Ever wondered how to harness the power of competitive intelligence (CI) to give your business a competitive advantage? Look no further.
As the Senior Strategy and Market Intelligence Manager at Egencia, a tech company in the business travel space, I've navigated the intricate world of CI and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
Being the sole market and competitive intelligence specialist in a company of over 4,000 employees has its challenges, but it's also filled with opportunities to drive impactful change.
In this article, I'll be sharing insights and strategies that have shaped Egencia’s approach to CI. Here's a sneak peek at what we'll cover:
- Choosing the right CI sources.
- Securing stakeholder buy-in for your CI program.
- How to boost win rates against your top competitors.
- How to run tactical combat sessions that resonate.
- Tips and tricks for sharing your insights.
Join me as I delve into these topics, and share success stories and lessons learned from my journey in the competitive intelligence realm.
Choosing the right competitive intelligence sources
The best competitive intelligence (CI) sources for your company largely depend on the nature of your project and the specific data you're after.
When embarking on any data-gathering project, the first step is to clearly define your objectives.
Primary intelligence can be gathered by diving into tools like Salesforce to gather feedback from sales reps. If they've gone head-to-head with a competitor, they’ll probably have some valuable insights from prospects or customers.
Meanwhile, help centers can be incredibly handy secondary sources. Since most of them are open to the public, you can easily explore the latest enhancements and tools they're rolling out.
If you're using an aggregator or competitive intelligence platform, it’s even more straightforward. These tools centralize information, making it easier to understand what competitors are up to.
Securing buy-in from stakeholders
To get buy-in for your project, you’ll need to rope in your stakeholders from the very beginning.
If you're conducting research for a specific department, like the commercial team, sit down with those stakeholders to clarify the nature of the project and its goals. That way, there’s less risk of miscommunication, and everyone involved will be aligned on the project’s focus and deliverables.
Regular touchpoints, whether through Zoom, email, Slack, or whichever channel works best for your organization, are essential. Use these touchpoints to keep your stakeholders up to date about the project's progress, milestones, and successes, and emphasize the value of your research and how it benefits their roles.
Communication is key! 🔑
Aside: Competitive intelligence vs. market intelligence
There’s a lot of ambiguity surrounding the terms ‘competitive intelligence’ and ‘market intelligence,’ and many people are unsure what distinguishes one from the other. Let's break it down.
Market intelligence: revolves around industry trends. It's about identifying patterns in the industry and understanding their implications. For instance, AI is currently a hot topic across most sectors, from finance to education and travel.
The art of data analysis and tailoring insights to your audience
Once you've gathered your data from various sources, the next crucial step is analysis. The best approach to take largely depends on the nature of your project and its objectives.
For instance, if I'm researching win/loss trends, I'll focus on behavioral patterns as well as feedback related to products, sales, and marketing. These insights are invaluable to the teams I support.
- The commercial team will benefit from insights into buying patterns.
- The product team is best served by feedback on tools and features that prospects find valuable or lacking.
- The marketing team needs feedback to align their campaigns with customer needs and demands.
The importance of recommendations
Beyond just presenting data, it's crucial to add your recommendations and key takeaways. In the CI realm, executives often lean on us for business direction.
For example, if the data indicates we're losing ground because we don’t offer certain product features, it's essential to highlight this and recommend potential solutions. Or, if trends show a shift towards mobile usage, we might suggest optimizing our mobile product offerings.
Delivering your insights
How you present these insights can vary depending on what kind of research you’ve done and who it’s for. Some data might just be used to update your core materials, like battlecards or sales decks, for example, while other data might merit a full-blown enablement session.
The format of your CI insights should be tailored to the audience. Product teams might prefer an in-depth document on competitor products, while the commercial team is more likely to appreciate a concise presentation.
Ultimately, it's about being flexible. Since we're serving others, it's essential to cater to their needs and take into account how they prefer to consume information.
Strategies to boost your win rate against top competitors
Egencia’s CI strategy is all about improving our win rate against top competitors. I’d like to share how you can do the same. This can be approached in three main ways:
1 - Win/loss analysis 🎖️
Win/loss analysis: In my experience, conducting about six win/loss interviews every quarter allows you to gather a broad spectrum of feedback and identify trends and reasons behind both successful and unsuccessful deals.
Sharing these insights with the commercial teams through interactive sessions, highlighting why you win, why you lose, and your competitive edge, can be invaluable. You can even incorporate gamification techniques to ensure the information you’re sharing is resonating.
2 - Deep dives and combat sessions 🥊
Deep dives and combat sessions: Dedicate sessions to thoroughly analyze your top competitors. Break down their product and service offerings, delving into the specific tools and features they provide.
Follow this with a combat session on how to outperform the competitor in question. Instead of focusing on their weaknesses, emphasize your company's strengths. When competing against them, what are the top three to five points you should highlight to prospects? The goal isn't to bash the competitor, but to underscore why a customer should choose your company based on its merits.
