What can NASA teach you about building a competitive intelligence program? A lot more than you’d think.

In the 1950’s, the Space Race was dominated by two players – the U.S. and Russia – who competed neck and neck for dominance in space exploration. Eventually, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and for decades since America’s held the title as the victor in the Space Race.

Well, things are changing. What began as an exploration into a new frontier by two superpowers carved a path for a booming market in commercial and military satellites. The demand for which has grown so much that it’s attracted new entrants and inspired countries like India and China to aggressively pursue their own space programs for exploration and military purposes as well as commercial interests.

A Brief History of Space Exploration
(Graphic by inosaint via Visually.)

These new competitors have quickly become emerging threats; leapfrogging advancements made by their predecessors at a rapid pace. The most recent example of this is India, who was able to launch over 100 satellites on a single rocket; obliterating Russia’s previously held record of 37.

 

NASA's competitive intelligence program

 

Long-dominating superpowers are faced with a growing number of competitors at their throats who are quickly iterating, under-cutting their margins (by up to 70% cheaper according to some estimates), and threatening to grab market share with their next move. What used to be a market with enormous barriers to entry has been democratized through technology advancements.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. This same story is happening everywhere. Small and nimble new competitors emerge, quickly proving their ability to take down established companies. Uber and the taxi industry. Fintech startups threatening big banks. The list goes on.

 

Barriers to entry continue to drop with advancements in technology

Cognizant wrote a great post explaining how technology is lowering barriers to entry. Undoubtedly the internet has democratized knowledge and reduced the costs to reach new customers. Cheaper IT infrastructure and more access to capital has made it easier to start a company in fast-growing markets.

 

An explosion of new entrants to market means more competitors to track

Martech is the greatest example of an explosive competitive space. Over the course of 6 years, 150 martech SaaS companies has grown to over 5000. Imagine trying to track your competitive landscape when every time you blink more entrants have entered your market to undercut your margins and steal your customers.

Another challenge with having this many competitors in your space is trying to figure out your positioning strategy. How do you uniquely stand out and differentiate yourself in a market that’s so congested?

martech competitive landscape - explaining the need for a competitive intelligence program

 

Faster pace of iteration and innovation

The clock speed of companies (time to market and the corresponding rate of change) has increased by 3-5x in the last ten years. Not only are there more competitors to track, but they change at a faster pace than ever before, making it even more difficult to enable your sales teams to compete against an ever-changing set of products, features, and positioning strategies.

 

Has your competitive intelligence approach developed at pace with your competitive environment?

If NASA – the decades-long leader in space exploration – needs to be concerned about their competitors usurping their position in space dominance, it’s fair to say we all might need to up our competitive game. Staying on top – and a step ahead – of competitors with a modern approach to competitive intelligence is fast-becoming more than just a nice to have; it’s a requirement for survival.

 

You need a modern competitive intelligence program

To help tackle the challenge of modernizing competitive intelligence programs to keep pace with your market, we’ve launched a Competitive Intelligence Expert Series, to provide best practices for creating a high-performing competitive intelligence program. We’ll be sharing in-depth advice, examples, and best practices from industry leaders (and market share killers) on every aspect of building your CI program. Subscribe to series to receive competitive intelligence resources direct to your inbox.

Competitive Intelligence Expert Series: Resources and templates on how to build a competitive intelligence program