Is Your Company Ready for Strategic Planning?

Preparing your company for the future with strategic planning

From Hannibal defeating the Roman army to the startup of Apple in the face of IBM and Microsoft, history is dotted with stories of David versus Goliath face-offs where an underdog competitor wins out thanks to a superior strategy.

But whether you’re looking at pivotal battles of opposing armies or the fierce competitiveness of the business world, one factor remains a constant. When an organization is faced with an external challenge, it invariably increases its chances of success when it gathers and leverages as many quality insights and implications as possible — and forms a strategic plan that adequately takes into account these early warning indicators.

What Is Strategic Planning?

In today’s hyper-competitive business world, a strategic plan is the process an organization employs in allocating its resources to effectively pursue and successfully meet its business objectives. In this manner, strategic planning serves as a type of enterprise-wide guide for the setting of priorities and the focusing of energies across the business so that common goals with intended outcomes are established.

In addition, it’s critical to consider that when businesses embark on costly campaigns and endeavors without the guidance of a strategic plan, they expose themselves to the likelihood of unwanted surprises and disruptions — from both external and internal sources — that can derail their ability to succeed in their market sectors.

Evaluating Your Readiness for Strategic Planning

To effectively conduct strategic planning, you need to first assess your organization’s readiness. Doing so involves evaluating whether or not you possess the historic and current data you need to accurately recognize implications. Only when you understand the implications of specific market conditions, consumer trends and competitor actions can you adjust your strategic plan accordingly.

The following intelligence sources are highly useful in readying your business for strategic planning:

  • Unlocking market research: Data from internal and external primary sources will enable you to take advantage of evidence-based intelligence that informs you about what your competitors are planning.
  • War gaming: Play out hypothetical situations based on pure fact that lead to in-depth insights and accurate predictions.
  • Leveraging competitive intelligence: From increasing your market share to cutting into your competitors’ margins, competitive intelligence based on primary research will allow you to plan for the future — with both your business goals and the changing needs of your customers in focus and balanced.

Strategic Planning Is an Ongoing Endeavor

Markets change, consumer trends evolve and competitors pursue new strategies and develop new products. To ensure you stay competitive and ahead of the pack, you need to embrace strategic planning as an ongoing part of your operations. By consistently ensuring you have the data you need to recognize the implications of certain developments, you can inform your strategy accordingly and stay one step ahead of the competition.

The end result is the creation of a business culture where opportunities for improvement are more readily recognized and the steps needed to enact positive change are more easily accomplished. It’s both a flexibility that extends to the very core of what makes a business successful and a commitment to always be on the lookout — even when things are going well — for the next disruptor and/or external warning indicator.

Proactive Worldwide — Your One-Stop Source for Strategic Planning Intelligence

With a combination of dedicated market experts and business analysts, our team at Proactive Worldwide is able to deliver the kind of timely insights and implications your business needs to effectively inform and guide your strategic planning for maximum impact.

Why wait until early indicators become a dire warning? Be successful by getting out ahead of your competitors — and staying there — with evidence-based strategic intelligence from Proactive Worldwide.

To discover what Out in Front® really means, contact us today.

Benefits of CI for the Pharmaceutical Industry

CI for pharma companies

The average time associated with bringing a new drug to market hovers around 10 years — with six or seven of those years spent in clinical trials. As such, the risks for pharmaceutical companies looking for a good ROI on their R&D efforts have never been greater. Besides the millions — and in many cases billions — of dollars spent on new drug development, pharmaceutical companies must contend with a myriad of other tactical, strategic and talent issues to ultimately successfully meet their business objectives.

Of course, at the same time, the call for more personalized and/or specialized drugs is increasing — along with the scientific breakthroughs that are making them a reality. And with the global pharmaceutical industry expected to grow by 5.8 percent so its net worth will be in excess of $1,150 billion by 2021, pharmaceutical companies that get their product development right stand to do exceedingly well now and in the foreseeable future.

Much like a targeted treatment developed to improve a particular patient’s condition, competitive intelligence — or CI — can be the game-changer in helping a specific pharma manufacturer better pressure test its strategic plans and tactical moves before implementing them — thereby preventing errors and unforeseen surprises.

The Competitive Advantage of Pharma-Specific CI

With the rise of CI, several companies in the sector offer their services without taking a unique approach to the organizations and industries they aim to help. Fortunately, at Proactive Worldwide, our approach couldn’t be more different. We have a dedicated team of doctorate-level analysts specialized in pharmaceutical and healthcare engagements, and our CI services are hand-tailored to the pharmaceutical industry as well as to the unique needs of each company we serve.

Here are just a few of the many outstanding benefits pharma companies can expect to take advantage of by trusting our Proactive Worldwide team to supply them with customized CI services:

  • Prioritize R&D spending: Through deep analysis of competitors’ objectives, both unmet needs and gaps in R&D spending can be identified and better prioritized.
  • Track market actions: By tracking who’s entering or leaving a market due to issues such as licensing and M&A activities, an organization can proactively defend and/or increase its market presence.
  • Monitor medical conferences: From the planning stages through post-conference reporting, knowing which scientific developments are most likely to impact an organization’s business strategy makes medical conference monitoring a proven way of enhancing the likelihood of that strategy meeting with success.
  • Assess potential investment activities: With clear reporting of potential investment activity in its market sector, a pharma company is capable of deciphering its competitors’ plans with sufficient time to take any necessary strategic actions.
  • Evaluate sales and conversion rates: Equipped with multidimensional market research, a pharmaceutical manufacturer can responsibly evaluate and strengthen its sales force structure as well as its approach to converting potential leads into definite sales.

