What Is Your Competitor Up To? Obvious and Little-known Research Techniques
Occasionally a story appears in the media that’s out of Jimmy Breslin’s classic novel (and later a film) “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
Three goofballs tried to sell Coca-Cola Co. trade secrets to PepsiCo. Inc., and Pepsi alerted the feds. It’s a delicious tale of an FBI sting, $30,000 cash stuffed in a Girl Scout cookie box and a test tube containing a sample of a new Coke drink. This emphatically is NOT the way to do corporate research.
At the end of this story are links to The New York Times and Washington Post accounts of this nutty saga. They may require (free) registration.
On the same day this story broke, reader Lee Simonson e-mailed me with a revolutionary idea on how to do research on a competitor.
I wrote Lee a long e-mail saying the idea was a start, but a lot of other techniques existed. He wrote back saying, “Please feel free to incorporate the concept with anything else you have cooking. It’s a story that has to be told.”
“Always see a salesperson once,” said my first mentor in business, publisher Franklin Watts.
In his e-mail to me, Lee Simonson echoed those sentiments. A CEO is a fool not to talk to “the salesperson on the phone or sitting in his office—the SAME person who just saw his two main competitors and knows every bit of news and trends happening in the CEO’s market. Rather than a treating the salesperson as a nuisance, the CEO should be doing the opposite—picking his brain for every ounce of competitive intelligence!”
When an employee departs from a company, the first people contacted about a possible position may be competitors. It matters not whether a non-compete agreement is in play. See the person and do some serious brain-picking. Sitting before you may be someone who is bitter, angry and talkative. You are under no obligation to hire.