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What are the Information Hazards of Competitive Intelligence Information?

When you use competitive intelligence your goal is to gather information about your competitors that is accurate and relevant so that you can learn about them, their strengths, weaknesses, etc. and thus, address those in your own marketing efforts. Competitive intelligence information can give you a real edge over the competition, but only if you get good, complete, and accurate information. Incomplete or inaccurate information can do more harm than good.

The first thing to be wary of is that sometimes you think your information is good because you are getting the same information from several different sources. However, occasionally this is a false confirmation. The reason is that sometimes each of your sources got the same (inaccurate) information from the same source. If one of your sources got their data from one of your other sources, then you still really only have one source. Be wary of where the supplier of information got the information they are supplying before you trust it. You want to always have at least two sources for any information you get, as this will help insure that the information is correct, accurate, and has not been placed to mislead you.

Next, it is important to recognize that companies are aware that their competition may be doing a competitive analysis and thus may provide flawed, incomplete, or inaccurate information to throw them off. This can really hurt your competitive intelligence efforts, and can lead to decisions being made off inaccurate information. So, keep this in mind and be a skeptic. This ties back into the first advice to have at least two sources. It also helps if you are stealthy. Sometimes the best way to gather information is to do a stop by, order the product or service, or get their investment packet.

Another information hazard when it comes to competitive intelligence information is the occurrence of blowback. This is kind of like when you start a rumor, and the rumor gets back to you, but is changed, and so you believe it. Blowback may occur when the company's disinformation, which is generally directed at the competitor, blows back and ends up contaminating its own intelligence channels.Thus, gathered information will be inaccurate or incomplete as a result.

It can be hard to manipulate, but it is possible for your competitors to feed you misinformation in order to gain an edge. Because of this it is important when you are colleting your competitive intelligence that you know how accurate it is, and make allowances for error, inaccuracies, misinformation, etc. Sometimes doing the legwork yourself, rather than paying a source can be the best way to guarantee your information is accurate, and thus usable. Competitive intelligence gathering is a huge part of creating a good, accurate, and complete marketing plan, however, there are hazards, so being aware of them can help you avoid them.

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