Strategies, Techniques & Sources to Find Local Business Information

I just listened to a most informative AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) webinar on finding and using local sources—Internet, Social Networks & People—by Marcy Phelps, CEO of Phelps Research and author of the recently published, Research on Main Street. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I would like to share some of the key points I learned.

As a primary researcher, I was listening to clues which provide connection to people, often the best and most current sources of intelligence, recognizing that the web contains numerous sites for companies, demographics, population statistics, country, city, county and state data—the core for research.

Marcy’s 5th strategy tipper “Go Off-line” resonated with me. So much local information is simply not in print anywhere, including the Internet. Also when searching privately held companies or subsidiaries within a large company, it’s great to interview local people, since these companies are often the big fish in a small pond. Some of Marcy’s favorite local sources include: journalists, government workers, librarians, local chapter association leaders, local economists, and economic development executives.

Chamber of commerce sites and their employees are a rich source of local data, and often brag about their local companies and personalities, and can refer you to other people, local newspapers and librarians, among others. Speaking to locals is essential to get at sentiment and opinion, which often bring life to research findings. Other local sources include convention/visitors bureaus, economic development  organizations and local chapters of national associations.

I also liked Marcy’s discussion around local news sources since they can lead you to the right people.

American City Business Journals

ABYZ News Links

News Voyager

Radio-Locator

Google News advance search

Topix

Marcy also included discussion around social networks, a fertile source for finding experts. She included LinkedIn and Twitter, but did you know about Nearby Tweets or Local Tweeps to find people by location? Twitter’s advanced search allows you to find local Tweeters and so much more. Placebloggers is a good resource to find bloggers by location. Others include Feedmap and InOtherNews.

Read Marcy’s handouts from this webinar. You can also link to numerous, relevant links which correspond to each chapter in Marcy’s book, Research on Main Street. While these links are valuable, learning how to use them in context is the key. I recommend that you buy the book to learn how to strategically plan your quest for research, whether it’s to locate your new business, conduct an opportunity analysis, provide sales intelligence or conduct competitive intelligence. She covers so much more especially government sources (chapters 4 & 5), which I didn’t even discuss here. One last tipper: use your creativity and have a Plan B in place! Local information is not that easy to locate, but this book will surely boost your approach to finding it!

You must be an AIIP member for the full transcript and PowerPoint for Marcy’s webinar, which can be accessed anytime through AIIP’s website. Learn more about the benefits of being an AIIP member. If you’re an independent running a research, private eye, library or competitive intelligence practice, AIIP is the place to get invaluable advice and resources to help you start and run your business successfully!

Advertisements

SLA Annual Conference Competitive Intelligence Division: Presentations, Fun & Book Signings

The Competitive Intelligence Division (CID) of Special Libraries Association (SLA) has a great line-up of presentations and fun events at this year’s annual conference in Philadelphia from June 12-15.  In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I have listed the competitive intelligence (CI) events below in chronological order by date with book signings at the end. Look under Twitter #slacid for CI Division Tweets!

Sunday, June 12: Pre-Conference Workshop

1 – 5 p.m.: Convention Center 203B. Seena Sharp: Sharp Market Intelligence

How to Create the Advantage of Competitive Intelligence in Your Organization. Seena will share wisdom and highlights from her book, Competitive Intelligence Advantage.

Monday, June 13

10-11:30 a.m.: Convention Center 104B. Dr. Craig Fleisher: College of Coastal Georgia CI Division UnConference. Explore the future of competitive intelligence as we look to 2020.

Noon-1 p.m: SLA Bookstore Booth 1321. Craig’s book signing Business & Competitive Analysis

2-3:30 p.m., Convention Center 109B. Toni Wilson: MarketSmart Research CI Best Practices for Creating Value & Collaboration. Show how to create collaboration between Information Professionals and other areas of your company.

4-5:30 p.m., Convention Center 109B. Panel Discussion: Dispelling Myths about Competitive Intelligence

Moderator: Fred Wergeles, Fred Wergeles & Associates

Panelists: Victor Camlek-Thomson Reuters; Jill Heinze-Affinion Loyalty; Nathan Rosen-Morrison & Foerster; Seena Sharp-Sharp Market Intelligence

SLA’s Competitive Intelligence + Legal Divisions

5:30-7:30 p.m., Marriott Salon D. CI Division Open House. Listen to fast paced Pecha Kucha presentations among 6 juried competitors. Winner gets an iPad 2!

