Maintaining a well structured file on each competitor is essential. It enables new information to be systematically collected and provides a standardised set of information which is accessible to the full team. It can be useful to combine a physical file with a database. Below are some suggested section headings for the file (you may think of others):
Who runs the company and what background do they have? Who have they managed before and what strategies have they adopted? Basic data available from Companies House.
Accounts / finances
Basic accounts from Companies House. Who are the main shareholders? Are they growing?
Adverts and brochures
How do they position their products and what USPs do they promote? How frequently do they develop and launch new products? Which areas of the business do they see as strengths?
All companies make press releases on recent business activities. They can provide a rich picture of the background to the company. Note who writes the pieces and whether there is indication of staff turnover.
Trade show details
Which shows do they attend? Describe their stand? Which products were on show? How much interest was there? Take photos if possible. Summarise any conversations
Technical papers / patents
Be aware of technical publications which might indicate research activity and interests. Collect copies of their patents. How frequently are they registering patents?
Draw some basic conclusions about their likely strategy and business position. Keep this up to date.