3 - Centralize competitive information 🗼
Centralize competitive information: A centralized self-service hub for all the insights you've gathered and enablement material you’ve created is essential. You want everyone to be able to find the resources they need easily.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into each of the strategies I’ve outlined and see how you can best harness them for your organization.
1: Navigating win/loss analysis
Win/loss interviews can be tricky. Interviewees might hold back from giving candid feedback because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
To navigate this, it’s essential to establish trust. You want your interviewees to understand their feedback is confidential and solely for educational purposes; that way, they’re much more likely to be open and honest.
If budget allows, consider hiring a third party for these interviews. Interviewees might feel less obliged to sugarcoat their comments when they’re talking to an external organization.
CRM data for win/loss
That said, interviews aren't the only way to gather that all-important win/loss data; your CRM can play an important role here too. There should be a dedicated section for feedback related to specific deals and customer experiences.
When conducting win/loss analyses, this is invaluable. It’s a key way to identify trends among prospects and look at the ways sales reps approach deals. For example, are there patterns among large organizations versus SMEs? It's crucial to incorporate this data into your research and share it with the team, ensuring they can leverage it in future deals.
Analyzing and sharing
When you’re analyzing feedback and presenting win/loss insights to the commercial team, the goal isn't to play the blame game, but to educate and offer constructive solutions.
For instance, if you spot a trend indicating people are uncomfortable with the way your company approaches prospects, the response shouldn't be finger-pointing. Instead, suggest alternative approaches, test them, and if they work, integrate them into the sales strategy.
2: Building relationships for effective tactical combat sessions
Let's dive deeper into those tactical combat sessions I touched on earlier.
CI champion program
One way to do this is to establish a CI champion program.
For example, if you're working with the commercial and marketing teams, having representatives from those teams in your program to voice customer or peer concerns can be invaluable.
These champions can help secure buy-in from their departments and promote your initiatives through various channels, be it Slack, email, or team meetings. They're a fantastic resource for gaining broader acceptance.
To build that trust and confidence, sometimes you just have to dive in. Schedule meetings, be genuine, and most importantly, be yourself. When conducting these sessions, aim for an informal tone. You don't want to come across as dictatorial. Instead, engage and involve participants in the discussion. Encourage questions and feedback during your presentations.
This interactive approach not only strengthens relationships but also ensures that the competitive enablement content you create will be adopted and used consistently.
In essence, it's all about nurturing relationships. Start with key team members, and over time, build trust through consistent interactions. This approach has served me well in all my CI and product marketing roles.
3: Building an effective self-serve CI hub
Now for the final piece of effective competitive enablement: the self-serve hub.
Feedback from the commercial team has been invaluable in shaping Egencia’s CI hub. I used to hear from sales representatives that they didn't use certain content simply because they couldn’t find it, or it wasn’t where they’d usually look. I built a centralized hub to address this issue. It ensures the content we invest time and money creating is actually used.
Key elements for the success of your CI hub
In my experience, the success of a CI hub boils down to two things: organization and user feedback. If you don't already have a dedicated platform, it's worth the investment. Not only does it save time, but it also reduces the barrage of questions about where content is. Platforms like SharePoint are great for this.
When setting up a CI hub, your main goal should be to make sure all the essential information is easily accessible. This includes key assets like win-loss data, interview transcripts, presentations, and deep-dive analyses. If you're using a CI platform or tool for your battlecards, make sure you include direct links within the main hub.
Making content easily navigable
Organizing content so it's easily navigable is paramount. For instance, we have dedicated sections for win-loss data, reports, and research, which are all broken down into themes and topics. This ensures users can quickly find what they're looking for.
If you’re super organized, you might even consider segmenting content by departmnt. If you've crafted content specifically for the marketing team, having a dedicated space for their resources can be very useful.
However you choose to organize it, just make sure you house everything in one platform, so users don't have to jump between multiple apps to find what they need.
The world of competitive intelligence can be complex, but it’s filled with exciting opportunities to drive impactful change. As we wrap up, let's recap some of the essential insights and strategies we’ve covered:
🔍 Diversify your CI sources: Both primary and secondary sources have their place. Find the right balance for a comprehensive data gathering approach.
🤝 Stakeholder buy-in is crucial: Engage your stakeholders early on. Their feedback and alignment can make or break your CI projects.
📊 CI vs. MI: Remember, competitive intelligence zeroes in on competitors, while market intelligence focuses on industry trends.
🧠 Data analysis is an art: Always tailor your insights to your audience. And don't just present data – add your recommendations!
🏆 Boost those win rates: Focus on a targeted group of competitors and equip your sales team with the insights they need.
🤗 Relationships matter: Build trust, foster relationships, and consider setting up a CI champion program.
🖥️ Centralize your CI hub: Make it user-friendly. A centralized hub ensures easy access to resources and boosts content utilization.
The beauty of CI lies in its ability to transform raw data into actionable insights. As we navigate this journey, let's remain adaptable, collaborative, and always eager to learn. To brighter insights and bolder strategies!
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