Revealing “secrets” of the Competitive and Market Intelligence world. Practical real life use cases.
Ambassador Series, Part 2 — Written by Steve Schulz, President at Line of Sight Group and Kari Syrjä, Head of Growth at Comintelli
In these blogs, we at Comintelli have highlighted different perspectives to market and competitive intelligence (CI) definitions, concepts and work. First, we had views from Luis Madureira and then later a CI professional’s knowledge management perspective from Ericsson’s Kelly See.
As a reader, you may find these insights useful or controversial, and we very much invite you to comment and engage with us and our guests in this discussion to evolve the CI domain.
Today, it is our great pleasure to share our interview with Steve Schulz, Comintelli ambassador from the USA and President at Line of Sight Group.
Kari Syrjä: Steve, you and your company have a long track record in this Competitive intelligence business. Has anything changed during recent years?
Steve Schulz: Since the emergence of the COVID pandemic, we’ve observed an increase in demand to systematically monitor and act on changes in their external environment, markets, competition and change drivers. The global disruption helped organisations to realise that many aspects of their business are outside of their own control. For example, customer and competitor behaviour can be both unknowable and uncontrollable
Kari Syrjä: Has it not always been so? A good wake up call. What can companies do about it?
Steve Schulz: Our experience is that successful organisations manage category risks by systematically monitoring important changes, evaluating leading indicators, and adjusting their strategies as necessary. We usually help them to
This work tends to start with agreeing on how they want to define their market landscape, identifying which data points represent indicators of potential change that would impact their business and then prioritising those for deeper investigation leading to potential strategic change. While the basic concept is the same, it can be applied in many different and creative ways to get the most out of your market and competitive intelligence function.
Kari Syrjä: OK, on a high level that all sounds fine, but can you give some practical examples?
Steve Schulz: Yes, consider for example a typical use case with competitor tracking. Your company wants to find out what competitors are doing. You could, alternatively, watch broadly across the entire industry for competitive and change drivers that may impact your business. If the scope is broad, the competition can be split into different levels (e.g. A, B and C competitors) and identify their respective priorities as ‘key topics’ to understand where they allocate their time and resources. From that baseline, you can then drill down to specifics and focus very narrowly on your small set of A competitors, for instance, with an interest in a deep understanding of their competing businesses. They might be interested in specific operations or product details, or sales and marketing capabilities, or key personnel.
Based on this processed information, you can then create a very specific plan for how to act on it.
Kari Syrjä: Indeed, and such plans tend to be highly confidential. Can you disclose to us any anonymous examples of what your customers have done to crush their competitors?
Steve Schulz: There are multiple ways to address these findings. Execution can materialise in tactical sales support, company level strategic mergers and acquisitions initiatives or innovation management to mention few. If we consider innovation and how to stay relevant in any business, then the following examples have proven to work well.
If your company has a historically strong position, you might want to consider defensive strategy and use the intelligence findings to develop advertising campaigns or new product enhancements that will disrupt the competition. Within one of our clients, the competitive intelligence function worked actively with new product development to bring up innovation where it mattered by analysing market growth areas. We closely watched both their legacy space and emerging competition to help them identify and prioritise innovation opportunities that will maintain past market leading positions. Basically enhancing their understanding of where the future industry, technologies and markets will be going, as they develop their offering to accommodate appropriate changes.
This can even entail that growth is accelerated by acquiring other businesses. The intelligence resources can be assigned towards scouting of acquisition targets, keeping an eye on similar activity of their competitors and industry change to open new opportunities.
Kari Syrjä: Mergers & acquisitions are definitely matters of management attention, but what if the market and competitive intelligence function practitioner has no such influence? How can their work have an organic impact on other levels of the organisation with daily tasks and duties?
Steve Schulz: Sure, I understand. In fact, one of the most common examples how competitive intelligence professionals can prove their impact is within new market development and sales. We helped one of our US clients to expand internationally. Looking broadly at selected Asian and European markets, we used Intelligence2day® platform to enable them to identify underserved segments and market entry points.
After that analysis, growth was then facilitated via sales support to track their key B2B customers and their markets or both, as large and mid-sized businesses' account management needs insights to evolve. In this case, account managers had a proactive view of strategic changes in their clients' context and used that in their outreach to deepen sales relationships, while identifying and advancing sales opportunities.
Kari Syrjä: To summarise, market and competitive intelligence tracking are more than macro signals, and tasks can vary from R&D innovation scouting to enabling sales teams to perform better. Would you have any final comments on how companies should use their market and competitive intelligence resources better?
Steve Schulz: Over the 20 years that we’ve been doing it, market and competitive intelligence have evolved from a little-known and little-understood back-office secret. Today, it helps to form the foundation of agile and successful businesses. Mature companies use their intelligence capabilities with return-on-investment, ROI, principles in mind. Insights that matter are insights that directly impact the business model. That is how you get your leverage.
Market and competitive intelligence continues to be important contributors to business decision-making. Without it, companies find it hard to position themselves to provide value that benefit their stakeholders. Using market and competitive intelligence provides organisations with the requisite insights to stay ahead of moves in the industry and wider market.