“Knowledge has become the key economic resource and the dominant, if not the only, source of competitive advantage.” – Peter F. Drucker
Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year participating in industry conferences, trade shows, and seminars. While your company may be maximizing your sales efforts at these events, a conference or trade show may be the single best place to collect market and business information that can be developed into competitive intelligence. Because industry players – competitors, suppliers, customers, regulators, potential partners, gurus – are all gathered in one location, you can learn about customer needs, emerging technologies, government directions, competitor plans, how to compete in specific markets, and more at a fraction of the cost of traditional research methods.
“If there’s a more ‘target-rich environment’ for the collection of competitive information, I’ve never seen one.” – John Nolan
Making the most of each intelligence gathering event requires careful planning and preparation whether attending as a team or going solo. Working smart at the show requires focus, organization, and seizing opportunities. Determining if a particular conversation is elicitation or merely an innocent question can be very difficult to tell. Ultimately, it makes no difference in one’s need to be cautious and aware of what can and cannot be said. Working the show smart means being aware that competitors are as interested in you as you are in them.
In upcoming blog posts, I’ll cover Key Intelligence Topics (KITs), Rules of the Game, The Interview – Art & Science, and Protecting the “Family Jewels” While Scouting the Competition.
Northwestern University Athletics is using Facebook to poll fans on its basketball court redesign. Most of the responding fans are voting for an all-purple court (NU’s colors are purple and white.) It is hard to imagine traditionalists and players seeing this as an advantage. Viewed on ESPN it would probably seem to many as the visual equivalent of the vuvuzela. Is this a smart way to use social media to engage fans, to generate interest and obtain feedback? On Facebook, the crowd is self-selective. With just 200 “likes” on the Facebook page (out of hundreds of thousands of actual fans and paying spectators), outliers with the largest megaphones can drive buzz and appear to sway opinion, just like one spooked cow can start a stampede.
The advantages of a representative sample are well-known. So how can we crowd-sample? Here are a few firms that find the “right crowd.”
- Trada builds specialized crowds that help companies create and improve ad campaigns on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- The University of Oxford hired Chaordix to create a custom-made crowd to help them brainstorm ways to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries.
- To tap expertise outside the company, Medtronic relies on Innocentive, which offers “challenge driven innovation”. Companies anonymously describe technical challenges to which members of a “global community” submit bids. A company then decides whether to option the proffered solution.
- Big Idea Group’s Insight Clubs are private, online consumer communities of 50 to 300 members focused on uncovering innovation opportunities in products, services and marketing for its clients.
Experiments show the “social influence effect” causes us to adjust our thinking to the feedback of the crowd by mindlessly imitating each other. As we become increasingly networked, the vocal crowd seems to speak for the group, yet may mean less. It is important to know how the “crowd” fits in with the rest of a population or community, or you could end up with a purple people eater.
Could crowdsourcing be a viable alternative to a focus group?Read More
In a short four part blog we will discuss how crowdsourcing can be a part of an overall plan to foster technological advancement, design products, research markets and sell to consumers.Read More