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Competitive Intelligence: Discover Your Competitors Business Strategy
How do find out about rival firms, their dealings and weaknesses? It doesn�t require hiring spies or engaging in corporate espionage. It just takes time and the appropriate resources to engage in competitive intelligence (CI). It isn�t hard to do and in fact, it may be a critical component of your professional future.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals describes CI as a �systematic and ethical program for gathering, analyzing and managing external information that can affect your company�s plans, decision and operations.� So what does this mean to a law firm? It is about understanding competitive and complementary firms, potential clients and industry trends so that you can make smart marketing decisions and ensure your share of legal dollars from a client�s legal budget. Law firms need to know what is happening around them in order to bring in new client business and survive.
Know Your Competitors
Competitive intelligence does require reading between the lines, but there is an amazing amount of potentially helpful information that can be easily mined from the internet. CI can start with news and basic research and evolve from there. A researcher can discover what a rival�s strategy is by watching for news stories regarding their business.
They can unearth information from their company website, marketing materials, creating and examining lists of publications from a law firm, their charitable contributions and advertisements. From all this, you can extrapolate their business strategy.
Know Your Potential Clients
A firm can also use this information to make better decisions about romancing new clients. Beyond looking at their website and directories, you can also review state business records, SEC filing of the company if it is public, obtain news about its executives and look for complaints and settlements that pertain to the company. You will get an idea of their needs and what their management is thinking.
If a company has kept the same legal council for the last decade, they may not be a smart place to expend effort in possibly doing business. However if this same company has a new CEO, perhaps they might be positioned to look to a new firm. If you notice a certain company changes law firms with the seasons, then they may be too much of a liability to pursue. All of this information can be discovered through competitive intelligence.
Stand by you Ethics
The one thing that competitive intelligence is not is unethical. CI does not involve dumpster diving or dealing in lies. It is not unlawful espionage. It should not be undercover work. Most of what a law firm needs to know is available publicly. What is not readily unearthed on the internet can often be found simply by making a few phone calls and asking the right people questions.
Most major corporations have CI experts on staff, but the legal business is slow to follow suit. Likely this is because CI work is not generally billable to clients and must be budgeted in elsewhere. However, these days the competition is stiff and payoff can be huge, so adding competition intelligence to your firm�s work may be worth adding into the budget.
A great way source of competitive intelligence is seeing the legal documents your competitors or companies in similar industries are drafting. You can search over 10 million legal documents and clauses for free at RealDealDocs.
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