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When You REALLY Need Competitive Intelligence

My colleagues and I frequently remark that there’s just something sexy about competitive intelligence to our clients. It is the most-requested type of project, and it generates more excitement and attention than many other types of intel initiatives. And while we caution that competitive intel alone is not the path to truth and enlightenment, there are definitely times when competitive intelligence is useful, even required. Below I’ve detailed three of my top reasons you’d want competitive intelligence.

Strategic Direction

Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial to building a sound long-term market strategy. Whenever you go into planning mode, you should be reviewing the information you have available on your competitors as part of your market analysis. If you see your landscape becoming more fragmented, with lots of smaller players entering the market, you’re going to face pressure to be faster, cheaper and more nimble. If you see a lot of acquisition and merger activity, you run the risk of quickly becoming the small player in the industry, struggling for market share while the behemoths enjoy brand awareness and the privileges of market leadership. Whatever your situation, you’ll make far better decisions with the information than without it.

Market Share Gain

You have determined your business is primed to steal share from a particular competitor. Your product and pricing is differentiated enough to entice buyers to switch, and for the brief period during which this is true, you convert as many customers as possible. You need competitive intelligence to determine which buyers are current customers of your target competitor. You need to make sure that you sales teams are equipped with as much information as possible to target their efforts the most effectively. Identifying “hot” targets, buyers currently working with your competitor, saves the sales teams time and energy. It also allows for very purposeful conversations, enabling the marketing and sales support teams to develop specific messaging and collateral to support those conquest prospects.

Sales Effectiveness

If you find you’re often invited to pitch, but losing the opportunity more frequently than feels right, you may want to look at how your competitors are showing up with prospects. This is particularly true if you are often losing to the same competitor. Your sales and marketing teams need to be armed with the insights about what it is that competitor is doing that’s resonating so well with the market. Do they have a superior product? Is their messaging more on point? Is their price point well below yours? Finding answers to these questions is critical so you can stem the flow of business to your competition. The interesting thing about this situation is how I would approach the problem. Unlike standard competitive intel, I wouldn’t focus on getting this information from the competitors themselves, but instead would use Win/Loss interviews to understand what clients and prospects experienced during the proposal process.
So there you have it, my top three applications for competitive intelligence. But before you rush out to gather all of this rich and robust intel on your competitors, I have two cautions for you. First, pay attention to the ethical and legal guidelines in gathering information on your competitors. Fuld has done a terrific job of laying this out.

Second, be sure your organization is truly prepared to act on the intelligence you’re bringing in. There is nothing more frustrating and devaluing than to collect great intel and have no one primed to do anything with it. Your management, marketing, and sales teams all need to be committed to leveraging the investment, and this is often much more challenging than collecting the intel itself.