5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills

Recently I was interviewed by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa, and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence I am sharing some highlights. The full article is available, and note Marketing Sherpa is chock full of marketing information, studies, white papers and current articles like this one. I will summarize each of the five tactics, and then blog on each of them individually this month.

Tactic #1 Conduct win loss analysis
Interview new customers and prospects you lost to the competition. Your goal is to uncover the motivations behind their decisions and to learn whatever great information they impart to help improve product development, tweak your existing products or service, change your marketing message, learn how your competitors are successfully unseating you and so much more.

I recommend you conduct these interviews in cooperation with your sales force, rather than behind their back. Building trust with Sales is the biggest reason to include them as part of the win loss analysis process. Sales can save you so much time by telling you how the people you’re going to interview are motivated to share. Wow, that reason alone is enough to work with Sales.

Tactic#2 Talk to internal and external experts
Use a cooperative approach when connecting with internal and external experts. People inside your company tend to know a lot about your industry and can connect you with external contacts who might be helpful. Be sure to thank your experts and send them information you come across that they might find helpful. This two way communication and connection is invaluable to your knowledge pool.

Tactic #3 Use trade shows as fact-finding missions
Trades shows are the biggest Meccas for competitive intelligence. No where are there more people who want to share their knowledge and insight with you: industry experts, prospects, competitors and journalists.

Do your homework: Prepare a game plan before the conference. Study the exhibitor floor plan and all the presentations and decide how best to use your time and write out the questions you will ask to the various audiences.  Keep the plan rough as you’ll need to be flexible since you’ll need to jump on opportunities as they arise, which you can’t predict.

Be observant. Most people think about gathering competitive intelligence from competitor’s exhibit areas and formal presentations, but sometimes the best intelligence is gathered at informal settings such as the conference coffee shops, the conference hotel cafe, the elevator, cocktail parties, the bus ride to the airport, even in the airplane.

Tactic #4 Build an information database
Build a database for all the information you have on the competition and the marketplace that can easily be browsed and that is easily kept up-to-date. Also build a database of contacts both internal and external to your company who are great sources of information about your industry, the marketplace, the competition…and make this sortable as well! This quick access to contacts and information greatly speeds up your research timeline!

Tactic #5 Remain ethical and avoid deception
Make sure anyone you use to collect information is operating under the same ethical standards as held by your company. Check out SCIP’s website for its code of ethics.

Learn more about competitive intelligence

Win/Loss Analysis bookAmazon link to Win/Loss Analysis book

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5 thoughts on “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills”

  1. I have always been a firm believer in competitive intelligence. The gathering of it has never been a problem. The difficulty is in assembling it in a usable fashion that is actionable. Do you have any suggestions on doing an effective competitive analysis? Thanks.

  2. You’re right and this article focused just on the collection aspects of CI since it was based on a workshop I gave on elicitation and the likes at an AMA workshop. I think the best way to think about assembling what you have collected is to think about the audience you are delivering the actionable intelligence to. In some cases, no analytical tool is needed. In other cases, you might want to use the Boston Consulting Group’s model to show how the various market players share of market is changing, for example. I think what is the most persuasive way to express my findings that my audience will clearly understand.

    There are 3 books I recommend on competitive analysis: the quickest and simplest is: “Analyst’s Cookbook” by Kristan J. Wheaton of Mercyhurst College known for its competitive intelligence program. The other two books I use as reference for a whole slew of competitive intelligence tools and techniques: “Strategic & Competitive Analysis” and “Business & Competitive Analysis” both by Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan.

    If you want tippers on how to deliver effective competitive analysis, then I recommend my article on cooperative intelligence http://www.thecisource.com/pdfs/CooperativeIntelligence2006.pdf.

    Hope this helps you.

    Ellen Naylor

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