The more and better information you have about your competition and your market, the better decisions you can make and the more likely you are to be successful. Excellent commanders and business leaders are continually acquiring more and better information that they can use to improve the quality of their decisions affecting business operations. One piece of new and unexpected information can immediately change the competitive situation and alter your way of doing business. It can give you a unique advantage.
All business strategy is aimed at acquiring and keeping customers. The primary limitation on your ability to acquire and keep all the customers you want is the actions of your competitors, the same companies that are after the customers that you want yourself.
Know Your Competitors
The starting point of competitive intelligence gathering is for you to be absolutely clear about your ideal customer. You must know exactly what it is you sell and the person to whom you sell it. You must have carefully thought through the issues of specialization, differentiation, segmentation, concentration, and positioning. You must know and understand your market completely and keep adding to your storehouse of market knowledge.
Based on this information, who are your competitors? Who are the other individuals or organizations that are attempting to get the same dollar that you want from the same customer?
This question forces you to answer three questions: First, why should anybody buy your product at all? What are the primary values or benefits that a customer would be seeking if he were to be a qualified prospect for you or for anyone else selling a similar product?
The second question is: Once a customer has decided to buy the type of product or service you offer, why should that customer buy it from you? Just because the prospect is qualified to buy what you sell does not mean that the prospect will buy it from you or from your company. You have to be crystal clear as to why the prospect would choose you over any other organization or individual offering something similar.
The third question you must answer is: What is your area of excellence? What is your competitive advantage? What is it that your product or service offers a customer that makes it superior to any other competing product or service available? The answer to this question becomes the focal point of all your advertising, marketing, and sales efforts. It dictates the structure of your sales presentation and becomes the driving force of all your marketing activities.
The greater accuracy you can develop with regard to your competitors, the more capable you will be of planning an effective marketing strategy. A change in the definition of your competitor or your competitive advantage can actually change the entire focus of your business.
The Battle of Midway
The Japanese fleet under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was eager to destroy the American aircraft carriers that had escaped destruction at Pearl Harbor. In June 1942, the Japanese chose to attack the islands of Midway in the Central Pacific to draw out the American fleet. What Yamamoto did not know was that U.S. Navy code breakers had achieved a breakthrough, solving the Japanese fleet codes. This enabled Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to understand the exact Japanese plans as they were formulated.
For several weeks, American radio operators picked up various orders from Admiral Yamamoto to his various forces, preparing for the battle. When the battle began, Admiral Nimitz had reconstructed the Japanese plans in order of battle in considerable detail. The results were disastrous for the Japanese. The Americans sank four aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu, the entire strength of the task force, plus the heavy cruiser Mikuma. The Japanese lost 322 aircraft and over 5,000 sailors. The American losses included 147 air- craft and more than 300 seamen.
Many historians view Midway as the turning point in the Pacific War. This success was due to the combination of excellent military intelligence and superb American naval power.