Learn from Your Competitors, Part I
(The Courage to Ask Questions Beyond the Comfort Zone)
The value that Competitive Intelligence research can provide is often determined and measured by the willingness of the researchers and decision-makers to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions, regardless of how disconcerting the findings may turn out to be.
Analyzing Competitor Sales & Marketing Efforts
When studying competitors in an industry sector, competitor value propositions are often the targets for competitive intelligence efforts. The effectiveness of this research is determined by the quality of the questions and the willingness to turn the questions on one’s own company. Here is an example:
Value Propositions by Competitor:
o Which market segments are being targeted?
o What are the key offerings?
o How is value being communicated to these market segments?
o Does the competitor deliver the value as promised?
o How many new clients has the competitor been able to gain through its offerings?
- How many of these were your clients?
- How many were clients of other competitors?
o Is their offering substantially better/worse than your company’s? In what ways is it different?
o If their offering is similar, is there something different in how it is presented or delivered or priced? Is this difference sustainable? Can your company equal or improve upon it?
o How many clients has the competitor lost within a given time period? (Client churn)
o Has their market share changed positively or negatively?
o Have their revenues and profits changed positively or negatively?
o Who are their suppliers and key business partners?
“Devalue” Propositions by Competitor:
o Does the competitor put down your company’s offering – whether or not your company is mentioned by name?
o What market segment is targeted with this tactic?
o How successful is this tactic?
o Are your company’s clients targeted with this tactic?
o If your clients are being targeted, what is their reaction?
- If it’s positive, has the competitor identified a weakness in your offering?
- What is the nature of this weakness: is it a material weakness in your company’s offering or is it based on a misunderstanding of your offering?
- How does this weakness impact your company?
- Can it be corrected quickly?
- What needs to be done to counter the competition’s actions?
- Does your offering need to be changed and what are the likely repercussions to such a change?
o How would a change impact your other clients?
o How would a change impact your sales, profits?
o Would a change in your offering require a redesign of your sales collateral?
o If the perceived weakness is based on a misunderstanding, what steps can be taken to reassure your clients and push back against the competitor’s sales tactics?
o How does your offering compare to those of competitors in your business sector?
o How does your offering compare to the “best of the best”, that is, how does your offering compare to those from different business sectors?
o How would upgrading your offering to match or exceed those of the other industries affect your company in terms of sales and profits?
- What are the costs to making such changes?
- How quickly can such changes come into effect?
- How would your offering change?
- How would your current and potential clients react to such changes?
In the example described above, it is obvious that most of the hardest questions are made after the discovery of a competitive threat. Ideally, any potential threat would be identified before a competitor starts to win clients at your company’s expense.
Here we have identified a rare quality that separates industry leaders from the rest: A willingness by an alert competitive intelligence researcher and client company to ask questions others prefer to avoid.