Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a business function that works with a broad range of activities across the entire organization. Marketing, R&D, Sales, Manufacturing, Finance – all can benefit in specific ways from CI efforts. However, all CI is not the same, and different functions have different needs, and even within a function the CI needs can differ. To meet all these needs a CI program needs to be able to offer different services to its stakeholders.
The underlying foundation of all the different types of CI services is effective, accurate, primary and secondary research. Great decisions require great data. Without good data, all you end up with is garbage in, garbage out.
In the coming weeks we will explore these various services in more detail and discuss their research underpinnings, focusing on how to get the most out of each one:
Win/Loss Analysis. A Win/Loss program is a formal, systematic review process that evaluates deals to gather insight on the factors that contribute to the deal outcome. Win/Loss programs provide tactical and strategic sales, market, and competitor intelligence. One of the key elements in comparing a good Win/Loss program to a great one is the depth and richness of the interviews with the prospects. Skilled interviewers know how and when to probe, ask for specific examples, and get to the key criteria that contributed to the prospect’s decision. Too many Win/Loss programs skim the surface of insight and are more apt to “answer every question in the interview guide” than provide the most critical insights.
Competitor Assessments. Competitor Assessments provide a good way to conduct both deep dives as well as ongoing tracking of competitors. They are different from traditional competitor profiles because rather than taking a snapshot at a single point in time, a true Competitor Assessment is an ongoing, living and dynamic tool – companies don’t stand still, so CI shouldn’t either. Assessments generally have standard target areas (e.g., financial, value proposition, organizational, product development) but can also have specific areas for deeper focus.
War Gaming. War Gaming is used to anticipate competitor moves through role playing. In a typical war game, internal teams take on the persona of competitors and try to act like a specific competitor would in the face of changes in the market. All organizations know their competitors at some level, but effective War Gaming starts with detailed competitor briefing books that include everything from management profiles to structural analysis to R&D efforts and pipelines. The briefing book is the foundation on which teams predict competitor actions.
Scenario Planning. Scenario Planning anticipates and develops strategies to address specific potential futures. In a typical Scenario Planning event, internal teams work to develop company strategy options based on a group of scenarios and potential competitor actions. The key to a successful scenario planning event is to have a current and well-developed competitive landscape and market assessment to make up briefing books that frame the scenarios and guide the discussion.
Conference/Trade Show Coverage. Conferences and trade shows represent a unique and incredibly rich venue for information gathering. Many, if not all, key players are in the same place at the same time, and people tend to be more open to conversations. The key to effective conference coverage is a thought-out plan and set of objectives coupled with strong research capabilities. It’s too easy to approach a conference without a plan and a “catch as catch can” attitude – that approach inevitably leads to shoddy, inconsistent results and disappointed shareholders.