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22.07.2021

Difference Between Competitive Intelligence and Corporate Espionage

Competitive intelligence is an essential part of your business marketing research plan for striving in the market and staying ahead of your rivals. The benefits of competitive analysis are quite clear, but how do you make sure you’re not doing something unethical or even unlawful?

In this blog post, we will try to describe the main difference is between competitive intelligence and corporate espionage.

GAINING COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE IS EASIER THAN EVER

So what is competitive intelligence if it is essential to your business? It is essentially the identification, collection and 'ethical' analysis of your company's competitors. Some call it competitive analysis, business intelligence, corporate intelligence or even industry intelligence.

In today's market, being one step ahead of your competitors can have a major impact on your company's bottom line. Many companies have been able to do better and come up with creative and innovative plans, products and services by learning about their competitors' next step and their business techniques.

Today, competitive analysis has never been easier or more important. In the past, gathering information about a company's rival was difficult and often led to illegal actions. But today, open company data, available online for everyone, has broken down many barriers.

To gain more customers, companies publish a lot of information on the Internet and even send out regular press releases. Customer reviews are made public. All this has made it easier to conduct competitive analyses.

COLLECTING INFORMATION ≠ ESPIONAGE

As a Competitive Intelligence Professional or a business trying to perform an ethical competitive intelligence, you can follow a strict code of ethics formulated by the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) lest you fall into performing the dark side of competitive intelligence, which is known as “espionage”.

WHAT NOT TO DO? 

This brings us into what corporate espionage is: it is simply the illegal side of competitive intelligence. This is when you decide to get your rivals’ information without granted or public access. 

  • Pretending to be a staff and stealing confidential information is undoubtedly espionage. Unauthorized hacking into another corporation’s computer system is nothing but espionage and they do not conform to competitive analysis ethics. 
  • Researching about your rival with the intention of tarnishing their reputation based on the knowledge you have about them isn’t a cool practice. Instead, research to find ways to better your own corporation. 
  • The aforementioned are, of course, not the only illegal practices. Blackmail, bribery and patent infringement also fall under corporate espionage.

DON’T FORGET GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might also affect your ability to gain information. Most information within a competitive analysis, will of course be about your competitor. However, when you’re trying to understand key influencers or find information about investors, founders or employees, you need to be more careful. 

IT’S SIMPLE

Don’t let the fear of corporate espionage or unethical activity stand in your way. Doing an extensive analysis of your competitors is (or at least should be) part of every business’s strategy. As long as you gain information with a clear conscience while following the law, there is nothing unethical or unlawful about it.

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