How to Get Ahead of the Competition — and Stay There

Tips for Getting Ahead of the Competition

Organizations seeking to outpace the competition require ideas and strategies inspired beyond generalizations.

Broad analysis or pre-published, generic findings don’t cut it. To know how to beat the competition, businesses need growth-oriented, yet actionable, data-informing ways to get and stay ahead of key industry rivals. Such data needs to be tailored to that exact enterprise and its core competition, unearthing root opportunities for true market differentiation.

While many have heard of competitive benchmarking, few organizations have the roadmap — or the on-hand resources — to implement an immediate competitive intelligence and market analytics plan to their advantage. Read on to discover how your business can remedy this strategy gap and keep ahead of the competition, beginning today.

What Is Competitive Benchmarking?

Competitive benchmarking is when an organization initiates a systematic review of internal operations, structures and strategies, then compares its findings directly against top industry competitors.

Competitive benchmarking services

In other terms, it’s an analysis of vital KPIs of one organization against another’s, with the goal to temperature-check best practices to produce long-term, superior business results.

Benchmarked data comes from both external and internal sources. Most competitive analyses use a mix of methodologies to compare themselves with properly scaled competition, meaning others of similar size and stature. For example, it does a mom-and-pop diner no good to competitive benchmark against a national chain because the daily decisions necessary to run these businesses radically differ.

Competitive benchmarking strategies can measure and compare any of the following business domains:

  • Sales strategies, operations and resources
  • Marketing and advertising channels or campaigns
  • Product or service lines, launches and offerings
  • Go-to-market structures and timelines
  • Pricing analysis
  • Supply chain coordination and distribution strategies
  • Talent acquisition and management
  • And much more, all contingent on industry alignment, business scale and an organization’s outlined questions, concerns and goals

Business Benchmarking Strategies to Beat the Competition

The best business competition plans ground operational goals with actionable, practical data, drawing organizations their road map to unlock greater capabilities. Keep ahead of the competition by deploying any one of these top benchmarking and competitive intelligence strategies.

Business benchmarking strategies

1. Hire a Competitive Intelligence (CI) Firm

Firms specializing in competitive profiling research, analysis and implementation make it their mission to sharpen the operational tools organizations already have — plus mitigate risks they may not see.

CI firms can specialize in particular industries, such as pharmaceutical competitive intelligence or financial services benchmarking. Other firms apply targeted CI research methodologies for clients regardless of industry, using those tactics to generate personalized strategies to remain competitive.

In hiring a CI research firm, businesses receive objective insights and expertise across critical business questions and domains. CI firms aggregate internal and external information to create hyper-targeted, tailored plans to close competitive gaps, as well as identify current or future risk categories. From these reports, organizations can draft their sharpest, most actionable operations and output goals, all informed by comparative data.

2. Conduct User Experience (UX) Groups to Understand Brand Perception

User experience groups are a primary research methodology with one core focus: understanding how real users of your products or services, both current and prospective, think and feel about your brand. It prioritizes the functional as well as psychological factors influencing user decisions, with a goal to use data gleaned from real user surveys, voice-of-customer interviews and focus groups to tailor tomorrow’s products, services and branding mechanisms.

UX groups focus on many variables that influence overall brand perception:

  • Usability
  • Navigability
  • Findability
  • Desirability
  • Accessibility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Practicality
  • Brand “personality”
  • Overall perceived value

Armed with quantitative and qualitative UX data, organizations can implement new strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition — all with the task of remaining more relevant than their competitors in the eyes of the consumer.

3. Understand True Customer Expectations

Competitive benchmarking can assist in developing 360-degree profiles for various consumer segments.

How to understand customer expectations

Internally, competitive benchmarking allows organizations to understand their current customers better. More holistic customer profiles unlock what makes these consumer groups tick: what attracted them to your brand, what keeps them purchasing from you, their favorite products or services and — most importantly — why they picked you over the competition.

Externally, competitive consumer profiling research provides knowledge into your rivals’ customer segments. What draws them to others’ products or services? Is it price? Credibility? Market influence? Servicing affordances? Something intangible and different altogether? Keeping ahead of the competition means understanding them — namely, the consumer groups keeping them afloat.

4. Run a Structural Business Analysis

What makes the everyday operations in an office tick? Do people, processes and technology harmonize or hinder those operations, and where is there explicit process friction?

Structural business analyses provide the answers to questions like these, as well as outline action plans to see gaps and inefficiencies remedied. More specifically, a structural business analysis conducted internally or with the help of a hired CI firm can investigate the following compared to the competition:

  • Organizational hierarchies
  • Office technology
  • Intra-department businesses processes, or workflows within a single department or team
  • Inter-department business processes, or workflows across departments and teams
  • Business partnerships and vendor relations
  • Organizational policies and procedures

Key KPIs to conducting structural business analysis and comparing results to rivals might include:

  • Process cost as a percent of revenue
  • Process productivity increase percentages
  • Cycle time reductions
  • Unit cost reductions
  • Percentage of rework attributable to process requirement
  • Stakeholder and employee satisfaction rates

5. Review Sales Performance KPIs

Organizations measure sales performance according to their structure and goals. Varying departments will have diverging definitions, since each department has different levels of direct interaction and oversight into sales. For example, an IT department for a medical device company may not position every one of its workflows in correlation with boosting sales, yet the marketing and sales divisions rely on the technology and systems they support, so they are therefore related to sales performance.

Every function of a profitable business has some connection to sales. As such, performing competitive benchmarking helps determine processes and systems boosting overall profitability as it relates to sales.

Business competition studies can survey sales performance KPIs internally, then compare those KPIs with their competition, identifying ways to maximize operations and increase net sales profits. Consider measuring sales performance KPIs in a myriad of ways, from productivity rates to average lead costs, supplier operations, cycle times, working capital flows, customer value averages and many more.

Broken down even further, sales performance KPIs might include metrics like:

  • Sales touchpoints such as calls, emails, etc. per order or per sales representative
  • Sales by platform or contact method
  • Value per sales transaction
  • Quote-to-close ratios
  • Sales funnel, pipeline conversion rates
  • Customer lifetime value profiles
  • And many more

6. Compare and Contrast Buyer Personas

Use real, quantitative data gathered from consumer analysis and user test groups to create your organization’s buyer personas — in other words, character types representing the core demographic makeup of your customer base.

Consumer analysis persona data

Buyer persona data encompasses many factors. For example, a persona will have a set age, income, gender, education and geographic location, but also lifestyle information like hobbies, leisure activities, shopping habits, frequently visited websites, social media network usage and even internet search history.

Buyer personas help you further understand your market share and value differentiation compared to competitors. Through them, organizations identify the type of people their business is most likely to attract, as well as whom rivals attract, then integrating marketing strategies to convert personas away from those rivals.

7. Compare and Contrast Marketing Efforts

A business competition strategy would be remiss without competitive research and analysis into its marketing analytics, specifically exploring variables like marketing campaign metrics and channel usage strategies. Businesses can conduct side-by-side comparisons of key marketing metrics, including KPIs like:

  • Marketing spend as a percent of revenue
  • Marketing content performance
  • Marketing spend per customer or per campaign
  • FTEs per campaign launch
  • Customer equity calculations
  • Customer retention rates
  • Customer satisfaction rates or rankings
  • Marketing channel usage
  • Marketing channel market voice

8. Study Your Share of Market Voice

Market voice studies directly compare your perceived industry authority and influence to the competition. Your market voice accounts for qualitative and quantitative data alike, from the number of social mentions or branded hashtags people use during a given period to website traffic increases or decreases after an event puts your industry in the public spotlight.

Market voice analysis involves understanding your overall market landscape. Promoting your market voice consists of understanding its current strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying what PR strategies and platforms your core competition uses most often.

9. Perform a Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analyses measure the tone of brand mentions on social media, blogs, other internet platforms and across general news and publicity outlets. More specifically, it compares how many negative mentions and impressions your brand holds compared to positive ones, allowing organizations to then interpret the root causes of each.

Customer sentiment analysis

Once analyzed, sentiment analysis integrates into a brand’s overall “social listening” strategy, providing competitive insights into how to manage and interact with real consumers across online platforms. These interactions are imperative for overall brand perception, as well as differentiation between your business and your competition.

A sentiment analysis tends to complement market voice and market share benchmarking. It’s an important caveat to understanding how actual consumers perceive your brand’s personality compared to others’ — and the likelihood your marketing strategies will elicit desired goals from target consumer groups.

10. Complete a Price Audit, Then Offer Price-Matching Policies

Competitive price audits create a list of indexed product and service prices compared to identical or near-identical products and services on the retail market. It is one of the leading methodologies to better understanding your organization’s share in both current markets as well as prospective ones it hopes to enter.

Information gleaned from a competitive price audit can produce profit-maximizing new strategies across product fabrication, distribution, programs and offerings, resulting in measurable market gains over target competitors.

Conducting a price audit opens the door for organizations to offer sustainable price-matching policies as well, a competitive pricing strategy many traditional retailers are wielding to their advantage in an increasingly e-commerce-driven landscape.

Business Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Competition

Once an organization implements strategies to beat out the competition, they’ll require steps to remain there — leading their market across targeted metrics and domains. Businesses can beat and stay ahead of the competition using these competitive intelligence practices.

Business strategies to stay ahead of the competition

1. Measure Smarter, Not Harder

Too often, organizations fall into the trap of measuring everything and anything taking place within their walls. All business processes, policies, workflows, supply chains, productivity rates, consumer personas and internal hierarchies become subject to data surveillance for surveillance’s sake, rather than for pre-structured, critically insightful plans with actionable end goals.

Metric-savvy organizations are those with the right finesse to know which metrics and KPIs to track. They use both ongoing competitive profiling tactics to unearth specific, pinpointed data sets leading to functional interpretations. What’s more, they assign measurable metrics to every new business initiative or idea — measurable metrics compatible with overall organizational goals, not out of sync or detracting from them.

2. Integrate Findings Into Executive Summaries and Employee Portals

Staying ahead of the competition relies on smooth, streamlined communication between all levels of employee stakeholders. From C-suite executives and the boards they report to down to the most recent hires, everyone should have access to high-level summaries of competitive intelligence and market intelligence findings.

Communication in business competitor analysis

Include key findings and recommendations from CI research in easy-to-access and frequently updated platforms. Ensure all published findings include targeted suggestions and references written using results-oriented, enterprise-wide business terms. This bridges information gaps between departments and teams, plus conveys the relevance behind much of the comparative analysis and hard data you are currently gleaning via benchmarking programs. Most importantly, they instill the value of measurable competitive intelligence, helping teach the gravity of research and profiling strategies within every department’s work.

3. Maintain a Persona-Driven, Value-Based Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Successful USPs are innately contingent on market differentiation research. The findings from initiated user group surveys to market voice research to conducted price audits and market performance sentiment all inform an organization’s true USP, rather than relying on guesswork or projective desires for what their USP should be.

USPs should also speak to customer personas, the real people with real, measurable wants, fears, principles and pain points engaging with your brand. Staying ahead of the competition requires understanding what those target consumers genuinely want, then positioning clear and value-based USPs that speaks directly to it.

Distinct, persona-driven USPs are a key differentiator behind an organization and one of the leading ways to nurture positive brand awareness, recall and sentiment.

4. Monitor Competitors’ Repetitive Behaviors

Consider the core business domains and departments your organization — as well as your competition — relies on to achieve its principal day-to-day operations:

  • Product research and development
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer service and support
  • Finances
  • Talent acquisition
  • Supply chain, resource and vendor management
  • Information technology

These operations are the ones resulting in your ability to deliver the goods and services tied to your brand. As such, understanding what processes your competitors continually deploy to accomplish their work underpins your ability to outperform that competition. In other words, frequent competitor operational analysis allows organizations to forecast competitor activities better and results, then beat them to it.

What’s more, ongoing competitive benchmarking allows organizations to identify their opportunity gaps. Once equipped with this knowledge, enterprises can more readily tailor processes they currently court, as well as preemptively manage blind spots to adopt growth initiatives.

Monitoring customer behavior

Organizations that hire an independent CI firm have an innate advantage in assessing competitor repetitions. Competitive intelligence and competitive market agencies have more systems and resources in place to conduct repetitive behavioral analysis across target business domains, funneling their findings into intelligent and actionable reports.

5. Consider Entering a New Market

Proactive competitive benchmarking empowers organizations to extend into new business markets — markets it’s already had in sight as well as those it may have undervalued.

Locally, regionally or internationally, competitive business analysis scaffolds what a risk-mitigating market entry plan looks like. More specifically, these plans allow organization leaders and stakeholders to create and execute the following market entry steps with confidence:

  • Overall market landscape mapping, including size, risks, disruptions and segments
  • Key buyer personas in those market segments
  • Current competitors, both established and up-and-coming
  • Common competitor business practices and strategies
  • Blind spots and success patterns in a competitor’s business practices and strategies
  • Cultural values, norms and beliefs shaping new markets and its consumers

6. Perform Frequent Technology Audits

Technology audits allow organizations to survey the functionality of their current IT infrastructure. With technology increasingly defining both professional and personal activities, it’s imperative for enterprises to remain proactive in the efficiencies, optimizations and adoption rates of any new enterprise hardware or software.

Technology audit survey and analysis services

Frequent technology audits are also an underused competitive strategy. They ground any formal structural business analyses your organization performs, which study and measure competitors’ technology usage and provide a compass to orient your enterprise CI platforms. They can also help deter wasteful spending on trendy equipment and legacy systems alike, as benchmarked IT information reveals the financial and operational realities associated with each in your industry.

7. Support Continual Consumer Feedback Loops

Organizations have more methods than ever to support situational, structured or ongoing activities to understand consumers better. These activities are part of its larger customer insights strategy, which provides in-depth awareness of what real people think and feel about your brand, as well as problems they’ve experienced or stand-out, positive interactions they’ve had across touchpoints.

For example, businesses can conduct evidence-based customer feedback programs through:

  • Response surveys, online, over the phone or in person
  • User experience groups, in person or in the field, transactional or ongoing
  • Video-recorded observations of test user groups and customer reactions
  • Voice-of-customer interviews with individuals or groups

Quantitative and qualitative findings from these research methods funnel into strategic, customer-centric business decisions that further differentiate you from the competition. Whether devised entirely internally or with the assistance of a CI firm, consumer feedback studies and loops help pinpoint current strengths, in addition to weaknesses and growth opportunities for your products and services, all straight from those whose perspective on these matters means most. These measures directly influence positive, previously benchmarked metrics such as customer retention rates, customer satisfaction ratings, upsell or cross-sell conversion rates and customer equity calculations.

8. Support Professional Development Initiatives

Another overlooked business competition strategy involves little extraneous research or extra development to implement. It prioritizes something your organization already has set in place and relies upon each and every day to function: your employees.

The vast majority — 89 percent — of millennial workers rate professional development and learning opportunities as important when citing their overall job satisfaction. This number represents an uptick from the 69 percent of non-millennials, namely gen-Xers and working baby boomers, who place the same emphasis on these employee benefits.

Further studies promote the importance of satisfied workers with satisfactory outputs. Organizations that make a point to nurture their employees through career-enriching professional development opportunities will court a more efficient, productive, creative and motivated workforce — which, in turn, creates a more talented workforce fueling further competitive business advantages.

9. Promote a Healthy Workplace

In addition to professional development opportunities, research continues to prove the financial value of a balanced workplace culture.

To promote a healthy workplace, organizations must first understand what exactly their employees consider ideal office conditions. Your business should devise a similar approach to garnering employee satisfaction and retention feedback as you do to attracting and retaining customers. From anonymous surveys to hiring third-party CI consultants to conduct group interviews, businesses can gauge employee satisfaction with work policies, workplace flexibility, leadership, policy and process transparency, training, support and overall work/life balance.

These findings motivate organizational and environmental changes to maximize a workforce from the inside out, giving organizations another competitive advantage.

Contact Proactive Worldwide for Integrated, Specialized Strategies to Remain Competitive in Your Industry

As a global leader in intelligence-based strategic planning, competitive market intelligence and customer insights, Proactive Worldwide consultants have one goal: Help organizations refine and reinstate business competition strategies to not only get ahead of the competition — but to stay ahead.

If you’re wondering how to remain competitive in your market segment, contact one of our CI representatives to get started.

Remain competitive in your industry with Proactive Worldwide

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How Often Should I Perform a Competitive Analysis?

Since competitive intelligence is all about broadening perspectives and learning to look at situations from a competitor’s viewpoint, there’s no hard and fast rule as to when competitive analysis should be conducted. Nevertheless, it’s always better to be ahead of your competition’s plans with sufficient time to react, maximize your strengths and exploit your competition’s weaknesses. Performing a current competitive analysis is highly recommended on a quarterly basis — and on a monthly basis for ideal results.

For any successful company, protecting its place in the market is accomplished with far more accuracy and efficiency when it has the latest insights into what its competitors’ marketing, sales and new product efforts look like. And since industry trends and market landscapes are prone to volatile changes, it’s thanks to regular and ongoing competitive analyses that businesses can remain agile in the face of competitors’ challenges.

The “Why” Behind CI

To remain competitive in today’s fast-changing business landscape, it’s simply not enough for organizations to exclusively focus on their internal operations. Instead, to help executives make more informed strategic decisions, leveraging business competitor analysis provides fresh insights and perspectives that can result in stronger, more resilient business strategies.

Consider, for instance, a consumer electronics manufacturer getting ready to release the newest version of its flagship tablet. If the company merely focuses on the strengths of its product to guide everything from its marketing to its distribution, at least two opportunities will most likely be lost.

First, the company needs a recent market analysis that looks at its competitors’ products and strategies. Without one, it’s likely to experience a certain amount of complacency resulting from a limited viewpoint that only takes the attractiveness of its new device into consideration. Second, the company needs a wider perspective that examines how its device differentiates itself from competitors’ products. Without it, the manufacturer can miss out on the opportunity to build brand and product awareness by highlighting how its new device solves problems that its competitors’ products don’t.

While this example is by no means comprehensive, it demonstrates how much better-prepared businesses are when they take advantage of professional competitive intelligence — or CI — services from our team of experts at Proactive Worldwide. From deciding how and when to release a new product to anticipating competitors’ actions, there isn’t a moment along the lifecycle of a product that competitive analysis can’t help make more successful and profitable.

Clearly, competitive analysis can help raise awareness and yield better business strategies that anticipate and outmaneuver the actions an organization’s competitors are preparing to make.

Contact Proactive Worldwide for a Timely and Thorough Competitor Analysis

At Proactive Worldwide, we particularly appreciate the old adage that time is money, so we waste no time in putting our research and analytical skills to work for you when you need them. Since 1995, we’ve been delivering intelligent competitor analyses that are tailored to our clients’ needs. When you’re ready to grow and defend your place in the market, we’re here for you.

Contact us today to learn more about our full line of competitive intelligence services.

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Complete Guide to Competitive Intelligence

Complete Guide to Competitive Intelligence

From seamless sales operations to savvy social media usage, innovative marketing campaigns to effective go-to-market structures, some companies just always seem “one step ahead.”

How do they do it? What competitive advantages do these organizations maintain — and are they immutable, something others can aspire to but never surpass?

At Proactive Worldwide, we certainly don’t think so.

Get insights into your competition by using the dynamic benefits of competitive intelligence (CI). Through CI’s unique methodological profiling, unlock the processes, competencies and strategic capabilities your organization was made for.

What Is Competitive Intelligence?

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence refers to the formal research process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data around specific business benchmarks, with the end goal to use that data to improve business core competencies.

In other words, competitive intelligence brings extensive market research into your competitive landscape — looking at competitors’ practices, pricing, products and more — to spur smarter, more informed business decisions of your own.

What Is the Importance of Competitive Intelligence?

Importance of competitive intelligence

Competitive intelligence provides businesses their most detailed and accurate course of action toward competitive advantages.

While nearly every single for-profit — and many not-for-profit — businesses want a distinct set of competitive advantages, not everyone understands how to get there. That’s where CI research, profiling and benchmarking comes in.

The competitive advantage-based importance of CI insights can be broken into three parts:

  1. Aggregation: CI research launches an extensive investigative campaign targeting specific operational, organizational and commercial concerns a business wishes to improve. Data sets are sourced and compiled to provide both micro and macro insights.
  2. Synthesis: Organizations interpret the CI data, extracting vital pieces of insights to help differentiate their brands and gain market share.
  3. Action: Organizations execute a milestone roadmap to close performance gaps and remedy pain points, realigning operations and budgets toward strategic growth priorities.

What Are the Benefits of Competitive Intelligence?

Benefits of competitive intelligence

Businesses stand to experience numerous benefits when they undergo competitive intelligence and market insights analysis:

1. Glean Competitive Insights

The methodologies at the core of CI create unique, evaluative data sets leading toward heightened competitive business activities. More so than any other approach, CI unearths qualitative and quantitative information on business activities from its most relevant sources. This allows organizations to see themselves with clearer eyes, understanding what they’re doing successfully and what keeps them lagging behind industry competitors.

2. Track Industry Trends and Predict Future Moves

In-depth competitive intelligence guides organizations through changes it can make today to improve tomorrow. Yet it also hands over external market knowledge that lends predictive insights into emerging industry trends, expectations, technologies, disruptors and more. For many, this foresight is a form of competitive advantage onto itself.

3. Improves Decision-Making ROI

Data-backed insights help declutter business initiatives. Organizations can take a hard look at current strengths and capability gaps, then re-prioritize investments and efforts to address them directly. There is less waste and less indecision — the ideal formula to see greater returns-on-business investments.

4. Boost Product and Service Speeds-to-Market

Speed-to-market refers to the time it takes to see a product or service move from its initial ideation to public sales.

Depending on the industry, average speed-to-market times will vary, as will the variables that go into creating, testing and launching a new commercial good. The more competitive a product or service’s ecosystem, the more essential it is for a company in that industry to improve its speed-to-market deliverables without sacrificing quality. CI research with a market focus enhances time-to-market, market entry and market defense capabilities.

5. Predict Competitions’ Behaviors

Competitive intelligence was founded as a means for organizations to benchmark operations against top competitors. With the information gleaned across aggregation, synthesis and action, a business is primed to better predict a competitor’s behaviors across business domains — then beat them to the punch.

6. Make Business Decisions With Confidence

Critical insights and market intelligence clarify the precise, data-backed actions and opportunities for companies to take. It illustrates how that opportunity can benefit the organization’s strategic priorities as a whole, plus gives objective defenses behind tomorrow’s business investments.

What Industries Use Competitive Intelligence?

Industries that benefit from competitive intelligence

Numerous industries use competitive intelligence to inform improvements across operations, technology, customer satisfaction ratings, market entry or market defense practices and more. Six such sectors are outlined below.

1. Technology

The tech industry seems to evolve at megabit speeds. Changes in consumer expectations often parallel shifts in wider technological affordances and access, with plenty of organizations salivating to provide the latest and greatest commercial and enterprise technological goods.

Technology-focused companies can wield CI research to improve many key capabilities:

  • New or relaunched times-to-market
  • Warranty and customer service operations
  • User experience (UX)
  • Employee recruitment and retention
  • Sustainable organizational structures
  • Long-term strategic planning
  • Market disruptor mitigation

2. Healthcare

Those in the healthcare industry navigate substantial government regulations amidst changes to the insurance market, market stakeholders and patients-as-consumers as a whole.

Competitive intelligence can help the healthcare sector balance its service orientation with still-profitable operations across:

  • Pricing analysis
  • Supply chain management
  • Vendor or third-party administrator relations
  • Value-based, not fee-based, service business models
  • Strategic alliances between health facilities, insurance carriers, pharmacy benefits managers (PBM), investors and payers

3. Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology

Like the healthcare industry, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies face an extensive regulatory environment in a high-cost, multi-dimensional sector. Competitive monitoring and integrative analytics alleviate operational risks for those in the life sciences, medical device, pharma and medical specialization fields by improving:

  • Research and development (R&D) lifecycles
  • Salesforce operations and structures
  • Drug approvals and drug launch planning
  • Market entry and gains strategies
  • Consumer awareness campaigns surrounding treatments, therapies and prescriptions

4. Manufacturing and Industrial Sectors

Commercial and industrial manufacturing has undergone a complete transformation in the 21st century. Scaled-up global competition, combined with emerging, automated technologies and changing supply and demand models, have irreversibly altered the landscape of the manufacturing industry. Competitive intelligence gives power back to manufacturers, allowing organizations to maximize their strengths today while minimizing market risks tomorrow.

Competitive insights for the manufacturing industry assists with:

  • Supply chain management
  • Distribution strategies
  • Supplier and vendor relations
  • Go-to-market models
  • Lean, Six Sigma or other process and project implementation methodologies
  • Market risk modulation

5. Consumer Goods

Consumer goods industry competitive market intelligence

From household furniture to personal hygiene products, e-commerce clothing lines to spiked sparkling water, the consumer goods and retail industry contains businesses of every size and specialization. All these organizations’ concerns, however, align under the lens of competitive intelligence. Market monitoring and CI consulting explore opportunities for retailers to improve:

  • Brand reputation
  • Consumer activity assessments and profiles
  • Emerging and disruptive technology preparedness
  • Local and global market entry
  • Sales strategy benchmarking
  • Traditional and online retail development and growth

6. Financial Services

Externally, trust and transparency are paramount to consumer perceptions of the financial sector. Internally, operations balance compliance needs with disruptive technology changing the nature of traditional banking, lending, investing and financial advising.

Key capabilities enhanced by financial service CI include:

  • Profitability and cost analysis
  • Brand reputation
  • Brand and service evolution
  • Customer support channels
  • Market risk modules
  • New entry market profiles
  • Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) strategies

How to Conduct and Use Competitive Intelligence

There is no single way to perform competitive intelligence. Instead, competitive insights research chooses a series of target domains, or topics, into which organizations conduct in-depth studies. The findings from today’s competitive research become the raw insights leveraged for tomorrow’s business growth.

This guide identifies seven target domains for organizations to dedicate their competitive intelligence efforts toward:

  • Media attention
  • Personnel and culture
  • Consumer
  • Social listening
  • Product and service
  • Sales
  • Partnerships and vendors.

How to do competitive intelligence research

1. Media Attention Insights

Media attention insights refer to public-facing announcements, promotions and updates made by your industry competitors. It includes both self-generated promotions as well as ones from other publications or organizations, within and outside your field.

Media attention insights are a poignant way to keep a pulse on the latest competitor “buzz.” Any mention of your competition in the news constitutes a significant PR learning opportunity. The conversations and traffic generated by media attention further bolster a company’s chance to perform competitive intelligence research into this critical topic.

Organizations can use any of the following to conduct media attention analysis:

  • Press releases or any similar internally approved strategic announcements hosted on competitors’ websites
  • News mentions across the Internet, plus their generated conversations
  • Recently earned industry awards and titles
  • Event calendars and program sponsorships
  • Competitive business products or services trending on social media

Media attention competitive analysis lends organizations the ability to:

  • Present differing language to the media in their own press releases, announcements and branded publications.
  • Study and enrich press contact lists.
  • Keep tabs on the overall pulse of who’s considered an industry authority, using strategies to position themselves for the title.

2. Personnel and Culture Insights

Personnel and culture insights provide a data-backed perspective on what working for industry competition is truly like.

From office culture and talent acquisition practices to the habits and skills of executive leadership, personnel insights deliver quantitative and qualitative reports on the pros and cons of a competitor’s atmosphere. With that data, organizations can assess where others in the field are investing time- and talent-management resources, gleaning predictive insights on where the industry’s overall talent and culture needles are moving.

CI consultant firms conduct personnel and cultural competitive intelligence by analyzing:

  • Competitor hiring practices, including where and how
  • Competitor hiring rates, particularly if they signal high churn
  • Past and current employee reviews
  • Executive team makeup
  • Office locations and opening branches
  • Newly created or never-before-offered positions
  • Overall work culture and reputation

Conducting competitive intelligence into personnel and culture allows businesses to:

  • Re-position its own recruitment materials to appeal to target talent pools.
  • Extract new hiring practice incentives and initiatives that pull competitors’ talent away.
  • Better understand how a competitor’s leadership may influence its future strategic goals, priorities and direction.
  • See patterns for emerging roles and responsibilities in your organization.

3. Consumer Insights

Garnering consumer feedback has long been one of the tenets of market intelligence research. As one of the most popular competitive intelligence services available to organizations today, consumer insights allow real businesses to know what real people think of their products, services and overall brand — as well as their competitors’.

Consumer analyses come backed by qualitative and quantitative research methods. CI firms initiating consumer intelligence insights for their clients most often gather data through:

With consumer intelligence analytics, organizations can:

  • Understand the rational as well as the emotional appeal of competitors’ products and services.
  • Learn from product or service features offered by others in the industry.
  • Tailor its own goods and services to match actual consumer wants, expectations and trends.

4. Social Listening Insights

Social listening competitive intelligence blends media attention analysis with consumer insights. In other words, it tracks what actual consumers are saying about competition online, as well as the methods and strategies those competitors deploy to widen their digital authority and conversion rates.

Social listening pays particular attention to digitally branded social media and content marketing. By tracking content channels, topics, posting rates, subscriptions, consumer interactions, ratings and more, social listening insights give businesses eyes and ears into direct consumer opinions.

Organizations interested in gleaning insights from social listening can begin tracking competitors across:

  • Social media channels, analyzing posting rates, consumer engagement, and the “tone” of posts as well as competitors’ most effective platforms
  • Blogs, discerning key topics and threads
  • Whitepapers or case studies
  • Newsletters, digital or print
  • Video content
  • Webinars and online conferences, courses
  • Any other miscellaneous downloadable or shareable content

Social listening insights allow a business to:

  • Better understand a competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of the public.
  • Maximize its own most effective, influential social media platforms.
  • Recognize content marketing gaps to fill.
  • Identify customer advocacy and influencer opportunities.
  • Restrategize overall content differentiation.

5. Product and Service Insights

Evidence-based insights on product and service positioning, pricing, packaging and market share are some of the highest value and most sought after information in the competitive intelligence arena. Every business wants — and needs — to understand their competitive advantages related to products and services, as well as the strength of current product development, sales and customer support strategies.

Product and service competitive insights give metric-backed data into these concerns, allowing organizations to propel their offerings to the next level. Organizations can examine a spectrum of market-related metrics:

  • Product or service testing and updates
  • Product or service positioning and branding
  • Product packaging
  • Product or service market share
  • Price-point comparisons
  • Customer service and support
  • Customer UX reviews

Competitive intelligence research focused on products and services gives businesses a distinct advantage to:

  • Glean the values, beliefs and desires of competitors’ customer groups based on a competitor’s product or service branding.
  • Siphon those consumers by re-positioning your own branding.
  • Update packaging based on consumer feedback.
  • Leverage insights into more strategic advertisements and sales campaigns.
  • Recognize how your end-to-end product and service experience compares with the competition.

6. Sales Insights

Sales competitive intelligence allows organizations to understand what competitors are doing to widen their market share. What are emerging and core sales strategies? Do competitors offer promotions and incentives? Are there unique selling propositions (USPs) the competition claims that consumers respond well to? How can you imbue more value-adding, persuasive messaging into your own sales pipeline?

CI firms glean competitive sales insights by tracking many sales and marketing functions:

  • Conversion campaign types and success rates
  • Campaign channels, including email, direct mail and more
  • Core offers and promotions
  • New offers and promotions
  • Customer segments with in-depth demographic profiles

Conducting sales competitive intelligence allows businesses to:

  • Keep tabs on trending sales and marketing techniques, sorting the functional from the fad.
  • Deploy more strategic A/B tests on home pages, landing pages, sales pages and more.
  • Analyze the A/B tests published by competitors.
  • Identify untapped consumer pockets.
  • Brand differentiate across all collateral and channels to improve conversion rates.

7. Vendor and Partnership Insights

Vendor and partnership insights provide a final competitive analysis platform. Organizations examining vendors and partners aim to better understand the collaborative relationships the competition maintains across supply chains and workflows, as well as which partnerships are helping or hindering their own operations.

CI firms will analyze:

  • Competitors’ partners frequently tagged on social media
  • Recently added vendors and strategic partners
  • Recently dropped vendors and strategic partners
  • Professional associations
  • Competitor certifications differentiating their products and services

Benchmarking vendor relations can help contribute to many strategic changes in an organization, including:

  • Signal competitor growth and development
  • Indicate new partnership integration strategies, particularly with relevant vendors the competition recently dropped
  • Inspire influencer and outreach opportunities
  • Generate brand-enhancing sponsorship ideas

How Do You Conduct Competitive Intelligence Research?

Tips for competitive intelligence research

There are several research methods available to conduct formal competitive and market intelligence operations. However, an organization must first determine if they’ll perform the CI research in one of two ways — internally or with the assistance of a CI firm.

  • Internal CI research: Initiating CI research internally means an organization dedicates its own time and resources to formulating, tracking and evaluating CI functions it believes will identify competitive advantages. Organizations draft their own benchmarking metrics and research method using their own tools and software, hoping what they learn will lead to stronger executive decision-making.
  • CI consultant or firm: Competitive intelligence and market analysis firms expand the research affordances and often the depth of analysis conducted during aggregation and synthesis. Using their own proprietary research systems as well as established focus group and interview networks, CI firms provide a template for custom competitive profiling and in-depth assessments. This tends to bolster the research findings as well as enrich metric analyses, generating more insightful and more specialized interpretations than what a company could do on its own.

Across research functions, CI and market intelligence can be conducted using any of these research methods:

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • User-experience (UX) groups
  • Online research
  • Industry databases and resources
  • Field or lab tests

Risks of Not Performing Competitive Intelligence

There are distinct costs associated with neglecting or all-out ignoring competitive intelligence benchmarking — costs which can trigger a domino-like chain of strategic business shortcomings.

Risks of not doing competitive intelligence

1. Heightened Risk on Strategic and Tactical Decisions

The wealth of information provided by CI and market research prevents organizations from having decision-making tunnel vision, introducing changes and executing judgments without proper data. It’s akin to playing darts in the dark. Your business may hit a bullseye, but you’ll have no idea why — and, more importantly, have no way to repeat it.

Organizations introduce themselves to higher amounts of risk across many of the following core business functions:

  • Product research and development (R&D): R&D activities, from initial product design to compliance testing to new market deployment, is made in isolation, without quantifiable consumer knowledge.
  • Marketing: Digital and print campaigns are shapeless, crafted toward what a business thinks its customers value versus what they actually do.
  • Sales: Conversion tactics, pipelines and campaign placements aren’t strategically measured before or after deployment, making their merits highly subjective and less likely to perform.
  • Customer service: Brands are cut off from the detailed, high-value thoughts, opinions and experiences of the very people it claims to serve.

2. Witness Competitors Outperform You — And Not Know Why

Watch from the sidelines as industry competition discovers new, innovative and effective ways to grow. Whether that growth is due to expanded technology, fresh human talent, new leadership or relaunched product features will be guesswork — and hardly educated guesswork at that. As a result, your own business goals and strategic direction stalls, uninformed by competitor planned actions, market needs or milestone roadmaps rectifying process or operational gaps.

3. Lose Market Share

Lost market share is calculated by comparing current sales percentages against sales figures over a past period. Sliding percentages indicate a business is not making equitable sales in their industry, either because its lost customers or the customers it does have are reducing purchasing quantities or qualities.

Lost market share can strike for many reasons. From a market downfall to industry disruptors with radical yet innovate business models, your organization stays in the dark regarding its reduced sales figures. It’s an unsustainable business position, one avoidable with competitive intelligence.

Go Beyond This Competitive Insights Guide With Proactive Worldwide

Not all data is made equal — but all organizations have the chance to wield data to their competitive advantage.

Competitive benchmarking and market intelligence services from Proactive Worldwide gives your business the information it needs to better understand high-value intersecting targets — your market share, your customers and your competition.

Proactive Worldwide competitive intelligence consulting services

Get in touch to learn what we can discover for your business.

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What Is Business War Gaming?

What is Business War Gaming?

Business war gaming is an experiential group exercise where an organization can pressure test an existing strategy or create new strategies and ideas via role-playing the competitors’ strategy and mindset before making full-scale investments. War gaming is about shaking things up, challenging norms, and taking a fresh look at the market from the lens of other key players.

It’s helpful to point out how much we already instinctively know about what war gaming is. Have you ever observed a youth team sports practice — from football and basketball to soccer and volleyball? If so, you already know that the pinnacle of many practices is a scrimmage, when the overall team is split into two opposing sides to compete against each other.

Interestingly, smaller-scale corporate war games are also frequently referred to as scrimmages — often designed to take under a day to execute and focused primarily on one competitor or a specific business issue or scenario.

So to define business war gaming, consider what the average youth soccer scrimmage aims to accomplish. While the scrimmage is going on, team members who are normally on the same side are suddenly playing against each other as if they are the competitor, running plays and behaving as they would — sharpening both their offensive and defensive skills in the process. This setup results in a form of practical role-playing where players’ skills are tested and developed with the goal of honing them even further for game day.

How Does Business War Gaming Work?

Professionally led war gaming exercises from Proactive Worldwide typically involve a pre-game planning stage, the development of briefing books and finally, the war gaming workshop. With this comprehensive approach, nothing is left to chance. The pre-game planning helps to define the who, what, when and where of the upcoming workshop. Once the details of the war game objectives are mapped out, who will take part, what strategies will be tested, when the workshop will take place and where it will actually occur have been agreed upon, it’s time to develop a briefing book.

A briefing book is usually compiled of 20 pages or less and serves to prepare the participants for the workshop. The brevity of the book is intentional so that people actually read it in advance. It contains a baseline of information so that participants that will represent that company are equally up to date on both the market landscape and understand the mindset, characteristics, and culture of the company they will role play.

Subsequently, a full-scale war gaming exercise will commence with a home team and two or three competitor teams. In general, each team is comprised of five to eight cross-functional members. It’s essential to remember that not every competitor team needs to strictly be an adversarial company. One of the other teams role played may also be a regulatory body, a distributor or even a consumer group focused on customer experiences. Depending on the desired outcomes, this may be a one- or two-day event.

For a more detailed description of what war gaming is, which exercises are involved and what resources it requires, you’re invited to listen to David Kalinowski, Proactive Worldwide’s President and war gaming authority, describe the process in his own words in the following podcasts:

What Are the Benefits of War Gaming?

Business war gaming is an engaging, exciting, and energetic experience. Unlike any affirmatory exercise, war gaming is strategically set up to provide helpful insights for actionable strategic decision-making. With a skilled facilitator, at the end of a workshop you’ll be left with a number prioritized actions to help you win.

War gaming helps align an organization’s leadership, aid in strategic (and in some cases tactical) decision-making, better evaluate its alternative strategies and recognize its hidden opportunities to seize and real threats to blunt. To learn more about the enterprise-wide benefits of war gaming for your business, contact us today.

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5 Hot Trends

2018 Trends

We’re well into 2018, and despite a few bumps in the road, the year is shaping up to be a good one for business. Expectations of fewer regulations, a brighter tax picture, and high consumer expectations all point to healthy growth. But, as always, we need to keep abreast of what’s trending to be sure we’re keeping up. Here are five key areas that will loom large in the foreseeable future:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Personalized Social Media Experiences
  • Blockchain
  • Evolving Workplace for Women
  • The CEO as Statesman

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is certainly not new, but it’s gaining greater prominence in the methods that we use to conduct business. In a recent PwC study, 72% of corporate leaders consider AI to be an aid to their enterprises. In what areas do they use it? Mostly to help with boring but essential tasks like preparing time sheets, scheduling, and paper work in general. Though relying on AI may seem to go against the trend toward personalization, it actually doesn’t. Using AI for menial tasks frees up time to devote to personalization in the areas that count with customers: delivery of what they want from your products or services.

Personalized Interactive Experiences

Social media isn’t a Johnny-Come-Lately either, but its influence is light-years ahead of what it was only a few years ago, and this influence is worldwide. One estimate by Statista suggests that by 2020, nearly one-third of the world’s population – 2.9 billion people – will be social media users. And why not? It’s the modern way people communicate with each other around the globe.

There are a myriad of ways to use social media to attract customers, e.g., a toy manufacturer could ask what to name a new doll or a brewery a new beer. Maybe people would like to weigh in on features they’d like to see on warm jackets: is it buttons or a zipper? How about a hood? The possibilities are endless regardless of what you sell or the services you offer.

Blockchain

Blockchain has become a hot topic around the world in 2018. It’s probably best known as the technology that gave us Bitcoin, which enabled online payments to be transferred directly without the use of an intermediary, such as a bank. Today a blockchain has many other uses. Think of it as a type of distributed ledger that constantly updates its own digital records. Once a transaction has been validated, it is then time-stamped and added to the blockchain in linear, chronological order. New blocks are linked to older ones, hence the name “blockchain.” Each blockchain automatically updates, so every ledger in the network, i.e., your company, always has a real-time record of transactions. Think of the simplicity, not to mention the time saved. Plus, blockchains are virtually hack-proof because the hackers would have to go through the entire history of the blockchain to pull it off. And they’d have to do it on every individual ledger in the company.

Evolving Workplace for Women

Though women have been in the workplace since there was a workplace, until the beginning of the women’s movement, they were often relegated to low-level, poorly paying jobs that were considered “suitable” for females. Today, however, there are precious few jobs from which women are excluded, and barriers to those are falling fast. The “glass ceiling” has many holes in it. Expect this trend to continue. Availability of in-the-workplace child care and options for work-from-home add to the options available for women who desire careers today.

Plus, role models abound: around the world, there are women heads of state (we nearly had one in the U.S.), many CEOs and other corporate executives, women who are high-ranking military officers, women in space, women on the Supreme Court, women mayors, women governors of states, and so on. An unprecedented number of women are expected to run for Congress in the next election as well.

Women often control the purse strings in a family too. So companies that have products to sell ignore that fact at their peril.

One other factor to consider: the #MeToo movement has caused an enormous shift in what constitutes acceptable workplace behavior. This is likely to continue, especially as women become more influential in setting policy.

The CEO as Statesman/Stateswoman

Once upon a time, the CEO was all about business, but no more. Increasingly, CEOs are addressing social issues. What’s driving the trend? For one thing, millennials are now in the workplace, and they tend to be socially conscious. For another, government seems strangely ineffective in tackling societal problems. Add to that the need to build public trust in business. So one can expect to see more CEOs stepping up to the plate this year. The labor market is tight, so to attract the best talent, CEOs need to show that they’re doing good, not just doing well.

Proactive Worldwide

Proactive Worldwide has its proverbial finger on the pulse of the trends listed above. So if you have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with their implications, we have experts who can help. It’s what we do.

Digital Strategy Gets Personal in 2018

Digital Strategy

In today’s marketplace, what sets the winners apart from the also-rans? Virtually all of them have developed top-notch, user-friendly digital strategies. If you have clear digital channels, you will make buying choices easier for your customers, which in turn, will result in increased sales.

Time, time, time. In this revved-up world we live in, people never seem to have enough of it, and they value clarity and efficiency when they’re looking for something they want to buy. Whether it’s a product or a service, they expect they will quickly find what they’re looking for. Otherwise, they will look elsewhere. You don’t want that to happen with your wares.

Digital technology entered the business world more than 20 years ago, but enterprises still wrestle with making the best use of it. Not to try, however, is fool hardy. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, on average, digital competition has wiped away half the annual revenue growth and one third of the growth in earnings from companies that have failed to embrace current digital strategies. The article goes on to say that the average return on a company’s current digital investments is below 10%. However, here’s the flip side: the top performing 10% of companies achieves revenue growth 8% higher than the industry average and a digital ROI 10 times higher than that of the bottom 10%. Obviously, the top 10% are doing something right, and the bottom 10% need help.

So, what’s trending in digital 2018?

You need to be up-close- and-personal in this revved up digital age. Having big names tout your products doesn’t work as well as it used to. You should be where your customers are. Here are a few ways to get there:

  • Develop grassroots promotions that leverage the power and cost-efficiency of social media to spread your message.
  • Use advanced targeting techniques to better connect with your customers. Examples include behavioral targeting that relies on customers’ interests found in browser data, geo-targeting that targets customers (often via mobile device) in a specific location, and contextual targeting that places digital ads based on site content.
  • Make use of professional live video to enhance customer engagement and solicit instant feedback about your products and services.
  • Use social media to track your customers’ interests, buying propensities, and brand sentiment.
  • Take a second look at your digital distribution channels. The digital world is evolving at lightning speed so be sure you’re making the most of your digital channels. These include your owned media (your websites, your blog, your social media properties), paid media (Google AdWords, display ads, paid content posts), and earned media (online visibility and publicity you’ve earned through shares, reviews, mentions, etc.).

The key is to know where your customers are through every step of their purchasing journey. Some of the procedures above require expertise that you may not have. Besides you have a business to run, but here’s where Proactive Worldwide can help. Whether you’re a long-standing business or a new enterprise, PWW offers several beneficial services that will put you on the right footing. If you want to increase your sales, we suggest opting for our Digital Strategy Service, which is part of our Customer Insight Program. You’ll learn how you can jump start improvements to your digital strategy.

Or you may want to realign or build a new digital footprint. Our Digital Strategy Service would also be the choice for that. The Digital Strategy Service focusses specifically on how well your online digital channel components are working for your customers. In addition, we suggest improvements that will make your customers’ digital experiences more gratifying. To determine where you currently rank on the digital-maturity spectrum, we’ll first evaluate your existing digital program. We’ll then work collaboratively with you to develop goals and appropriate solutions to build or realign your digital footprint no matter what devices your customers are using to access your site.

Proactive Worldwide has assisted many organizations including Fortune 500 companies to realign and reinvest in their digital footprints and we’d be honored to do the same for you.

Creating a Value-Driven Project Intake Process

“Get me whatever you can.” We’ve all heard these five words. But beware: They are certain to set up a project for failure. Even though stakeholders love to give this direction…they don’t really mean it! A project can’t be completed successfully if its scope is not well organized, and if there is no clear alignment on expected outcomes. Based on my more than 25 years of research and consulting project experience, scope is the most important preliminary aspect of project management; it’s critical to make it clear the first time around, because it’s difficult to adjust later on.

Yet the project intake process continues to be a challenge for many practitioners. In today’s environment of “everything is urgent AND important,” it is more vital than ever that your stakeholders understand what results actually can be delivered, when, at what quality level, and at what cost. On March 7th as part of the Society of Insurance Research’s 2017 educational conference, “Research Skills Development for Tomorrow’s Leaders,” at the University Club of Chicago, I shared some best practices for the project scoping process as it applies to competitive intelligence and market research studies.

All living organisms have a life cycle…a project is no different. After discussing the typical project life cycle (Infancy, Adolescent, Mature, Old Age) and the respective management style a project leader needs to demonstrate with each phase of the cycle (Champion, Coach, Counselor, Manager), I outlined a 6-step process for diagnosing requests:

  1. Determine Needs and Project Goals – Engage in dialogue with the stakeholder to gain clarity on the business problem to solve, obtain context on what you to seek to achieve, avoid generalizations, and focus only on areas that will provide value…those that truly impact key decisions
  2. Define Deliverables – Gain alignment on the project requirements, know what you will produce (format, analytical tools, outcomes), adjust deliverables including timeline and budget when “scope creep” emerges (and it will!), schedule kick-off calls and update your stakeholder on progress, and whenever possible, present your final results…don’t just email a final report
  3. Identify and Allocate Resources – Assess the hours it will take to complete the various tasks of an engagement, determine what unique skills or experiences are required, determine if the people you need can be sourced internally or externally, and carefully assemble the right delivery squad…don’t overlook the importance of team composition
  4. Establish Budget – Create a budget using a top-down (here’s the budget to work with, now distribute it) or bottom-up approach (estimate hours/cost by task to reach a total necessary budget to meet project specifications), include a “buffer” or reserve to cover unexpected risk, track actual versus budget, and rely on past experience…this will help you to know if budget is realistic
  5. Create a Realistic Timeline – Begin with the end in mind (Stephen Covey), identify all activities and tasks to produce desired results, know which tasks are dependent on others, estimate length to complete the tasks, develop a schedule, and discuss the timeline with the stakeholder…set clear expectations
  6. Gain Approval – Identify the signatory, ask for what you need, prepare for push-back, and obtain written authorization (signed SOW, MSA, PO), especially if collaborating with an external solution provider…protect yourself and your company

Applying this valued, best-practice approach to the project intake process will help ensure that you control the project – so it doesn’t end up controlling you! If you would like a copy of the key presentation slides, please email davidk@proactiveworldwide.com.

Author:
David J. Kalinowski, President
Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
www.proactiveworldwide.com

Competitive Simulation Uncovers Crucial Blind Spot

Proactive’s War Game offering increases the probability of success in the face of market and competitive uncertainties, because your team has already considered them and is better prepared to act.

Case in Point: A client in the nutrition space faced a significant decision on non-GMO food – should they make a significant investment in marketing, reformulation, and modifying production equipment, or “wait and see”?

Read Case Study

Technology Disrupts and Innovates the Insurance Market

There were several valuable presentations on day one of the Society of Insurance Research (SIR) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Keynote speaker Bill Harnett of Harnett Advisors discussed how every business is now subject to technology disruptions, Moore’s Law and the exponential change it brings.

Bill asserted that “every industry is becoming a tech company,” and over time he will be right. Currently, he explains, there are three ways in which most insurance companies manage risk:

1) Eliminate it
2) Transfer it
3) Insure it

What are technology disruptions?
With technology disruptions, such as driverless cars, there will eventually be less risk to insure, and this wouldn’t just be limited to cars. Driverless buses and trucks are in development. This is projected to result in fewer accidents and less deaths, and services such as telematics may become obsolete as vehicle sensors make autonomous vehicles (AV) driving safer and more efficient. AV will free up 50-minutes a day to drivers, parking garages and parking space requirements will be massively reduced, and vehicle crashes are expected to fall by 90%. Think about the impact that has on companies that insure these things.

While some experts estimate that it will be 2050 before AV will be the primary mode of transportation, Bill believes that by 2020 you will start to see more autonomous vehicles on the road as companies like Ford have committed to producing a series of autonomous cars by then. Even Uber has plans to ultimately have no drivers.

Technology such as 3D printing will also impact the insurance market. There is virtually no limit to what can be constructed via 3D printing. There is new technology connected to very large 3D printers that are able to build a 3D printed home, and in China this has already been put into practice. This kind of technology will certainly impact on the property and casualty insurance market.

Bill also made the point that not only has technology be taking over blue-collar jobs, but it is coming after white-collar jobs. With technology like IBM’s Watson, that can read thousands of documents in seconds, faster than any human can read, this technology is able to quickly find correlations across different types of content that humans don’t have the capacity to do. For instance, be able to examine different treatments for various kinds of cancer to identify new treatments. It’s estimated that by 2023 that computers like Watson will be able to think just as the human brain, and by 2050 that these computers will have to power to assimilate data equal to all the brains on the planet.

So, be prepared for technology to both disrupt and innovate every industry. The future capability of technology is exciting, but also a little scary, and industries that have been major money-makers in the past may not exist at all, or will exist in a very different capacity, in the future.

Top 10 Intelligence Capabilities Issues

Over the past several years we have been collecting information and data points from interviews we held with top executives from dozens of companies. We found out that the top intelligence capability issues that are cited from business leadership as impediments to a highly valued intelligence function are universally consistent across industries and firms. Check out the top 10:

  1. Deliverables lack actionable business insight and recommendations.
  2. Tactical/transactional work consumes too much time.
  3. Intelligence team talent lacks business/market understanding or analytical skills.
  4. The corporate function ignores BU/Regional issues.
  5. Deliverables are not clearly designed nor enable business priorities and strategies.
  6. Information is delivered or data is dumped – analysis burden is left to the recipient.
  7. There are inconsistencies in local capabilities/understanding and the ability to execute.
  8. Competing priorities inhibit any real, valued outcomes – BU, Regional, Local.
  9. Routine reporting lacks insight (newsletter tend to diminish brand value).
  10. Resource constraints from leadership, talent, budget, meeting/process integration, technology.

A CI capability starting with a rock solid CI strategy that aligns with core executive leadership, has a business cadence and corporate governance, as well as contains proper CI purpose, vision, mission and values statements seems to set the intelligence pace to head off at the pass many of the above CI capabilities issues.