Going Beyond the Basics: How Leveraging a CI Vendor Can Support CI Unit Growth

Competitive intelligence, strategy, and market intelligence leaders across all industries feel the same pressures:

  • The pressure to demonstrate the value of their CI function and grow it
  • The pressure to regularly return actionable insights while still being nimble enough to act on breaking news
  • The pressure to effectively drive change within their organizations

These pressures are further aggravated by an expectation to do more with less, delivery more timely insights, and engage with multiple groups in the organization.

For the past five years, Fletcher/CSI has surveyed CI leader, who have shared their units’ strengths, weaknesses, and organizational details. As we end 2018, Fletcher/CSI conducted in-depth interviews to better understand CI units’ reported effectiveness and common struggles, obstacles and roadblocks. The results highlighted three common areas which impacted CI units’ effectiveness including:

  • CI units’ lack of sufficient human resources to handle all CI needs (75% of respondents)
  • CI units’ lack of visibility or value in the organization (50% of respondents)
  • Too few options to improve efficiency via software, databases, or syndicated tools (38% of respondents)

While budgetary constraints impact most of these issues, many respondents indicated they had available budget for vendor support, yet had not truly considered using a vendor. Common reasons included:

  • “The vendor lacks expertise in my space.”
  • “Vendors are too expensive.”
  • “I do not have time to properly develop a vendor relationship.”
  • “I’ve been burned by vendors in the past.”

Despite these objections, vendor support can and should be used to overcome all three causes of CI ineffectiveness. Vendor support can drive increased value and rationalize expanded budgets

Problem: Lack of sufficient human resources to handle all CI needs

  • Details: Competitor monitoring, weekly newsletters, and regular workstreams can be disrupted by unplanned ad-hoc requests. CI units must act quickly, often scrambling to gather information that addresses the issue. This time crunch reduces the unit’s ability to add highly-valued analysis and daily CI monitoring activities may suffer.

Vendor Solution: Primary intelligence retainer

  • Benefits: After vetting vendors by industry expertise, tenure in the space, and analyst backgrounds, a CI unit can confidently treat vendors as an extension of its own team. Vendor units with expertise in specific industries typically possess networks of intelligence and can move quickly on requests. This frees up your CI team to complete analysis and maintain daily routines. A lower cost “pilot period” retainer at the onset of the relationship can be used to build the relationship with the vendor, lowering risk for the CI unit. From our experience, success often sparks internal support and drive increased budgets for future engagements.

Problem: Lack of visibility or value in the organization

  • Details: Access to decision makers throughout any company is important. However, too often CI units are limited engaging senior leadership only after a trigger event. This leads to CI units being viewed as short-term “go fetch” functions and their ability to add analysis and value to their work is undervalued.

Vendor Solution: Organize and execute a strategy workshop

  • Benefits: Strategy workshops structured as half day to multi-day events create opportunities for senior brand, sales, marketing, and executive leaders to meet. When facilitated by the CI department and supported by vendors’ expertise, these events showcase the CI team as a strategic partner. Using real scenarios in which the CI unit can demonstrate its ability to guide strategic direction to senior leaders increases the interest and overall value of the event.

Problem: Too few options to improve efficiency via software, databases, or syndicated tools

  • Details: To bridge the gap of too few resources or spreading the CI unit thin, many CI units add software or other syndicated databases to augment their research capabilities. While most are positioned as time savers, many have a lengthy onboarding period and only increase efficiency on the margins . Further, as with all secondary data, all competitors have access to, and can receive the same findings, which does not create a competitive advantage.

Vendor Solution: Institute a win/loss program  supported with primary research

  • Benefits: Enterprise-wide win/loss programs present an opportunity to gather and store intelligence unique to your company, your sales process, and your pricing model. These insights often include experiences regarding competitor sales teams and market positioning. Experienced vendors not only capture in-depth details but will also provide access to their database to manage deal reports and overall analysis. Augmenting the Win/Loss with targeted primary research allows allows the CI unit to target specific competitors and collect insights that are not available though secondary sources.

Even the largest institutions with the most advanced CI units encounter these issues. However, engaging a trusted CI vendor at reasonable cost can alleviate these issues and increase overall CI unit effectiveness. Vendors with expertise in your field will support your agenda and offer a candid view of your strategy to assure you and your CI team that you are on the right course.

To learn more about how Fletcher/CSI can support your CI needs as a trusted partner, please contact one of our industry specialists:

Patrick Sturgeon, VP Sales Consumer & Industrial Goods [email protected]

Cinda Steels, VP Sales, Life Sciences [email protected]

Mark Gigliotti, VP Sales, Technology; [email protected]

Erik Glitman, CEO and Sales, Finance and Insurance: [email protected]