and the entire competitive space.

However, 21% of those polled answered, “We use social media, but not for competitive intelligence.” They’re missing that boat—but not by much. If they already use social media for marketing, customer support and the like, they’ll have an easy time setting up simple tools to deepen their understanding of their competitive space.

That opportunity only gets bigger for the additional 21% who said they didn’t use social media at all.

Even though the ROI of social media is sometimes tricky to measure, with each passing day more companies, including savvy b-to-b companies, are building better connections with customers and prospects through social media channels. Those just venturing into the social media sphere can build parallel processes for gathering competitive intelligence right from the start. In fact, it makes perfect sense to do so, since many of the best thinkers in social media say that the first thing a company should do with social media is to listen.

EAR TO THE GROUND

Good marketers, of course, above all listen to prospects and customers, but it’s easy to improve your company’s ability to listen to all the players in your competitive space, including your rivals and their customers, vendors, regulators, analysts, journalists, bloggers and other mavens who influence decisions.

Most worrisome are the last 25% of respondents in our survey. These folks answered our question about competitive intelligence with this response: “What is competitive intelligence?”

My hope is that they actually do monitor their industries but simply don’t call that process “competitive intelligence.” Some of them may also be small-business owners who are so in tune with their locality or niche that they don’t think of CI as a separate function. At least, I hope that explains it, because the alternative—that companies are simply ignoring the competitive arenas in which they operate—is frightening.

I got a similar fright earlier this year when I made a presentation on social media to a group of competitive-intelligence professionals. The average IQ and level of experience in the room were sky-high; but it was amazing how little most of these industry veterans had even experimented with social media tools, much less used them formally.

Are you in the same boat?

B-to-b marketers have a distinct advantage when it comes to social media, whether we’re using it to gather competitive intelligence or for prospecting. Since we typically deal with competitive spaces that are much smaller than the ones large retailers play in, we can carefully track the right audience of hundreds or thousands of prospects, rather than trying to keep up with millions.

SIMPLEST OF TOOLS

You can start the process with the simplest of free tools—saved searches from Google and Twitter Search that feed automatically into an RSS reader such as Google Reader. If you’ve resisted getting on the RSS train before, it’s time to hop on board. The technology takes maybe 20 minutes to learn, but it saves you so much time afterward that you won’t know how you lived without it.

Some of the social platforms, like LinkedIn, don’t work with RSS, but you can get around that by saving a list of industry-relevant searches in a text file and then using cut-and-paste to work through your list quickly during research sessions. Day in and day out, this setup will bring you vital information from both the “regular” Web and from the social media sphere, and this intelligence will clue you in to new prospects, new marketplace developments and even emerging competitive threats.

Give this method 20 minutes a day and you’ll be amazed at what you learn from the conversations people have in the social media about your company, your competitors and your market. (At some point, you may also want to consider such heavy-duty social media monitoring services as Radian6 or Crimson Hexagon.)


Valuable Customer Insights Via Search Engine Tools

23/09/2009

Valuable Customer Insights Via Search Engine Tools

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Tutte le strade del mondo

23/09/2009

Tutte le strade del mondo, conducono al cuore del guerriero: egli si immerge senza esistazioni nel fiume di passioni che scorre sempre attraverso la vita.

Il guerriero sa che è libero di scegliere cio’ che desidera: l dus decisioni sono prese con coraggio, distatto, e talvolta, con una certa dose di follia.

Accetta le proprie passioni, e le vive intensamente.

Sa che non è necessario rinunciare all’entusiamo delle conquiste: esse fanno parte della vita e ne gioisce con tutti coloro che ne partecipano.

Ma non perde mai di vista le cose durature e i solidi legami creati attraverso il tempo.

Un guerriero sa distinguere cio’ che è transitorio da cio’ che è definitivo.

courtesy of  Paul Coelho. Il Guerriero delle luce


il guerriero della Luce

22/09/2009

“Un guerriero della Luce non conta solo sulle proprie forze. Usa anche l’energia dell’avversario.

quando inizia il combattimento, tutto cio che possiede è l’entusiasmo, e i colpi che ha appreso durante l’addestramento.  A mano a mano che procede nella lotta,  scopre che l’entusiasmo e l’addestramento non sono sufficienti per vincere: è necessaria l’esperienza.

Allora egli apre il suo cuore all’Universo, e chiede a Dio di ispirarlo, affinchè ogni colpo del nemico diventi una lezione di difesa per lui.

I compagni commentanto: “com’è superstizioso. ha interrotto la lotta per pregare, e rispetta i trucchi dell’avversario.”

A queste provocazioni il guerriero non risponde. Sa che, senza ispirazione ed esperienze, non c’è addestramento che dia risultato.”

courtesy of “il guerriero della luce” di Paul Coelho


Telefonia aziendale: Avaya conquista il Quadrante ‘Leaders’ nello studio Magic Quadrant

21/09/2009
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