For many marketers the final external force is the one most relevant to immediate day-to-day decision making. While the other external forces we’ve discussed tend to be examined periodically (or in some cases rarely), monitoring competitor activity is often a daily undertaking.

Monitoring competitors can serve several goals:

Competitors as Threats

The most obvious reason to monitor the competition is to see how they are responding in the same markets in which the marketer operates. Many larger companies recognize the importance of keeping tabs on their competition and create specific positions or even departments that focus on gathering and analyzing competitor data. These competitive intelligence programs mainly employ high-tech methods, and principally the Internet, to locate information about competitors such as news reports, government filings (e.g., patents, stock reports) and changes to competitors’ websites. Even small sized marketers can more easily track competitor actions. For instance, there are several news and information services that will alert a marketer (usually via email) when a competitor is mentioned in the news.

Competitors as Partners

While many may consider competitors as representing the enemy, there are situations where competitors can present opportunities. This happens often to large companies that offer a broad product line serving many target markets. In some markets a company may compete aggressively with another firm but in other markets both firms may be lagging and it may make more sense for both to work together. This can be seen in the computer industry where Apple Inc., which for many years viewed computers built with Intel processors as competitors since these run Microsoft operating systems, has now accepted Intel processors and is building computers powered by this chip.

Competitors of Tomorrow

In many industries and, in particular, those in technology-focused industries where there is heavy emphasis on research and development, the most dangerous competitors are the ones that have yet to emerge. Because technology-dependent industries, such as computers, consumer electronic and pharmaceuticals, rely heavily on innovative new products, serious competitors can emerge quickly from what seems to be out of nowhere. For instance, the evolution of online video and its impact on the news and entertainment industry grew very rapidly with the introduction of online video services (e.g., YouTube) which was previously an unknown project developed in a garage. However, in less than 18 months it came to dominate the online video industry.

Innovation in Marketing