Digging for Business Intelligence: 10 Tips from K-9 Intern Kane

by | Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.” – RE:INVENTION K-9 Intern Kane

Yesterday morning, I vaguely recalled that I had buried a bone in the backyard, but I couldn’t remember where. I spent all day getting my paws dirty looking for it. My next door dog Spike was eager to dig too. He’s one tough poodle, but I was NOT about to let him find it before me. The long hunt reminded me of how important digging can be, especially when it comes to obtaining market intelligence and customer information.

Know what you’re looking for, sniff out what it is, and don’t give up until you find it.

When Spike started digging, I realized that I had backyard marketplace competition. If your competitors are sniffing out the same thing as you —- and they definitely will be — you cannot call it quits until you find your bone. Once you find it, you’ve gained competitive advantage. The best part of digging for something is that you will likely uncover a lot of other useful things on the way, like unexpected information or ideas.

All this digging inspired me to make a list of 10 tips for finding business intelligence online. You deserve a paw up when it comes to competing with your company’s equivalent of Spike.


  1. DETERMINE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. Whether it’s a bone, an idea or information, you need to know what it is. In an interview, military intelligence officer John Nolan warns that attempting to “find out everything you can about every competitor in the marketplace” is far less productive than honing in on one specific question or problem and understanding it fully.
  2. DECIDE ON A COLLECTION PLAN. I can only dig with my paws, but humans have a multitude of digging strategies they can use in order to discover information and implement plans. Mary Moody, the founder of my favorite dog food company, Stella & Chewy’s, established her business by carefully following her plan. She didn’t even have a car, so she was going to meetings all over New York City with dozens of boxes of dog food. Now it has been over 10 years and her company is thriving, just because she followed her digging plan.
  3. INVESTIGATE SOCIAL MEDIA. Look at Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, Glassdoor. This is another way to closely follow your competitors.
  4. USE ADVANCED SEARCH TECHNIQUES. Follow links from searches to create new searches, use Google’s Wonder Wheel to visually mindmap your Google searches. The founders of innovative Evermore Pet Food say that they “take a very creative approach to promoting [their] brand” and that they “follow every lead and make as many connections as possible.” They use guerrilla marketing campaigns in order to promote their brand.
  5. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE QUALITY OF PAID DATABASES. The best things in life are hardly ever free.
  6. DON’T IGNORE COMPETITOR WEBSITES. I’ll admit, I looked over a few times to see where Spike was digging, and I know that he did the same. It helps to see what the competition is doing and if they’re doing it well. William E. DeGenaro, a private investigator and business intelligence expert, encourages companies to monitor even the largest companies in your industry. Though you may not be directly competing with them, paying close attention to them could give you leads on potential subcontracting prospects.
  7. CONSIDER CROWDSOURCING PLATFORMS. Crowdsourcing platforms can help you get free insight from other people — it’s a better, more modern form of consumer research.
  8. THINK DIFFERENTLY. Look for things that seem odd or peculiar and find out why they seem that way. This can help spark innovation or inspire new ideas. JW Pet creates pet supplies through thinking outside of the box and really finding the pain points associated with supplies on the market, making them safer and more efficient for me to play with. JW Pet also uses a 3-D printing process for rapid prototyping, something we highlighted in a RE:INVENTION blog post not long ago.
  9. REMEMBER THAT HUMAN INTELLIGENCE BEATS MACHINE INTELLIGENCE… Hey–dog intelligence is up there too! Computers may be able to help you conduct your searches, but your mind is going to be better at interpreting the search results, especially when it comes to applying them to your own business.
  10. …BUT DON’T FORGET THAT GROUP INTELLIGENCE BEATS INDIVIDUAL INTELLIGENCE. I’ll admit that Spike and I would have found the bone much faster if we worked together (even though I did not want to share with him). Diversity in opinions and backgrounds can lead to even more innovative ways to interpret information. A team composed of individuals with varied yet complementary skill sets is fundamental in both finding competitive intelligence and establishing a powerful competitive advantage in your company’s industry. As Jason Cohen mentions in his Business Insider article “6 Real Competitive Advantages That No Other Company Can Copy,” the tech startup world is “littered with famous killer teams: Gates & Allen, Steve & Steve, Page & Brin, Fried & DHH.”

P.S. I finally found my bone when Spike took his afternoon siesta. Gosh darn delicious. Have a paw-some day!

– K-9 Intern Kane

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