Last month I blogged about “5 Tactics to Research Your Marketplace using Competitive Intelligence Skills” originally published by Adam Sutton of MarketingSherpa. As promised, I am focusing on each tactic. This week’s is #4.
Tactic #4 Build an information database
I look at building two databases: one as a repository of data that you gather on the competitive environment either through daily monitoring or analytical reports which can include material that is externally generated such competitor data, industry reports, relevant articles, regulatory trends, technology trends, distribution channel news, financial reports and relevant economic news as well as internal reports such as competitor profiles, win loss analysis, trade show analysis, product plans, strategic plans, technical assessments, wargame results, scenario planning results…all the material that you need at your finger tips for those quick turnaround projects as well as to detect patterns in the marketplace that make you pause, stand back and say “ah ha, something is up” or “something doesn’t look right”.
When selecting a software solution, you need to keep in mind the technology your company is already using, and piggyback off something that already exists, such as salesforce.com to get the scoop from Sales. Perhaps PR uses software for delivery of the news, which you can extend off of. Perhaps your industry relations folks get financial reports from Thomson, which you can build from. Get a grasp of what’s already out there and build rapport with your IT people since you will need to work closely with them for installation, depending on the size and complexity of your software solution. There are competitive intelligence software providers you might consider: I have a partial list here.
There are a few things I look for when building an information database for competitive intelligence other that installation and cost!
1. How easy is it to browse and find what you’re looking for?
2. How easy is it to update the system and refresh the data? How much time and expense do you need to factor in for updating? Many people underestimate both, so the system becomes outdated quickly and loses credibility with users for obvious reasons.
3. Is there a process to delete data when it becomes outdated?
4. How will the system maintained?
5. What are your security considerations around a software system?
6. Who will you allow to make changes to the system?
7. How will you control the integrity of the data?
8. How will you encourage people to make contributions?
A contact database is the second type of database and is crucial for competitive intelligence personnel and anyone who does research. This database contains contacts both internal and external to your company who are great sources of information about your industry, the marketplace, the competition… Mine is organized by skill set, and how and where I met each person. Perhaps your company’s directory lets you do this: you still need to connect with external contacts continuously to keep from being blindsided.
Quick access to people and information greatly speeds up your research timeline! I also keep track of my projects through my contact database, and specific topics my clients have queried about. That way when I find cool stuff, I can quickly sort those people who are interested in this topic, and communicate with them directly. Clients appreciate this since I don’t send them irrelevant stuff, but rather build on what they’ve asked for in the past. This promotes cooperative intelligence since it’s cooperative communication. I like to use ACT! http://www.act.com/ for my contact database although there are plenty of options: just pick one and learn how to use it!
Social media has opened up ways to connect and be found. I also use Twitter’s Tweetdeck to sort comments by the category where they’re an expert, which I perceive as another form of connection. LinkedIn groups are another great source of connections by subject matter expertise. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search option.