Competitive Intelligence: What you must know to be successful (Part 2 of 2)
Below are four steps you should take when selecting a competitive intelligence provider to ensure that you source the best possible information for your sales and marketing program. Taking the time to complete these steps at the outset could save you from a disaster later on. In today’s world the margin of error is thin, and getting it right the first time can give your organization a competitive advantage. To assist in the evaluation process, please download the following template.
1. Understand the provider’s research process
Cut through the sales spin to understand how the information is being collected, validated and, most importantly, refreshed. If the provider’s information is self-reported, try to establish the means by which this is accomplished. Is it being collected via web forms or through outbound call efforts? If outbound calling, is the call center located within the United States or is it offshore? A call center in the Philippines operates differently than one in India. Keep in mind that it’s unlikely you will receive 100% truthful answers to all of your questions, but organize the provided information and ask follow-up questions to help validate.
2. Establish a short list of providers
After determining the research process for each potential provider, weed out the weak ones. This will allow you to evaluate the remaining vendors. You will want to learn if the software install is a standalone solution or if it’s part of broader business intelligence offering. Review supporting collateral, videos and client references. Don’t be afraid to ask the company to provide 10-15 customers who can talk to you directly about the install information that they acquired. Perhaps call two or three to determine their experience and see if they will share valuable best practices. Lastly, tap social networks, such as LinkedIn, to glean additional insight on the company. Organizations with good standing include SiriusDecisions, MOCCA, IDC CMO Advisory, Forrester, Eloqua and the DemandGenReport.
3. Evaluate providers based on alignment to your install requirements
Determine each provider’s expertise. Do they focus on select installs, specific industries, or company sizes? A lot of entrants in this space focus on the more popular installs or ones that tend to be easily identifiable. Determine if the provider is the one performing the primary research or if they are simply “buying” the information from others. Similar to the list business, there is a lot of reselling going on behind the scenes which further compounds the ability to quantify accuracy.
4. Consider the full loaded cost and not just the cost of the install
Take a step back and determine the full cost of acquiring the competitive intelligence. First, you need to work with the provider to reformat the data so it can be imported within your CRM or marketing automation platform. In many cases, this involves standardizing the install names. This is a logistical task with real expense incurred when the data is applied against a marketing or sales initiative. How much internal and external expense will be incurred when the install intelligence is aligned to a displacement or complimentary program? More importantly, how much time and resources will sales invest working this intelligence? If you are a marketer, the last thing you want to do is tarnish the relationship you are building with sales by delivering them bad data.
Software install intelligence is a double-edged sword and incorrect install information is often worse than no information at all. If campaign messaging and call scripts are crafted to align to the install intelligence and it is determined to be incorrect, the resulting campaigns will likely underperform. This problem is further compounded when the provider includes contact names that are either outdated or simply not optimal based on the objectives of your campaign.
When driving demand creation, remember to be discerning. Invest the time to learn the ins and outs of competitive intelligence and ensure that you arm your sales and marketing group with the optimal data. If you are interested in learning more about this topic or how you can leverage business intelligence attributes to secure a competitive advantage, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org