Proactive Worldwide — Providing Custom CI for the Pharma Sector

Combining Ph.D.-level medical experts with MBA-level business analysts is what makes our team at Proactive Worldwide so successful in the pharmaceutical sector. To discover how our pharma-specific CI services can give your company the competitive advantage it deserves, contact us today.

Why Invest in War Gaming?

Benefits of wargaming

If you’re new to business war gaming, the exciting news is that you’re not alone. War gaming is a human-based experiential tool that, through targeted role play, allows you to better understand your competitor’s mindset and pressure test your own strategies.

As Proactive Worldwide’s president and co-founder, David Kalinowski likes to say, “War gaming is an important strategic tool that a lot of companies aren’t using as they ought to.” And this is a crucial point to consider when executive decision-makers need every competitive advantage they can get to ensure their business strategies meet with success.

To put this scenario into perspective, imagine what would happen if a finish carpenter chose not to use a tape measure. Without the aid of a tape measure, pieces of raw materials like molding and baseboards would wind up being cut too short or too long. The result would be extra costs for more materials and labor — plus, an end product that’s far less likely to be as appealing as if the carpenter used the tape measure in the first place.

Simply put, by overlooking a useful tool, a finish carpenter could very well jeopardize present and future business opportunities. And by comparison, war gaming is a proven tool that, when used properly under the guidance of an experienced competitive intelligence — or CI — firm like Proactive Worldwide, creates simulated attacks and defenses that leave your people far more knowledgeable about their own capabilities and preparedness to successfully thwart competitors’ activities.

War Gaming: An Investment in Successful Business Strategy

With more than two decades of experience in CI and facilitating engaging war gaming workshops, Kalinowski has repeatedly seen how this strategic tool can have a huge ROI for organizations that want to thoroughly pressure test their business strategies before implementing them. If you’re interested, you’re encouraged to listen to his thoughts on war gaming firsthand in Proactive Worldwide’s new Business Intelligence podcast.

In meeting the challenges of both strategic situations — like dealing with market disruptions and regulatory changes — and tactical situations — like product launches and new market entries — the investment in war gaming can be one of the most prudent business decisions you make. Here are just a few of its most important benefits:

  • Align leadership: War gaming helps business unit and functional leaders develop aligned strategies and prioritized actions to address the competitive landscape they’re facing.
  • Increase probability of success: By playing out competitors’ actions, strategies become more robust and more likely to meet with success.
  • Evaluate alternative strategies: To help neutralize threats and mitigate risks, alternative strategies can be identified and thoroughly evaluated.
  • Recognize opportunities: Otherwise hidden or unnoticed opportunities can be more readily discovered and exploited.
  • Bring cross-functional people together: When professionals from strategy, sales, operations and distribution — to name just a few — come together during war gaming, siloed knowledge and communication barriers are transcended.
  • Help successful strategy implementation: When it’s time to execute strategy, involving war game participants helps ensure better implementation, as those people feel more invested in the decision-making process.

To learn more about business war gaming broken down by industry for unparalleled strategic planning results, contact us today.

A Year in the Life of Strategic Planning: Create an Annual Strategic Planning Cycle that Supports Key Roles and Builds Up to a Strong Finish

The first article in our Strategic Planning series discusses how Competitive Intelligence can and should adapt depending on the type of strategic planning model your business employs. Our second piece focuses on constructive CI research queries that help your business target specific issues unique to your enterprise, thus gaining more insightful reporting relating to strategic goals.

We turn next to the concept of setting up CI research building blocks to both monitor progress and propel strategic planning endeavors forward throughout the year. Every quarter, corporate divisions should be working toward specific objectives that build on one another to serve the overarching corporate strategic planning cycle, and by extension, the overall good of the corporation. Under this strategic planning process umbrella, the overall corporate strategic plan must take its cues, so to speak, from each of these divisions’ annual plans. Each of these divisional entities should develop a routine cadence tied to quarterly CI reporting, with specific deliverables being aimed at the strategic planning development stages in the latter parts of the year.

Quarterly business performance indicators within each division are gleaned from several competitive intelligence functions, including, 1) pressure testing competitive strategies; 2) competitive and marketing intelligence reporting; 3) customer insights; and 4) competitive monitoring and alerts. Bearing in mind that a quarterly business review of business performance is essential to keeping everyone on track throughout the year, let’s break down what an annual strategic planning cycle looks like when it leverages these four CI functions:

Q1 – The first quarter cycle places most of its emphasis on research and preparation. During this Q1 cycle, business units put all four of the above CI functions in play to 1) facilitate business war games; 2) create a market entry assessment; 3) develop a customized comparative journey map; and 4) begin the work of timely and relevant insight into market movements, competitors and conferences.

Q2 – In this cycle, research and preparation continues, with BUs taking on more in-depth examinations based on the high-level corporate findings from the previous quarter. Strategic planning now moves into scenario workshops and refinement, with CI functions from Q1 serving as the foundation for additional CI functions that 1) facilitate these workshops; and 2) build new competitor profiles.

Q3 – The third quarter activity takes the intelligence gains from the previous two quarters and progresses toward developing the overall corporate strategic plan itself, with BUs taking up key roles in helping to devise that plan. This work gets a boost from more targeted CI functions that 1) develop a competitor function profile; and 2) create a customer usability study. By the third quarterly business review, all BU stakeholders and management will have a much clearer strategic direction going into the fourth quarter.

Q4 – Once the strategic planning cycle reaches the fourth quarter, a key CI pressure testing component is added, in which BUs develop their own key performance indicators. Throughout the year, competitive monitoring, alerts, and ongoing intelligence functions culminate in a final review communicating cumulative gains based on the strategic planning effort, down through the ranks as well as up the ladder in a board review setting.

One key rule to remember is that your strategic planning process is never really complete. The goal is to repeat the cycle and continually improve over time. Transparency, adherence to a set schedule, and developing reliable KPIs that build up to strong yearly results are excellent ways to stay on this progressive path.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive intelligence, market intelligence, and customer insights domains. Anchored by primary source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include but are not limited to market intelligence and competitive research services, market entry and defense strategies, war gaming workshops and scenario planning events, and customer experience and voice of customer studies.

Changes Will Continue to Impact the Trucking and Shipping Industry in 2019

The transportation and freight industry affects nearly all other industries, so it’s important to be aware of new innovations in that industry. Technology already has – and will continue to have – an enormous influence on the way the trucking industry operates. Here are just two possibilities:

  • What if you knew that there would be a lack of shipping capacity two years before it happened?
  • What would happen if you could move product to customers faster than competitors?

Foresight is critical to a company’s competitive strategy and seeing potential future market changes helps keep businesses’ competitive intelligence functions high on the priority list.

A retiring workforce, new regulations, and equipment shortages have created capacity constraints and are likely years away from being solved. There are several trends that have significant impacts on the way goods are transported. Competitive intelligence functions help identify these potential changes and suggest ways to use them to a company’s advantage.

Here are four innovative trends in the trucking space and why they should matter to you:

On-Demand Freight
Technology will continue to advance in every market, and trucking and freight will be no exception. On-Demand Freight Services simplify the way drivers and customers connect. The concept is simple: companies/users find and connect with service providers quickly, easily, and transparently through websites and mobile apps. Making connections this way streamlines the logistics process for low and medium-volume customers, and it removes the need for middlemen, usually 3PLs and other transportation brokers. For example, Uber Freight has transformed the industry with their product, and there are others on the way, including UPS, which launched an on-demand fulfillment networked geared towared B2B e-commerce, matching customers with available warehouse space.

Above all, on-demand applications connect shippers (or owners/operators) to customers directly. As adoption and use accelerates, shipping dynamics will quickly change the way companies transfer products to customers.

Why it Matters
Currently, the use of these services is modest; however, as they develop, local shipments across the country (e.g., less than 300 miles) will see activity. The technology has the capability to deliver products to market faster and improve the execution of just-in-time delivery capabilities.

  • Reducing the number of steps between the customer and shipper can change industry dynamics quickly. The technology under development is seeking to make this a reality.
  • These applications can provide owners/operators further control of the freight market, leading to a notable power shift in the industry (think Porter’s 5 Forces).
  • This technology has the potential to trigger new economic models for investors and companies seeking to support acceleration in this venue.

Electric Trucks
Most organizations understand the implications of electrically powered trucks; however, it’s probably unlikely that those who make strategic decisions have had an in-depth discussion of the advantages and disadvantages.

Electically powered trucks, while still under development, have the potential to change the cost structure of transporting goods. Fuel costs are commonly identified as the second highest cost, outside of driver compensation, to a fleet’s operation and are shared with customers (and consumers). Electric vehicles reduce or eliminate fuel costs in dramatic ways. In fact, many oil companies are closely monitoring the electrification market to determine the potential impact it will have on the U.S. gasoline and diesel market. If the technology advances, it can dramatically change the cost structure of moving cargo.

Why it Matters
Companies that offer price structures that no longer have fuel as the primary cost-driver can be dramatically different. Those who adopt them also put pressure on organizations that are not prepared to change.

Industries that rely on “business as normal” in the trucking space can see change in many industry segments. Truck-component suppliers, fuel companies, service/repair businesses, and insurance companies are just a few that will be impacted initially. Once the technology is proven, the market shift will happen quickly.

New companies may quickly enter the space and as non-industry players enter, it can instantly change the definition of who might be a competitor. Electrification can be a barrier-lowering event and can upend the market as well as create new opportunities.

New services and infrastructure will be necessary to support electrically powered vehicle operations.

Autonomous Trucks & Vans
With organizations like Freightliner showcasing trucks that have passive drivers and others pushing for completely driverless solutions, the way that we currently deliver freight will change dramatically. The change will not be overnight, but as acceptance grows and confidence builds, change will accelerate. Several organizations are testing autonomous trucking solutions. Most notable and successful have been autonomous vans delivering groceries and small parcels to homes. These small-scale delivery examples can help pave the way for larger applications. Success in the use of autonomous automotive vehicles in the private sector will accelerate their use in trucking.

The economic impact of autonomous trucking makes the likelihood of its success more about when, not if. Consumer demand for receiving products faster is higher than ever and organizations desire to keep costs of inventorying product low. Autonomous trucks help make that a reality.

Why it matters
The ability to circumvent bottlenecks in the transportation industry today (driver shortages, fuel costs, driver hour limitations) can drastically change a fleet’s strategy and cost structure. This affects both companies operating in the space and companies using carriers for business.

Semi-autonomous vehicles, which are expected to be mainstream prior to full driverless technologies, can impact the industry just as much. Semi-autonomous trucks/vans can increase operation times, improve safety, and optimize fuel consumption. Companies having these tools first or as part of the strategy moving forward is beneficial for lowering fleet costs or rates to customers.

Similar to the use of electrically powered vehicles, autonomous trucking can impact companies that have operational strategies that do not adjust for change. Playing a role in how the industry develops (versus sitting on the sideline) can tilt elements in some organizations’ favor.

Driverless or semi-driverless environments will require investments, new ways of looking at the freight market, and technology integration that brings rewards.

Industry Consolidation on the Horizon
With the bottlenecks of driver shortages, hours available, and rising costs of operation , consolidation in the trucking and freight space is expected to accelerate in 2019. Although, it’s not only freight companies that will see change; the growth of technology, 3PLs, 4PLs, and telematics companies creates significant consolidation opportunities. Technology and telematics companies are of particular interest because they already offer sophisticated solutions and have a captive customer base. Acquisition of these players by OEMs, freight companies, or non-industry players will dramatically enhance available and future solutions.

Why it matters
For those operating in the market, competitive threats can quickly change and escalate, and acquisitions of technology providers can be significant.

It’s expected that large companies will get larger. Owning more of the value chain or shoring-up capability gaps/ coverage is expected as companies pursue lowering costs or eliminating bottlenecks.

Consolidation can bring chaos or interesting opportunities.

What to Consider
Here are some considerations to think about when seeking to connect competitive intelligence to the critical topic of transportation and logistics:

  • Understand what your organization is doing regarding freight strategies and the possible opportunities the future holds. Chances are, topics like on-demand freight and consolidation may not be high frequency topics, although they should be.
  • Identify whether your competition has adopted strategies to address new technology, such as electrification or on-demand freight technology in their businesses and, if you can, how it has worked for them. Early warnings here can make huge differences.
  • Identify potential disruption risks in customer markets. How much exposure do your customers have? What percentage of your business do these customers represent?
  • Analyze and monitor the market for major events, technology advancements, M&As, JVs, or product launches that can inform leadership of large market shifts. Pay particular attention to companies like Amazon or Uber making acquisitions. Many of these topics are changing the barriers to entry.
  • Explore what investments are essential for the success of autonomous trucks/vans and determine how your organization can align investments. Initial investments can be minimal; however, when the technology is proven, preparation will allow for quick investment decisions that can put an organization well ahead of the competition.
  • Most importantly, consider how your organization can turn this trend into a competitive advantage.

Technological changes accelerate rapidly in today’s world, and trucking and delivery organizations need to consider a myriad of options as this article suggests, but decision-makers have businesses to run. Proactive Worldwide is in business to help lighten the load.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario-planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies. To learn more, visit

Legalized Pot: Opportunity Knocks for Savvy Industries

In the not-so-distant past, anyone who wanted to partake of marijuana in any form risked running afoul of state laws, but that’s rapidly changing despite continued federal prohibition, which is unlikely to change under the Trump administration. Today 30 states and D.C. have some form of legalized medical marijuana, and 15 more are considering legalization for medicinal use even in children with appropriate treatable medical conditions. However, some states have gone further.

Legalized Recreational Cannabis: Its Impact on the Economy
Of those states with medical legalization, 10 states have also legalized recreational use, leaving only five states that still follow the federal prohibition guidelines despite public opinion, which indicates that 61% of Americans approve of legalization in some form. And that’s good news, not only for marijuana suppliers and growers but also for enterprises that offer related products or services, such as security. A recent report by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics estimates that, overall, the legal marijuana industry will have a $40 billion impact on the economy by 2021.

An Expanding Marketplace
The introduction of recreational sales represents a windfall for cash-strapped states in terms of tax revenues, jobs, and reduced law enforcement costs, but states are not the only beneficiaries. There is huge potential for the introduction of all sorts of food, beverage, and topical products with a cannabis component, but the opportunities don’t stop with consumables. If they’re savvy, all sorts of ancillary industries can benefit: growers, packagers, and equipment manufacturers are on this list.

Growers in pot-legal states typically grow their plants indoors or in greenhouses. This practice accrues to the benefit of realtors who rent/sell space, manufacturers of lighting equipment, providers of water and water-filtration products, and those who supply building automation to regulate the growing conditions.

Diverse Uses of Cannabis in Other Products
Seldom does one see a single product used in so many different ways. In the case of cannabis-added products, people can smoke them, drink them, eat them, or rub them on their skins. Each category requires a different type of packaging, and within each category, there may be more than one option, e.g., beer can be canned, bottled, or kegged. Wine can come in a bottle or a box. Food can be dried, frozen, or fresh.

Agriculture Products and Growing Solutions
Besides consumables and topical products, other pot-including products are reaching the marketplace rapidly, and some owe their existence to the development of pot-based fertilizer. Pot-based fertilizer is important for growers to use to prevent the negative effects of ordinary fertilizer, and considerable scientific research and testing has gone into its development. Appropriate growing solutions are now available too. These additions will enable marijuana growers to provide a more-robust product.

Other industries that can – and many already do – benefit from cannabis legalization include transportation that moves products to processors and from processors to dispensaries and ultimately to consumers, or in the case of foods and beverages, to bars, restaurants, and stores that sell cannabis-containing products. This area too is expected to expand as other states hop on the legalized-cannabis bandwagon.

Because of the nature of the products, security plays an important role in ensuring their safety and the safety of the buyers/sellers as well. Security firms are hard at work to provide security automation to leverage cutting-edge security solutions that provide safe work environments and reduce operational overhead.

Facilities Maintenance
The needs of growers and processors will change as time goes on and new products/processes come on the scene. Undoubtedly, equipment will need upgrading as the market expands and refines. New capabilities may call for new approaches.

Human Resources
Because cannabis is involved, product growers/developers will need to be vigilant in hiring workers/staff, even in states where the products are legal, but especially in states that are close or contiguous to non-legal states. Background checks will be helpful, but penalties should be severe for workers/employees who cross state lines to sell products in non-legal states. Track-and-trace software can be useful for this purpose.

Digital Strategy
Almost anyone with almost anything to sell has a digital presence today, but not purveyors of pot-containing products, even in states where recreational marijuana is legal. So it is left to blogs and other “personal” accounts to carry any message regarding legal pot-containing products. When questioned, the majority of site owners report that only federal approval would lift their ban.

An Increasingly Competitive Landscape
In states where recreational cannabis is legal, it’s a market on steroids. Legalized pot could possibly be the leading cash crop in the U.S. within the next 20 years, and competition is fierce to be among the leaders of the pack. Competitors are very aggressive in their strategies for seeking new markets, and they’re not wasting time. Many are already developing plans or testing concepts to launch in the coming 12 months. There will be winners, and there will be losers. Those who win will be those who have prepared well and have developed the most effective marketing and competitive-entry strategies.

Where to Turn for Help
Proactive Worldwide (PWW) is in business to help enterprises achieve their goals. In this case, that means taking a sizeable chunk of a $40B jackpot. Our researchers and analysts can help develop innovative market-entry strategies that adapt to the competitive and regulatory challenges ahead. We focus on crafting business strategies that succeed.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario- planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies. To learn more, visit

Asking the Right Questions from the Start: Get the Most Value from CI Functions with Queries Structured to Advance Your Strategic Goals

The first article in our Strategic Planning series discusses how Competitive Intelligence can and should adapt depending on the type of strategic planning model your business employs.

This section focuses on common research questions that have varying degrees of value to solving your enterprise’s unique issues and strategic aims. When strategic planning activities start to heat up, it’s crucial that leadership stakeholders first build and foster understanding and consensus on what your business is trying to achieve. Since no two companies are the same, a fundamental part of this phase involves knowing what kind of questions your business should be asking to get the most out of its competitive intelligence functions. Getting this piece right is arguably your best shot at enabling your competitive intelligence program to work in concert with your strategic planning efforts. The set of typical questions that follow offer a broad range of competitive intelligence that may help your business gain the analytical decision support it needs in setting realistic goals during strategic planning season.

  1. How are competitors under- or over-performing against our organization? What do we do?
  2. What opportunities can we take advantage of? What are the top priorities?
  3. What are the threats to our business? Our plans? Our success? What can disrupt our plans? How do we respond?
  4. What does differentiation look like? What should our priorities be?
  5. How can we grow our business? How can we be successful against competition? What will have the largest impact?
  6. What is competition doing to grow their business? Where are competitors investing? What does this mean to our plans?
  7. What partnerships can we create to put us into a better market position?
  8. How are we getting closer to customers than competition? What are they doing that is better than we are? What should our investment priorities be?
  9. How is technology being leveraged to improve speed-to-customer, customer experience, or reducing overhead within competition? What are the implications in the short- and long-term?
  10. How are competitors getting longer-term agreements/more sticky with customers? What can we do about it?

There may be other queries and tangential offshoots that are worthy of consideration. The key is in finding which of these CI functions can best help your organization resolve its business challenges, improve its business bottom line, and achieve the most ROI. We hope these query suggestions help your leadership think more creatively in devising its CI program to more effectively gain valuable insights during this season of strategic planning.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive-intelligence, market-intelligence, and customer-insights domains. Anchored by primary-source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include – but are not limited to – market intelligence and competitive research services, market-entry and defense strategies, war-gaming workshops and scenario- planning events, and customer-experience and voice-of-customer studies.

Continued Disruption & More to Come: Keeping Competitive Landscape Awareness High in the F&B Space

Just five years ago, natural, organic, humane, and fair-trade foods made a large market entrance and quickly changed the way traditional F&B and CPG companies defined the market. According to Statista, United States retail sales of natural and organic foods in 2017 was $17.19 billion. This rapid rise in consumer behavior and preference, although still the minority, promptly pushed nearly every food and beverage company to respond. Some companies responded out of fear of obsolescence while others saw opportunity to differentiate product offerings and gain access to the premium/super premium consumer base. This is another example of potential threat becoming a hidden opportunity.

There are more changes on the way and several of them are already playing a major factor in the constantly changing F&B space. Here are three topic areas that Proactive Worldwide has recently covered that may impact your business plans.

Vertical Farming: What Happens in Vertical Integration?
As trends toward urban development accelerate, the desire for green solutions rise, and as labor and resource shortages increase, there is a growing demand toward food production moving literally vertical.

Vertical farming is not mainstream, but the growth potential of this concept is likely to be a battleground in the future. Many major cities have small vertical farming operations, but most are in their infancy and test phases, i.e., understanding consumer interest, testing concepts, determining output rates and success. While there are numerous benefits to these operations (reduced water usage, organic by default, zero-waste potential), cost savings can be a major draw. The compact nature of these facilities allows for additional automation opportunities and the ability to directly interact with consumers. Research and estimates that the vertical farming market will generate over $7.5B by 2023.

While these facilities are currently not expected to fulfill the demand of an entire population, they offer benefits that can’t be ignored and when scaled, they present a significant disruption to the food and grocery space. We consider this to be the potential Organics 2.0 or Consumer Farm to Table – essentially the next evolution of healthy eating trends, sustainable farming, and consumer convenience. The threat is real enough that companies like Amazon and Walmart are investing in these technologies along with other major players. What would happen if Amazon started to invest by developing centers in major cities using a similar approach to how they invested in warehouse development? What if they added these capabilities to warehouses or future construction plans? Vertical farming can greatly impact the grocery and food service business in ways that can be dramatic. Additionally, vertical farming can create immense business opportunities to those that enter early or with a plan of attack.

DNA Diet Plans: Leveraging Technology to Inform Your Eating Habits
Almost everyone in the US has seen commercials for DNA testing kits and noticed the evolution of a novelty service, providing ancestor migration reports, into health information sets that some could call “predictive health analytics.” Consumer interest and usage of these services has sparked attention from other players – keenly food and beverage companies along with retailers.

There is a growing trend toward developing more customized health plans and solutions that are based upon current health considerations or challenges. According to John R. Kimberly, PhD and Etienne Minvielle, MD, PhD, these applications are tailored to an individual patient’s medical needs and are designed to help improve the health status of both individuals and populations by increasing medication adherence. Combining this with predictive analytics creates a powerful opportunity to establish highly customized solutions and ultimately, highly personalized consumer experiences. There are a variety of start-ups offering DNA testing that focus on nutrition needs (WellnessFX, Geno Palate, EverylyWell) and are quickly becoming targets of investment. Can you guess who is investing in these organizations?

This technology combined with product pairing and go-to-market strategy execution can help increase subscription-based food buying and continue to open direct-to-consumer opportunities. Multiple companies are seeking to develop strategic partnerships (or potential M&A) of these testing organizations, which will provide a unique value proposition to customers – one that follows consumer-centric thinking to the most personal of levels.

Adapting to Click and Collect: More Change is Coming
The challenge that Amazon and Walmart present to traditional grocery retailers is substantial. Along with the fact that the once profitable “middle aisle” of CPG goods is evaporating to online channels, online competitors are seeking to reduce the role retailers/distributors play in food purchasing. Technology is forcing grocery chains to adapt. To combat this change, retailers have developed a solution that plays in between traditional retail and online – Click and Collect. This service operates using an online interface that allows shoppers to build their shopping cart online and simply collect it at the store – bypassing the entire traditional shopping experience. And it is working…at least for now. According to Stephan Serrano from Barilliance, an eCommerce data science company, by 2025 10% of all sales globally, will be fulfilled by Click and Collect, decreasing in-store purchases to 60%.

A great win for grocery retailers and a fantastic way to adapt to online…except it is also pushing consumers to the one channel that threatens them the most. As consumers become more familiar with the online experience for food purchases, major F&B and CPG companies are eagerly waiting their opportunity to further reduce the role of traditional brick and mortar retailers. There are a variety of companies that are seeking to do this: Amazon is a major player at disrupting grocery retailers but others such as INS Ecosystem (a threatening blockchain company that seeks to kill traditional distribution) and Instacart (which allows consumers to buy from multiple retailers in one spot) that will further remove consumers from traditional distribution and get closer to a direct relationship. Online businesses that deliver perishable food products are on the rise but are more connected than ever to IOT technology and consumer insights that will drive faster direct-to-consumer business opportunities.

While many of these topics are focused on fresh produce, the impact of these disruptive technologies and others have the ability to threaten the entire channel itself. Understanding the threats, the direction and speed they are going, the major players getting into the game, and their strategies is critical to staying ahead of these threats or even turning them into opportunities. None of these changes occur overnight, but “fast change” is a relative term. Each of these major disruptors can provide a wealth of opportunity to those who seize it. Knowledge, awareness, and foresight are required to develop the strongest ROI possible.

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive intelligence, market intelligence, and customer insights domains. Anchored by primary source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include but are not limited to market intelligence and competitive research services, market entry and defense strategies, war gaming workshops and scenario planning events, and customer experience and voice of customer studies. To learn more, visit

The Adaptable Role Competitive Intelligence Plays in These 5 Strategic Planning Models

Which Strategic Plan/CI Approach Best Fits Your Organization’s Needs?

With Strategic Planning season in full bloom, many motivated enterprises are exploring how to best use competitive intelligence to gain more momentum in meeting next year’s goals. Strategic planning programs, however, invariably vary from one company, or even one industry, to the next. Much of competitive intelligence’s value is in its chameleon-like ability to change colors depending on which of the five most common types of strategic planning schemes an organization employs. Understanding and developing a competitive intelligence program that can best match up with and support your specific strategic planning model will go a long way toward ensuring the success of your strategic plan.

Strategic Planning Model 1 – Balanced Scorecard/Need & Gap Analysis Modeling
This model is a common approach that seeks to score where your business is and is not performing. Developing growth strategies and strategies to solve underperforming parts of the company are key goals. In this scenario, CI is used to 1) update and review competitive profiles; 2) produce awareness briefs on key or rising threats; and 3) better understand strategic direction and anticipate benchmarking activities. Leveraging strategic SWOTs is a key advantage that can help inform your leadership of its options.

Strategic Planning Model 2 – Goal-based Planning Models
This common model focuses on where your organization wants to be or how it needs to respond to customer, competitor, and market challenges. In this case, CI is deployed to identify where competitive growth initiatives intersect with your organization’s plans, and to help prioritize market entry assessments or share those previously executed. Including voice of customer research in intelligence briefs is a key aspect here.

Strategic Planning Model 3 – Innovation Driven (Blue Ocean)
This newer model is focused on navigating or even becoming a change agent in the market, with disruption being the key cornerstone of this approach. Here, CI profiles or monitors less-traditional competitors who can disrupt customer behavior, providing leadership threat assessments prioritized by level of disruptive capability. CI includes voice of customer work to threat analysis deliverables and may also have an M&A evaluation component to help your business develop a target list.

Strategic Planning Model 4 – Market Scenario-Based Strategic Planning
This approach seeks to provide your leadership several different strategies to execute based upon market, competitive, and customer changes. This process helps mitigate risk and produce strategies that can provide ROI in any event. In this instance CI becomes more dynamic, leveraging war gaming events to help develop your team test strategies before they are finalized. CI may also execute profiles of competitive leadership or benchmarking how organizations make decisions, or even identify how quickly competitors can adapt and what adaptation looks may look like

Strategic Planning Model 5 – Iterative Scenario-Based Strategic Planning
This newer, scenario-based approach focuses on self-organizing strategy development through story boarding and iterative discussions. The output of these discussions comprises a list of goals and objectives that help your strategy become reality. Within this strategic planning module, CI is used to prepare for research needs that have narrowed timelines. CI enables your business to create and provide profiles on competitive behavior, and also leverages voice of customer research to help provide a more complete picture to your business.

We hope these tips provide some insight into next steps with constructive options for your business during this season of strategic planning. For more information, please visit

About Proactive Worldwide, Inc.
Proactive Worldwide, Inc. is a global research and strategic intelligence consulting firm that provides evidence-based, constructive information within the competitive intelligence, market intelligence, and customer insights domains. Anchored by primary source research for over 22 years, PWW’s multilingual professionals assist clients with offerings that include but are not limited to market intelligence and competitive research services, market entry and defense strategies, war gaming workshops and scenario planning events, and customer experience and voice of customer studies.

International Trade and the US: Coming to Terms with Trading Uncertainty

2018 marked a year of change in the United States’ long-standing tariff policies. For the first time in over 15 years, the federal government adjusted tariffs on core raw materials – mainly aluminum and steel – to correct a perceived trade imbalance. Although not yet fully implemented, tariffs range from 10% to as high as 25% on all major U.S. trading partners, regardless of existing trade agreements. However, Chinese imports are being hit hardest, with tariffs expected of up to $200 billion (for perspective, the US imported $505 billion of Chinese goods in 2017).

The final impact of these tariffs on the national and global economy is still to be measured, but economists agree it will be negative overall, with the degree varying by industry. Outcomes will depend greatly on potential retaliation and on the fast-changing global relations of the US with its largest trade partners: the European Union, China, Canada and Mexico. These four trade partners, as shown in the following graph, account for a combined amount of 61% of all US exports:

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European Union: The 28-country trading bloc is the largest importer of US goods: in 2017 it received $283 billion of US exports (18% of total US exports). It is imposing retaliatory tariffs on hundreds of agricultural products (e.g., corn, rice), whiskey, tobacco products, clothing, steel and steel products.
Canada: Canada’s impact on US exports is almost as large as the EU’S, having imported $282 billion of US goods in 2017 (18% of total). Its retaliatory tariffs focus on steel and aluminum products but also extend to items such as food, paper and household appliances.
Mexico: The country’s southern neighbor is the third largest importer of US goods ($243 billion in 2017, or 16% of total US exports). It is imposing retaliatory tariffs on 3 billion goods, mostly agricultural products (pork, apples, potatoes and dairy).
China: The largest exporter of goods into the US is also the fourth largest importer of US goods ($130 billion in 2017, or 8% of total US exports). China’s retaliatory tariffs thus far focus on stainless steel pipes, wine and agricultural products (soy, fruit and pork).

Although exports were a large part of US GDP growth in the second quarter (caused largely by a surge in exports ahead of retaliatory tariffs from China), US companies are lowering their growth forecasts for Q3, as they expect continuing uncertainty and a challenging economic and political climate. This is despite the administration’s reassurance that Q2’s 4.1% GDP growth will continue.

Many sectors will be affected by the tariffs, but these seven will feel the most noticeable impact:

Agricultural Goods and Food and Beverage
Steel and aluminum tariffs are having a negative impact in the food processing industry, as they are raising the costs of canned products. And China’s retaliatory tariffs will have a negative impact on the agricultural sector, with soybean and pork producers being particularly affected.

  • As the Department of Agriculture notes, soybeans are the second largest crop in the US. In 2016 the US sold China $14.2 billion worth of soybeans (61% of the US’s total soybean exports), making it the largest agricultural export to China. The industry outlook is not good, despite the subsidies announced by the current administration. Soybean prices in July dropped to a 10-year low, and the industry is changing on a global scale as China is finding new suppliers.
  • The pork industry is being greatly affected by these tariffs. Pre-tariff hog prices were $76 per hundred pounds, but as of August prices had fallen around 20%, to $61 per hundred pounds. Given the importance of the Chinese market for American producers (in 2017 almost 60% of US exports of pork were destined for China) and the fact that China is producing more pork domestically and finding alternative suppliers, American pork prices are expected to keep falling.
  • Canned products are suffering price increases, and these prices are being passed along to consumers. The two largest soft beverage companies estimate the tariff-related costs to b e about 10% for their canned products. This is being reflected in their prices. Another unwelcome effect of aluminum tariffs is that it is creating a can shortage, which has food processors looking into alternative packaging.

Proactive Worldwide can help clients find solutions for these issues by leveraging expertise in the agricultural and food processing markets.

The mid-term impact of the steel and aluminum tariffs could be very problematic for the automotive sector. Not only will they raise prices for the end consumer, but they have also generated concern that new vehicle sales will decrease by about 10%. The Center for Automotive Research estimates that the proposed car components of tariffs could cause the average new US vehicle price to increase between $1000 and $4000.

The car manufacturing industry has already confirmed that it plans to pass tariff costs to the final customer and has lowered its outlook for 2018 earnings. This is in line with GM’s 2018 forecast announcement, which had an immediate effect, with the company stock dropping 6% that same day. Other companies such as Daimler announced that its car and truck units results in Q2 2018 were hurt by a €164 million rise in costs, and that it projects a €500 million rise in raw material costs for the full year.

Furthermore, the announcement that officials from Canada, the EU, Japan, Mexico and South Korea are currently in talks to align their strategies regarding car manufacturing and trade has domestic industry stakeholders worried, since it will likely have a negative impact on US manufacturing.

By leveraging its expertise in this area, Proactive Worldwide can provide research and strategic analysis about potential or future threats and opportunities.

Heavy Equipment
Despite the current good moment the equipment manufacturing industry is enjoying – fueled by strong demand from the oil, gas and mining industries and the construction boom in China – there are reasons to be concerned. An example is Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy equipment, which recently reported a much higher than expected Q2 2018 earnings report. However, in that same report the company also warned that it expects material costs to increase hundreds of millions of dollars. Following the overall industry trend, Caterpillar has already raised prices that will help offset the higher manufacturing costs, and amid increased competition is challenged to find domestic alternatives to some its raw material suppliers that are being hit with tariffs.

Proactive Worldwide can help navigate this competitive market by identifying domestic sources of raw materials.

MRO companies as well as customers in the U.S. should be aware of the recent tariff trends. Most MROs have operations abroad, particularly in China. The current impact of the tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods ($34 billion have been already enacted, and $16 more billion are approved and scheduled to be enacted on August 23) is not yet very noticeable. It is being offset by a small increase in the price of final goods that is affecting customers, but overall demand remains strong due to the relatively inelastic demand in this industry. However, once the proposed second round of tariffs affecting $200 billion of Chinese goods is enacted, the impact will be much more noticeable, further increasing prices and likely causing shortages in certain product categories.

Proactive Worldwide has industry expertise to assist both sides of the market with guidance on strategy and risk mitigation measures.

Solar Panels
The solar panel industry was one of the first affected by the tariffs, and it is being affected twice: not only by tariffs on the panels themselves, but also by tariffs on steel and aluminum used to create the supporting structures. Due to recent changes in Chinese legislation that have discontinued the incentives for solar power installations, solar panel prices have fallen enough to compensate for the impact of the tariffs. For the time being the tariff’s impact is being compensated for by this price drop, but there is uncertainty about what direction the market will take later this year.

Proactive Worldwide has the market knowledge and capabilities to quickly anticipate market changes and provide clients with analytical solutions to any challenges that may arise.

The $16 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods that will be enacted on August 23 mostly target semiconductors. The Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents manufacturers and designers such as Intel, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, stated that the tariffs will “undermine U.S. technological leadership, cost jobs, and adversely impact U.S. consumers of semiconductor products and the U.S. semiconductor producers.” Companies in the technology field also must consider the actions that countries like China can take against US companies, not only by instituting retaliatory tariffs but also by adding other retaliatory actions in what is known as qualitative tariffs. One example of this would be the botched acquisition of the Dutch company NXP semiconductors by Qualcomm on July 25. Qualcomm needed Beijing’s approval to the acquisition because the Chinese market accounts for nearly two-thirds of its revenue; Chinese authorities stalled the antitrust review, effectively killing the deal. Other technology devices such as activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit), Apple watches, and also e-cigarettes will also be affected if the proposed $200 billion tariffs are enacted.

Overall, this is a sector that is being negatively impacted by the tariffs due to the uncertainty they generate. However, the increased risks to current sourcing and manufacturing processes in the industry also create opportunities for companies to find alternatives and get ahead of the competition, something in which intelligence research – such as that provided by Proactive Worldwide – will be key.

Washing Machines
Washing machines were also included among the first round of tariffs. The initial outlook for domestic manufacturers was very positive, with stock prices increasing and announcements of increasing workforce to meet demand. However, this positive outlook swiftly changed when the steel and aluminum tariffs were announced, as these raw materials constitute the bulk of the appliances.

Between March and June the average cost of washing machines increased 17%. Demand is waning, which creates an even more challenging market environment in which competitive intelligence –one of Proactive Worldwide’s core capabilities – will be essential to stay ahead of the competition.

Proactive Worldwide specializes in market, customer, and competitive insights that provide the intelligence that will keep you informed and Out in Front® of market developments. Find out how PWW can help you navigate sourcing, manufacturing and international trade challenges by:

  1. Providing insight on how competitors are adapting to the new trade realities and what that means to your specific organization.
  2. Executing studies that identify threats to current manufacturing processes being affected by the trade war.
  3. Identifying opportunities that arise in the market as well as competitors’ strategies.
  4. Understanding how the market is being transformed and identifying the actions needed to adapt to new realities.

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