The Secret to Outpacing Your Rival? Competitive Insights.

When United Airlines announced its new “basic economy” class, the option was an obvious attempt to tap into a different market: budget airline passengers. The deal? In exchange for low-cost fares, the carrier asks customers to give up frills such as pre-select seating and carry-on items other than a purse or a bag.

Related: 10 Ways Competition Helps You Win in Business

Only time will tell if the budget-friendly ticket option provides United some much-needed growth by allowing it to successfully compete with discount airlines. The worst-case scenario: The option might cannibalize United’s own higher-priced fares.

And then, of course, the option could come across as just another bid to nickel-and-dime passengers for “standard” amenities — but that’s a story for a different day.

The message for entrepreneurs in United’s move for entrepreneurs is this: We’re here to innovate, and the only way to do this is to let competitors push us. The overall message? Free-market economies prosper only because survival of the fittest brings out the best in all of us.

In short, using the competition’s moves to drive your own innovation is a lot different from reacting to what the opposition does. After all, winners set the pace — not the other way around, as with United’s reactive new fare class. If you want to stay ahead, it’s all about keeping the competition in your rearview mirror.

A lot thrown at you

Most entrepreneurs are drowning in information, and monitoring what’s going on is easier said than done. Until recently, getting information on competitors could be a huge pain, especially for marketing and product teams, who did all the heavy lifting. Now, you can access online tools to help distinguish the signal from the noise.

Next, once you have the information and the data you need, trying to glean insights from it can be intimidating. Many companies take quarterly deep dives, but that’s three months of information to sift through. Wouldn’t a better solution be to keep your finger on the pulse with daily tidbits of competitive intelligence?

You know the comings and goings of your industry colleagues. You notice when they veer off the road, stop for gas or blow a tire, and at those points you can learn from their escapades — without ever feeling the need to react to their every move.

It’s competitive insights like those that will provide you the opportunity to outpace the competition.

Related: 3 Enterprise Business Intelligence Trends That Can Benefit Your Business

Take it in — then dish it out.

Research by Boston University’s Computer Information Services (CIS) program found that 54 percent of professionals surveyed felt their companies would be more competitive if they used analytics to make decisions. But insights on your competition will do you no good until you know how to use them. The following is often a good place to start:

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