Her introduction is compelling. Seena enumerates what questions a person might ask who will benefit from competitive intelligence. Here are my favorites from her list of 12:
Have you been blindsided by the loss of a sale to a competitor—especially one who is unknown, emerging or to a substitute?
Do you question if your assumptions are still valid about your industry, competitors, customers and products?
Have you noticed possible signs of an opportunity, but aren’t sure if it makes sense for your company?
In her first chapter Ms. Sharp explains the dilemma we face when we deal with company executives who are often arrogant and overconfident and don’t want to hear bad or contrarian news (even though that’s what they pay us to do in competitive intelligence). While those who lead companies are often brilliant, all can benefit from better intelligence when making strategic decisions.
I particularly enjoyed chapter 2 which provides the most thorough definitions around competitive intelligence (CI) that I have read anywhere. In an effort to describe and define the benefits of CI, Seena describes other more commonly understood processes such as knowledge management, market research, scenario planning and business intelligence. I especially appreciated her distinctions between market research and competitive intelligence. Both include research on the market while market research tends to focus on consumers or business customers and is more quantitative while competitive intelligence is more qualitative and future oriented as it looks at what is emerging in a market or an industry, and considers other external factors in addition to customers.
Did you know that only 38% provide correct phone numbers all the time? 60% don’t always provide accurate info about their company’s size. 45% do not always provide their company’s true name. These are interesting facts in connection around how consumer technology buyers fill out registration forms, a common form of market research. (Source: a survey by Marketing Sherpa and KnowledgeStorm.) These findings make me question the validity of market research findings taken in isolation. That is why it’s often valuable to include market research as a component of CI. I recall our market research team at Verizon benefited when we added some competitor questions to their major annual survey to our strategic customers.
Also in chapter 2, I enjoyed Seena’s example of knowledge management which started as a simple suggestion box at a company. Due to the company’s sharing and expansion of these suggestions at lunchtime sessions, this process was encouraged and became engrained in this company’s culture. People who made suggestions were positively recognized. This reminded me of similar programs that companies have put in place to gather good sales intelligence from Sales about competitors, emerging competitors, product development and industry trends. If you give employees the freedom to communicate their ideas and drill down deeper, it’s amazing what you learn, and a little recognition and thank you goes a long way.