Moderator: Dr. Craig Fleisher-College of Coastal Georgia

Judges: Scott Brown-Social Information Group; Ellen Naylor-Business Intelligence Source; Cindy Romaine-Romainiacs Intelligence Research, SLA President & Instigator of SLA’s Future Ready blog

Sponsor: Aurora WDC; Booth 533 & 1429

Tuesday, June 14

8-9:30 a.m., Convention Center 203A. August Jackson: Verizon Researching Privately Held Companies: Information Sources & Techniques that Work

CI Division + News Division

10-11:30 p.m., Marriott Salon B. The Intelligence Café Join 10 CI experts in interactive sessions to learn several CI topics in an informal setting.

Moderators: Arik Johnson-Aurora WDC and August Jackson-Verizon

Topic Leaders:

Dr. Craig Fleisher-College of Coastal Georgia: Analytical Techniques for CI

Carolyn Vella & John McGonagle-The Helicon Group: Legal & Ethical CI

Ellen Naylor-Business Intelligence Source: Build Internal Knowledge Network for Primary Intelligence

Craig McHenry-Pfizer:Technical Tools for CI

Anna Shallenberger-Shallenberger Intelligence: Unique Collection Sources

Eric Garland-Competitive Futures: The Future is Hidden in Your Library

Derek Johnson-Aurora WDC: CI Model Innovation

Toni Wilson-MarketSmart Research: Collaboration with Clients & End Users

Seena Sharp-Sharp Market Intelligence: The CI Advantage: CI Value Proposition of SLA Members

Nathan Rosen-Morrison & Foerster: CI in the Law Library

Sponsor: IEEE Xplore Digital Library, Booth 1401

Noon-1:30 p.m.: Convention Center 203A, Scott Brown-Social Information Group & Joe Murphy-Yale University 60 Apps in 60 Minutes especially for iPhone, iPad and Android! Bring Your Lunch and Learn!

Sponsor: Dow Jones & Company, Booth 600

2-3:30 p.m.: Convention Center Ballroom AB. Seena Sharp: Sharp Market Intelligence Extreme Makeover: CI Edition—Spotlight & Need to Know Session. How to minimize risk, avoid surprises and grow your business. Tippers from Seena’s Competitive Intelligence Advantage book on how CI makes money or saves money every time!

CI + Advertising & Marketing + Business & Finance Divisions

Sponsor: LexisNexis, Booth 411

4-5:30 p.m.: Booth 411. Book Signing by Seena Sharp.

6:30 – 8 p.m.: Meet in Philadelphia Marriott lobby. No Host Competitive Intelligence Dinner. Sign‐up for the dinner during the CID Open House (June 13 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Marriott Salon D) or email Robin Swan at r6s0wan@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, June 15

10-11:30 p.m.: Convention Center 105B. Integrating with Sales & Marketing to Capture & Deliver Intelligence Learn how to gain and provide competitive intelligence for Sales & Marketing in your company. Panel discussion. Informal venue: Q&A format. No PowerPoint.

Moderator: Toni Wilson-MarketSmart Research

Panelists: Susan Berkman-Research Ability; Ellen Naylor-Business Intelligence Source; Marcy Phelps-Phelps Research; Anna Shallenberger-Shallenberger Intelligence

Book Signings by CI Division Speakers:

June 13: Dr. Craig Fleisher: Business & Competitive Analysis—Noon-1 p.m.

SLA Bookstore: #1321 Exhibitor Hall

June 14: Seena Sharp: Competitive Intelligence Advantage—4-5:30 p.m.

LexisNexis Booth #411 Exhibitor Hall

June 14: Marcy Phelps: Research on Main Street—4:30-5:15 p.m.

SLA Bookstore: #1321 Exhibitor Hall

Real-Time Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence has historically focused on strategic and tactical forms of intelligence. In fact, SCIP changed its acronym from Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals to Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals. While competitive intelligence is an important component in strategic planning, and companies benefit from scenario planning: many companies miss the boat by not conducting and communicating competitive intelligence in real-time. Real-time competitive intelligence deserves to be a focus within the profession.

Many companies think they are conducting real-time competitive intelligence since they monitor their market landscape continuously on the Internet and increasingly through social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as well as industry specific forums or social networks like Ning. While monitoring is the foundation of real-time market intelligence, it is not actionable. The action you take in real-time will give you a competitive advantage.  As David Meerman Scott said at our AIIP conference, “Speed and agility bring competitive advantage…Act now before the window of opportunity vanishes.”

