The strategic rationale of competitor profiling is powerfully simple. Superior knowledge of rivals offers a legitimate source of competitive advantage. The raw material of competitive advantage consists of offering superior customer value in the firm’s chosen market. The definitive characteristic of customer value is the adjective, superior. Customer value is defined relative to rival offerings making competitor knowledge an intrinsic component of corporate strategy. Profiling facilitates this strategic objective in three important ways. First, profiling can reveal strategic weaknesses in rivals that the firm may exploit. Second, the proactive stance of competitor profiling will allow the firm to anticipate the strategic response of their rivals to the firm’s planned strategies, the strategies of other competing firms, and changes in the environment. Third, this proactive knowledge will give the firms strategic agility. Offensive strategy can be implemented more quickly in order to exploit opportunities and capitalize on strengths. Similarly, defensive strategy can be employed more deftly in order to counter the threat of rival firms from exploiting the firm’s own weaknesses.[2]
Clearly, those firms practicing systematic and advanced competitor profiling have a significant advantage. As such, a comprehensive profiling capability is rapidly becoming a core competence required for successful competition. An appropriate analogy is to consider this advantage as akin to having a good idea of the next move that your opponent in a chess match will make. By staying one move ahead, checkmate is one step closer. Indeed, as in chess, a good offense is the best defense in the game of business as well.[2]
A common technique is to create detailed profiles on each of your major competitors. These profiles give an in-depth description of the competitor’s background, finances, products, markets, facilities, personnel, and strategies. This involves:

Background

  • location of offices, plants, and online presencest
  • history – key personalities, dates, events, and trends
  • ownership, corporate governance, and organizational structure

Financials

  • P-E ratios, dividend policy, and profitability
  • various financial ratios, liquidity, and cash flow
  • profit growth profile; method of growth (organic or acquisitive)

Products

  • products offered, depth and breadth of product line, and product portfolio balance
  • new products developed, new product success rate, and R&D strengths
  • brands, strength of brand portfolio, brand loyalty and brand awareness
  • patents and licenses
  • quality control conformance
  • reverse engineering

Marketing

  • segments served, market shares, customer base, growth rate, and customer loyalty
  • promotional mix, promotional budgets, advertising themes, ad agency used, sales force success rate, online promotional strategy
  • distribution channels used (direct & indirect), exclusivity agreements, alliances, and geographical coverage
  • pricing, discounts, and allowances

Facilities

  • plant capacity, capacity utilization rate, age of plant, plant efficiency, capital investment
  • location, shipping logistics, and product mix by plant

Personnel

  • number of employees, key employees, and skill sets
  • strength of management, and management style
  • compensation, benefits, and employee morale & retention rates

Corporate and marketing strategies

  • objectives, mission statement, growth plans, acquisitions, and divestitures
  • marketing strategies