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Competitive Intelligence

The granddaddy of all company information is Dun & Bradstreet (known as D&B). This well-respected company, in business since 1841, is a worldwide provider of business information and related decision-support services. At the core of D&B's business is a database that contains information on more than 62 million businesses from more than 200 countries. This information is available to you—at a fee, of course. But as a prime source for competitive information, D&B can't be beat.

Two other business intelligence sources to consider are Business.com and Fuld & Company. Business.com is a business search engine and directory, including company and industry profiles, news, financials, statistics, and most importantly, competitive analysis. Fuld & Company is the home of the Internet Intelligence Index, designed to help you gather competitive intelligence information on a wide variety of companies. It contains links to more than 600 intelligence-related Internet sites, covering everything from macroeconomic data to individual patent and stock quote information.

Then there's Hoover's, of course, whom I mentioned before. Hoover's Online is a treasure chest of valuable company information. Hoover's Industry Links organizes links to information for more than 25 major industries. Hoover's Industry Snapshot Index provides an overview of a variety of major industries with links to relevant sites in each area. And finally, Hoover's Industry Sectors offers detailed overviews and news articles on 28 industry sectors.

Finally, here are three very interesting and useful sites to keep tabs on your competition.

NetPeriscope is a competitive intelligence application service provider for online merchants. For a monthly fee, merchants can track competitor sites in real time. NetPeriscope can monitor content changes on competitors' sites and organize that information so that it's meaningful to you. For example, you can track individual products by SKU, ISBN, manufacturer, or part number on competitors' sites. You can run queries against on product availability, delivery options, and more. For a little more money, you can pay for a trend analysis over a period of time, tracking discounts, availability, or shipping patterns. A very useful competitive reconnaissance service.

And if you want information on what your competitors are doing in the area of promotions, MarketRelevance provides competitive intelligence tools to track your competitors' promotions and customer acquisition programs whether, they are direct mail or email solicitations. MarketRelevance receives hundreds of promotions, dates them, opens them, reads then, scans and stores them, and then categorizes them for your competitive intelligence needs. You can study pricing, frequency, and incentive use competitor by competitor or market by market.

Spyonit offers you a team of "spies" to snoop on your competitors. Okay, they're not human spies; they're bots that will troll the web on your behalf. Each bot has a specific function. For example, Usenet Newsgroups I & II will troll specific newsgroups of your choice for selected phrases, keywords, or usernames. Why? Because trolling newsgroups is a good way to find out who's saying what about you and your competition. Competitive Intelligence, which is a straightforward spy, will inform you when a company or person or thing you want to track has been mentioned on any web site within the last week. Best of all, these spies work for nothing—not even a martini that's "shaken, not stirred"—they're all free, and your information is delivered via your choice of email, a web-based Spyonit account, instant messager, or wireless device.

As you can see, by using the resources of the Net, your competitors can run but they can't hide. Used properly, these resources can give you a leg up on your competition.

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