That’s the point: many in competitive intelligence sit on the knowledge they gain from monitoring the environment. I think part of the reason is that competitive intelligence is a staff job, and many in the profession don’t have the authority to take action. Some corporate cultures reward information hoarding, the exact opposite of sharing and taking action.

However, competitive intelligence managers can inform our company employees in real-time, and in areas where we have more knowledge, we can make recommendations. The balancing act in our job is to offer cooperative intelligence: don’t inundate people with too much information, just what you know is important to them.

When you read a rumor about a competitor or marketing trend that could significantly impact your company, check it out right away. This usually involves talking to another human being. That’s why having a deep human source network is essential for every competitive intelligence practitioner.

When you’re at a trade show, report back your findings several times during the day to the sources in your company who are asking. Invariably your findings bring up more questions.

It’s interesting that Sales will quickly follow up with leads immediately after a conference or trade show. With the same exuberance, you need to fire off a report of your key findings to those who need to know, and those you suspect should know. Don’t put it off: some of the most timely intelligence comes from trade show interviews. What I really like is that much of this is not published yet, and can be used to give your company’s marketing, sales and product teams a leg up.

When you hear that a competitor is merging or acquiring another company, put the word out immediately at your company, especially to sales people, as they can reassure your customers that your good service will continue, and perhaps instill doubt about the merged competitor entity.

The point is those companies that take action more immediately are the winners these days. Those that ignore events or sit on valuable information lose. What has been your experience with real-time competitive intelligence?

Real-Time Competitive Advantage

I am enjoying David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing & PR. He explains the competitive advantage to companies and individuals of being responsive to events that affect them in real-time: that means right NOW, not tomorrow. No longer can you just monitor the news: you have to take action! In this book he tells the story of how United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar. Dave Carroll, a songwriter gets back at United with a song about how United breaks guitars which becomes a YouTube hit. The saga continues as Taylor Guitar and Calton Cases (yes you guessed it, they created Dave Carroll guitar cases) capitalized on this event, by responding quickly and decisively. A most amusing story, if you’re not United who came out smelling like a skunk. David tells the story here.

I hadn’t really thought about real-time response as a competitive intelligence professional. Often we’re so busy monitoring, studying and analyzing competitors, market trends and our customers that we ignore what action we should be taking right now to be more competitive. So many companies are stuck in the past and the future and forget that we operate in the NOW!

How many companies are connected to their customers in real-time? Some listen to what their customers say on Twitter and other social media, which is a step in the right direction especially for companies in the B to C space. But what about companies selling B to B? How do they stay connected to their customers in real-time? At SCIP’s annual conference, Rick Marcet spoke about the win/loss model that he developed at Microsoft which is fed by sales. This is the best example I can think of continuous learning from customers. These assessments are completed at the conclusion of the sale, while the information is fresh, and is viewed as part of the sales process. The company takes action on an ongoing basis based on these results. You can read more about this in Rick’s soon to be published book, Win/Loss Reviews: A New Model for Competitive Intelligence.

Carrying this a step further: how many companies have real-time communication with their employees? While many companies claim that their employees are their biggest asset: how many companies really listen to them on a regular basis? Southwest Airlines comes to mind immediately as they solicit suggestions from employees, implement the winning suggestions and reward employees appropriately. This is America’s second largest airline, and has been profitable in an industry which has slim margins and where most competitors have had a bout with bankruptcy.

Almost every company monitors its competitors and the marketplace it perceives that it competes in. However, too many companies just monitor these activities using Google and other forms of electronic connection and social networks. I think this is just a first step and that winning companies take action based on what they learn, and they don’t need to get the board’s approval. Companies that are excellent also have a human source network that they are connected to in real-time who they can count on to be responsive as business needs dictate.

As our world becomes smaller and more easily connected through the Internet and social media, this real-time connection and communication is becoming a way of doing business. Don’t be left out by disallowing your employees to participate in real-time. You will never have enough information to be certain that you are correct, but if you wait until you’re sure of what you “should say” or “should do,” you will be too late.

From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call: Book Review

From a Good Sales Call to a Great Sales Call focuses on improving Sales’ post-decision debrief process with prospects, referred to as win loss analysis in the competitive intelligence world. I like how the author, Richard Schroder, adds ‘post-decision debrief’ as the 7th element of the sales process. He insists Sales asks customers for their permission to conduct a post-sales interview during the presentation of your company’s solution rather than waiting until after the buying decision. A professional way to approach your prospect is: “We promote continuous improvement, and whether we win your business or lose it to a competitor, we value your feedback.”

Apparently only 18% of US companies have a formal win loss program. Thus, in most new business situations, sales people don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of why they won or lost sales. If armed with such data, Sales can make behavioral changes to improve close rates by 15%.

According to Anova Consulting Group’s research, the sales process is often a top driver of the purchase decision, whether the business is won or lost.

Key reasons for losses from the sales process include:

**Lack of a customized presentation

**The salesperson doesn’t accurately uncover and understand the prospect’s unique needs, including decision making criteria

**The salesperson and/or team does not thoroughly prepare for prospect meetings and the presentation

Richard believes that sales people should not conduct these win loss interviews since they often take the loss too personally and might try to re-sell the customer on their solution, be aggressive, defensive or dejected, which causes the customer to clam up or just to tell part of the story, the part that doesn’t involve Sales. Prospects can also be uncomfortable talking with the salesperson whose solution they just rejected.

Yet, Richard gives great suggestions to help Sales conduct win loss interviews:

**Do not attempt to gather win loss feedback during the same call when you learn the sales outcome.

**Schedule a phone call or in-person visit with the decision-maker a couple of weeks after the sales decision.

**Take time to prepare the questions you want answered and seek input from your sales organization.

**This debrief questionnaire should include questions around the customer’s decision-making criteria; qualitative questions around your firm’s strengths and weaknesses; benchmarking against competitors; and the sales process (more detail to develop a win loss questionnaire).

**This preparation will get you grounded, and will help you neutralize your emotions around the win or loss and let you focus on how and what you can learn.

**At the end of the win loss interview, ask your customer if you missed anything. In my experience, this is when the floodgates open.

The book is chock full of ways to sell better:

**Build rapport. Learn as much about your prospect(s) as you can through the Internet, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and industry associations.

**Don’t just plan your presentation: prepare the initial discussion you will have with each prospect. Ask some open ended questions to engage them.

**Develop a second approach to build rapport in case the first approach doesn’t work.

**When in doubt, de-sell. For example, “Perhaps my service doesn’t quite fit your needs.”

**Be consultative: if your product or service is not what the customer is looking for, refer them to someone who can help them.

**Remember people want to buy from experts, not salespeople. Research Research Research!

Appendix B tells Sales Managers how to implement a win loss program. It is practical and well thought-out. Two factors stand out from my experience with developing win loss programs.

1. Does the program have executive level sponsorship and comprehensive buy-in from critical areas of your company?

2. Will the program be well integrated with existing processes already developed at your company?

I have learned the hard way that buy-in is essential at all levels. Some programs never get off the ground due to this lack of communication, sponsorship and integration.

My only criticism is Richard’s strong bias towards using a third party to conduct the win loss analysis. I agree a third party brings less bias to this process, and can offer customers anonymity when reporting back to your company. However, I experienced good results conducting win loss analysis for my company prior to consulting. There are some advantages that internal sources have: they know your company’s products and services better than any third party since this is their full time job. Thus they can probe more deeply in these areas than can a consultant. They also know your company’s culture. Sometimes consulting firms recommend change that won’t work with your company’s culture, even though it’s a great idea.

I recommend this book for those in marketing and sales who want to implement a win loss program. I particularly recommend this book for salespeople who want to be BETTER. It clearly defines the value proposition for conducting win loss analysis, especially for Sales. Don’t be left out!

Improve Your Competitive Intelligence Skill: Move out of Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday I impatiently waited for the lady driving the car in front of me to turn left onto the Freeway. The coast was wide open. Her head just kept wagging from left to right for what seemed like an eternity. So I went around her onto the right hand lane to turn left. As I swung onto the Freeway, so did she. She was going straight across the Freeway to a restaurant. I never assumed that’s where she was headed, as I always turn left from that lane as does most of our neighborhood. Fortunately, I stopped in time and she got to her destination.

How often do we get stuck in patterns and either make mistakes or don’t see events coming?  In competitive intelligence, we look for what is missing or what looks odd or out of place since oddity often is a precursor to change. How many people predicted that the overturn of the Tunisian government would lead to the riots in Egypt and the resignation of 30 year dictator, Hosni Mubarak? And now the wave continues to grow in that part of the world as other country’s citizens express discontent with their government. It reminds me of the surprise the world felt when the Iron Curtain tumbled in 1989.

