Needles and Haystacks: How to Find the Right Knowledge


Business leaders historically considered knowledge power, especially when it came to learning about a competitors’ strategies, new products, and future intentions.  But is knowledge ubiquitously powerful in providing a competitive edge today?  After all, we live in a vastly interconnected world – and one where it is increasingly easy to know tremendous amounts of data about everything.  Press releases, social media posts, wikis, blogs, books, news outlets and company websites offer an optic on countless subjects.  Information is important, but there is so much of it!  And what data would actually provide your company a competitive advantage over rivals?
The answer is it depends.  Maybe one news story or press release would impact your competitive advantage.  However, more likely these general resources will not give your business an edge. There is too much available and most is too broad or specific.  So how can you find the information you actually need to succeed?

Steps to Finding the Best Knowledge:

First you must decide what it is you want to know.  This may seem like an evident first step, but a clear, tailored question is essential to gather competitive intelligence.  Determining the question can occur a few ways.  You might consider what keeps you up at night.  Is it a competitor’s product quality will supersede your own?  Is it you will lose an important broker?  Is it your margins are razor thin and a price change would put you out of business?  You might also consider what you want to see realized in a product or service.  Is it a better technology?  Faster or more accurate outcomes?  Integration with a complementary service? These inquires will help determine what you should be asking to gain a competitive advantage.

Next you must determine who can answer these questions.  Fortunately, the people who can help already work for your company!  Leveraging the insights of your staff and contract community can be an amazing resource!  They have industry knowledge.  They have a network of suppliers, customers and vendors who they interact with every day.  And like you, they have questions which may keep them up at night, as well as valuable ideas based on their daily interactions with your company’s external stakeholders.

Communication Tips:

It is important to share your questions – or gaps – with your company community and encourage them to gather competitive intelligence.  Salesforce members talk to clients.  Purchasers talk to suppliers and logistics contacts.  Customer support staff talk to users.  Technical support troubleshoot with database and network management professionals.  Involve everyone and empower everyone to be part of the source team.  Remember employees’ access is not limited to just work at your company.  Consider their former employers, friends, and other folks they interact with who have unique or constructive insight.

Develop a roster of outsiders positioned to know what your competition is doing – these could include conference organizers, former or current clients, third party vendors, headhunters or contractors.  Seek out opportunities to talk directly to these sources or leverage your staff to engage them during the course of work.  Welcome their personal thoughts, experiences and observations about the market and its evolution – and their impressions on how the competition is either helping or hindering it.

Bottom Line:

Knowledge can be power, but only if you identify and use it the right way.  Determining the exact data you want and turning it into solid and productive decisions for you and your company is key.  Thankfully you will not be alone, as gaining a competitive advantage is a team sport at its best.

Author section


Stephanie Grey is a Digital Marketing Manager overseeing search marketing for Adapt Intelligence. She has spent eight years developing and implementing campaigns in management consulting and technology services, and consultants with Charlotte small businesses on ways to attract more customers online.

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