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Competitive Intelligence-An Emerging Practice_Marketer October 2016

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Competitive Intelligence-An Emerging Practice_Marketer October 2016

  1. 1. MY TURN By Ann Schiola, CPSM, CIP, Finley Engineering Group Has your A/E/C firm ever been surprised by market trends or the competition? Is the abundance of information available making it harder for your firm to succeed? As Peter Drucker states in his classic book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, “The purpose of information is not knowledge. It is being able to take the right action.” Competitive intelligence helps A/E/C firm leaders identify risks and opportunities in the market before they become obvious so they can act to gain a competitive advantage. Competitive intelligence (CI) is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about clients, competitors, and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for a firm. The main driver for CI is increased pressure by firm leaders to anticipate external business challenges and take action before it’s too late. Firm leaders don’t like surprises. CI can help with: ¡ Providing an early warning system for future threats such as industry trends, new entrants in a market, or regulatory changes ¡ Supporting strategic and tactical decision-making for mergers and acquisitions, expansion into new markets, and pursuit analysis Competitive Intelligence: An Emerging Practice at Professional Services Firms East Studio, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Design Architect: Flad Architects; Landscape Architect and Architect of Record: Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf; General Contractor: The Hagerman Group. ©Susan Fleck, fleckphoto.com. 40 SOCIETY FOR MARKETING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
  2. 2. ¡ Competitor analysis and learning what the competition knows about your firm ¡ Supporting strategic planning Marketing professionals are in the best position to provide CI to their firms. Many A/E/C firms conduct market research but that is usually backward-looking; there are little or no causal links, such as current market conditions, competition’s past performance, or client feedback. Competitive intelligence is about the future and can help a firm proactively forecast events. While we often don’t hear the term CI, this is an emerging practice at some professional services firms. Are Professional Services Using Competitive Intelligence? In an effort to answer this question, I conducted a survey. Professional services firms are using CI; however, it is an informal practice. Twenty-six firms responded, ranging in firm size from 10 to 10,000 employees. Respondents were given the definition of CI as stated in the second paragraph of this article. Over 65 percent of respondents indicated they perform CI, but it was referred to as market research or strategic planning. Other terms included: competitive analysis, go/no-go decision, or capture planning. Regardless of size, firms are using CI for many activities as shown in Figure 1. Jarden Home Brands, Fishers, IN, makers of the iconic Ball® Jars, selected Axis Architecture + Interiors to renovate its headquarters. ©Susan Fleck, fleckphoto.com. “Rapid changes in market conditions, increasing competition, and fast-paced technological advancements are driving the demand for competitive intelligence programs at A/E/C firms. Marketing professionals are in a unique position to lead this forward-thinking initiative.” — Theresa M. Casey, FSMPS, CPSM President, On Target Marketing & Communications, LLC Figure 1. Activities supported by CI. Project pursuit/RFP Client & industry trends Win/loss analysis Competitor analysis Market expansion Mergers & acquisitions Scenario planning Early warning systems Ad hoc basis 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% MARKETER OCTOBER 2016 41
  3. 3. Two large firms (500+ employees) report having a competitive analyst position. Other firms report that this position is shared across more than one job function. As shown in Figure 2, 85 percent of marketing staff are responsible for collecting the information and the majority report performing the analysis. Regardless of firm size, 56 percent of respondents indicate the success of the CI effort is driven from the top down by management or an executive champion who is an advocate for CI at the firm. Nearly one-third of respondents, 32 percent, indicated that someone is tasked with CI on a full or part-time basis. One of the biggest challenges that firms have is sharing CI. Only 20 percent of firms indicate they have a central location or process for sharing. Most firms acknowledge the value of CI, but a return on investment for this activity is difficult to quantify. As shown in Figure 3, firm leaders are finding value from CI to help with their strategic planning process, market positioning, and decision making. Getting Started with CI Hopefully this article has provided background and an argument for CI. But to get started, management support and involvement is critical. You must have at least one executive who is a corporate CI champion. A 2011 SMPS Foundation Thought Leadership Series paper, Best Practices in Competitive Intelligence, by A. Krista Sykes, Ph.D., and Scott W. Braley, FAIA, FRSA, provides a comprehensive overview, ethical best practices, and list of resources for you and your corporate champion as you start the CI process. The challenge for any firm is to find a sustainable competitive advantage. Marketers are in a unique position to fill this need and help management mitigate risk, plan for the future, and avoid surprises. Good luck on your journey. n East Studio, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Design Architect: Flad Architects; Landscape Architect and Architect of Record: Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf; General Contractor: The Hagerman Group. ©Susan Fleck, fleckphoto.com. “The marketing professional can help its firm gain a competitive advantage by analyzing the business environment and the firm’s optimal position in relation to your competition, client, and market.” —Mindy M. Bacon, CPSM Vice President, Bacon Group, Inc. Figure 2. Job functions responsible for collecting and analyzing CI. Figure 3. Effectiveness of CI for firms. Marketing Market Research Technical, Senior Leaders Business Development Competitive Intelligence Knowing what issues can impact our firm in the next 2–3 years Understanding our competitors Identifying new opportunities & markets Very limited impact 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% 42 SOCIETY FOR MARKETING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES