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What does it take to truly compete in today’s market?

  • Having a bigger ad spend budget than your competitors? 
  • A strong value proposition?
  • Luck? 

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All of those things are important, except maybe the need for a larger ad spend, but any one of these alone won’t give you the leverage you need to navigate the current and future changes in your industry. 

Let’s not also forget that rarely does change happen in a vacuum and without warning. (Editor’s Note: Except for COVID-19. Learn more about how to position for success during 2020 here.) That means competing must also include understanding, predicting, and planning for a future that hasn’t happened yet. 

But, how do you plan for a future that you can’t see? You build a resource that allows you to identify, prioritize, and organize data about your customers, competitors, and the market to create a predictive picture of what is likely to happen - or even multiple scenarios of what could happen. 

In this article, we’ll cover the 4 basic steps you need to take in order to build a fully functional and valuable competitive intelligence function in your organization. 

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1. Identify Goals & Objectives 

As with anything in a healthy organization, understanding the goals and objectives of time and resources invested is paramount - the same applies to building a competitive intelligence advantage. 

Now, at this point, we’re all familiar with and agree on the importance of goals, but do you know who in your organization should be the recipient of the CI you’re collecting? 

The obvious answers are sales and marketing. While this is correct, it's not the full answer. Key stakeholders in corporate leadership, sales, marketing, service, and even product development should not only be informed of your CI but should be actively involved in identifying the areas of the market that they should have interest in. 

One major overarching goal that should be set is that CI should be so incredibly valuable that it is considered imperative to someone else’s decision-making process. Each department should and will use this information slightly differently and to varying degrees, ensuring that you know the expected outcome of the information will allow you to build the right objectives for how, when, and where you gather your CI. 

A few questions to ask while determining your goals & objectives: 

  • Which stakeholders from which departments should be involved in the setting of these goals? 
  • What do those stakeholders seek to achieve by having access to the CI? 
  • How will the person use this information? 
  • Will they need high-level insights or will they need access to all the data points? 
  • How often should we be providing this information to them? 

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2. Define KPIs & Metrics

Defining and then measuring the right KPIs and metrics for your CI is equally as important as setting the right goals and objectives. You’re making an investment in not only a team, but in tools, and time from your organization. You’ll need to articulate the expected and actualized value to come from those investments. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the KPIs may not be the same across all the divisions of the company who will access and use the CI that you’re gathering and reporting on, but it IS important to have clearly defined outcomes that are expected to come from it. 

Defining KPIs & Metrics for Competitive Intelligence

Some examples of departmental KPIs are: 

  • Sales: 
    • Increased closed revenue 
    • Increased closed won 
    • Decreased average time to close
  • Marketing: 
    • Increase MQLs
    • Increase conversion of Leads to MQLs 
    • Strong brand messaging 
  • Product Team:
    • Reduced churn 
    • The increased average lifetime value of customer 
    • Better adoption of the product by end-user

3. Build Your Team

This is an exciting time. You have buy-in and budget from your leadership and with a solid understanding of how your organization will use the CI you’re focusing on, it’s time to build the team. 

Creating a successful CI team requires that you have the right structure and the right people in the structure. The size and scale of your team will be heavily influenced by how many departments are involved, how deep you need to delve into the CI to meet your objectives and KPIs. 

The most successful CI teams all have a designated ‘quarterback,’ this is the person who not only understands the goals and objectives but has the acquired skills and talents to leverage information from differing sources and align it all into something useful and actionable. 

Here is a great breakdown of common roles to consider when building your CI team: 

Building your CI team


4. Evaluate Tools & Resources

  • Buy in - check
  • Goals - check
  • Team structure - check

You’re in a great starting position to really provide immeasurable value to your company through the use of CI, but now, let’s talk about when the rubber actually meets the road: Getting your competitive intelligence. 

There are a number of ways to access information on your competitors, the market, your audience, but not all of them are equal in regards to accuracy and value. 

A few of the tools you might already be familiar with:

  • Free Public Records
    • Google Bing
    • Academia 
  • Paid Database Information 
    • Both Industry and non-industry  specific 
    • Peer-reviewed journals 

All of these tools and resources are an acceptable place for most companies to get information, but for an organization investing in and relying on the outcomes that come from true CI, a more systematic and reliable source is not just a nicety, but a requirement. 

When you’re determining the process you’re building around the information that you’ll examine and report on to help build action plans for your company, keep in mind:

  • Where will you find and store information
  • How will you analyze and share information

An option many companies choose to leverage is a tool designed to not only aid in the discovery of information, but the prioritization, distribution of, and ultimately the adoption of the information into the decision making processes within your company. 

Interested in hearing more from experts in building your CI function? Watch our free one-hour webinar with our VP of Sales, Mike Irving, will briefly touch on the basics of using a competitive intelligence automation software like Knowledge360® and demonstrate some of the key features of the tool.

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