There is always surprise in life and business. How we prepare ourselves for surprise is what separates the excellent from the average. I find I react better to surprises if I move out of my comfort zone more often.

  • Don’t rely on RSS feeds too much! That’s too much the same old same old.
  • Be spontaneous and pick up magazines you don’t normally read.
  • Pursue Twitter links that are out of your mainstream.
  • Comment on blogs out of your mainstream.
  • Go to a trade show which is not relevant to what you do.

In cooperative intelligence, I follow the time tested “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” Retain and cultivate your Gold relationships, but keep your connections fresh!

Don’t always rely on the same colleagues to support your research projects. Reach out to new people, and prevent yourself from being blindsided by industry changes, new competitors, innovative technology and regulatory change. Seek new sources of intelligence on the Internet and social networks, but don’t forget the reliable standbys. Did you know that Highbeam Research is coming out with a business research product that will compete with Hoovers? Connect with people on LinkedIn that you don’t know, who are not “relevant” to what you do. You won’t believe how many more people you can connect with for research projects when you have over 10,000 first connections rather than the 300 people you already know!

The explosive growth of e-publishing makes me squirm as a prospective book author. However, I am squirming less as I just attended a class on “how to” given through our Denver Author U by the good folks at Darkfire Productions! Darkfire Productions will format your book for e-publishing. I’m excited as a first time book writer, since I don’t have to wait 1 year to get my book published! I have only myself to blame for any delay in getting published.

10 Tips to Find Competitive Intelligence Online

Yesterday I listened to a most engaging and informative AIIP webinar presentation by Arthur Weiss of CEO of Aware. I have taken many of Arthur’s Internet tippers especially to beef up Google Chrome searching and connection to improve my specialty,  primary research, that is finding information by talking to people. In a spirit of cooperative intelligence, I share these tippers which will help you both locate better information and identify relevant people more expeditiously.

The 10 Tips

1. Know What You are Looking For. Switch your perspective and look at the target company as though you were them, their competitor or a customer.

2. Create a Collection Plan. Identify sources: Why will the information be available? Where will you find it? How can you find it ethically?

3. Use Advanced Search Techniques. Start with the search engines & take advantage of the innuendos of key word searching, advanced search techniques and language translation. I like Wonder Wheel which visually mindmaps your Google search, which I didn’t realize was so easy to enable through Google Chrome. Arthur also reminded us to search Amazon for sources and to take advantage of the Even More features of Google and Google Labs. One Google Chrome extension I like in particular, is the Augment Search feature, which allows you to add/change search engines to your search.

4. Search the Deep Web. Arthur shared numerous Deep Web sites. Some of my favorites are NorthernLight, Deep Dyve, Biznar, Highbeam Research and Silobreaker.

5. Don’t Ignore Competitor websites. Aside from reading them thoroughly, don’t forget Domain Tools and Open Site Explorer since sites linked to your target company can be very telling, and may also provide you people to talk to. Don’t forget to search cache memory for some history of the website over time on Archive.org.

6. investigate Social Media. Aside from Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook and industry Nings, don’t forget Slideshare, YouTube and Glassdoor. One of my favorite takeaways was the Rockmelt browser, a one stop access to all your social networks! Talk about a time saver!

7. It’s the people that make the difference! In addition to the common social media connections, Arthur recommends Quora. Other people search tools include Jigsaw, Yasni, Wink, Spokeo. Arthur wasn’t as keen on Zoominfo, since they have converted to fee based mostly. Be aware that these sources all need to be cross-checked. Look at your own profile and note the errors.

8. Remember the Quality of Paid Databases. Many of us at AIIP take advantage of the discounted rates from these service providers such as Dialog, Factiva, Skyminder, Morningstar and Lexis Nexis to name a few.

9. Keep Up-to-Date! I particularly valued Arthur’s tipper to follow industry and competitive intelligence experts on Twitter. This is so easy and you can clump their Tweets so easily in a Tweet Deck column. I also like to stay current with CI Ning, SCIP, AIIP and IntelCollab.

10. Think Differently. Look for things that are odd or out of place. If something doesn’t look right, feel right, or sound right, find out why.  Be a critical thinker.

This is just a smattering of what Arthur shared! These webinars are one of the key benefits of AIIP membership. They are all taped so you can listen to them anytime, and AIIP members can download a copy of the slides as well.

%d bloggers like this: