What telegraphing can teach you about competitve intelligence / by Chel Wolverton

Recently, I've been given the opportunity to learn boxing at the hands of Mark Davis of Boston Martial Arts Center. It's the last sport I thought I'd jump into, excited to learn, and it's been helpful in terms of learning about focus and reaction. There's obviously a lot of training involved before entering any kind of ring, but one of the things boxing teaches is to look beyond the moment and at what's going to happen next.

In boxing, you "gather information" by watching your competitors moves. You can "see" when and where the next punch is if you learn to read in between the lines and adjustments of the body. Reading such is referred to in sports terms as telegraphing.

Reading telegraphs in boxing is an art form, a sign of being an expert. Pros spend thousands of hours learning how to read body language and part of the reason they win in the ring is their ability to read those signs and act on them effectively inside a split second.

How can you win at reading telegraphs in marketing to determine competitors next moves?

With the wealth of information being spread about in social media, our thoughts often turn to how we can share content using these tools and to engage with others in our area of expertise as it were.

How many times you heard about or seen a company set up Twitter searches, Tweetdeck listening panes, LinkedIN groups, or Facebook fan pages only to leave them to broken windows?

What's often left untapped is the ability to use the tools to gather information on what companies, especially competitors, will do next.

However, the real value is going beyond gathering information and analyzing it to figure out the best strategy for a counter against your competition. To provide actionable insights on what's next for your company.

People sometimes put the filters in place but aren't sure what to do with the information or are too narrowly focused on their own company's reputation to look beyond and see what the next moves are being telegraphed from competitors.  Once you learn to read the signs, then you can begin to plot your next moves.

(There are some GREAT paid tools for tracking out there. I won't mention a wealth of them but I will point you to a blog post on 8 Competitive Intelligence Data Sources by Avinash Kaushik. Also, Chris Penn build a listening dashboard to mimic Bloomberg on iGoogle which is a good example of how you can use iGoogle for absolutely free.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that once the tools are setup that you're finished. Someone in your company will need to contribute time daily to sort through the information to find the telegraphs.)

What are you doing to sort through the information that you're monitoring and how has it helped you make some strategic decisions on what your company's next best move is?

(A word of caution: All of this assumes that your company has it's house in order. Goals plotted, departments working together and customers happy. None of this will help if your company is failing at being organized and keeping it's customers.)