Everyone is afraid of the CIA and for good reason, it’s scary stuff. It means there is someone in the shadows collecting data and analyzing information to identify your vulnerabilities and play upon your weaknesses – what’s not to fear?
Before you wrap your office in foil, consider why CIA, or competitive intelligence analysis, is a necessity in web based project management. Don’t worry this spy saga comes with a happy ending.
The Spies Who Love You
It is true, if you are good at what you do then people are watching you. As creepy as that sounds, it is actually a sign of success. Competitors look at the top ranking businesses to see what they do right.
- What customers tend to choose them and why?
- What are the similarities between the two companies?
- What are the differences?
- What strengths do they have and what are their weaknesses?
If you are on someone’s radar it means they admire your work and want to be you.
The Flip Side of Web Based Spying
It sounds kind of dirty, but CIA is really just good business. For agencies developing web projects, competitive intelligence analysis allows you to create a strategy that works and focus your thoughts in a way that pushes your client to the top.
Stephen H. Miller, Editor of Competitive Intelligence Magazine offers one of the better explanations – using CIA allows you to analyze your rival’s moves, so you can anticipate and leverage market developments, instead of reacting to them after the fact. It is a little like trading stock. You spend time analyzing the market before deciding to make an investment, because it gives you insight about the moneymakers.
What are the Best Spy Tools?
Finding the essentials for CIA depends somewhat on your project, but for web analysis, there are some basics.
- Toolbar Add-ons – Toolbars allow you to hide in plain sight. They offer the reader something functional, like a search tool or news, but in return, collect information about their browsing habits.
- Panels – This is where you ask customers nicely to let you spy on them. Participants agree to install software that analyzes their browsing behaviors for you.
It is worth mentioning that these two formats are less effective than they used to be, because search technology has evolved with programs like Ajax and Flash.
- ISP Data – Internet Service Providers collect data by the virtual ton and will share it with you for a price. Hitwise from Experian Marketing Services is an example of a service that provides ISP data.
- Search Engine Tools – One of the better sources of information, because it comes right from the horse’s mouth – think AdWords and the resources at Microsoft adCenter Labs.
Those are just a few of the options available for competitive intelligence analysis. It is a vast market, so do some research to find tools that fit your needs.
Is CIA legal? Of course it is, and just as importantly, it’s practical, because it tells you what you need to know to service your clients right. There is nothing shady about this CIA.
Darla F is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in helping agencies meet their goals by developing creative and engaging content.