As a member of SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals) and a former CI practitioner (I am more of an industry analyst and market researcher these days, but the skills and tools often overlap), I pay attention to research on the efficacy and ROI of CI. Unfortunately, CI’s role is often diffuse across the organization, providing both strategic and tactical assistance across a broad set of functions. Thus, the impact is often difficult to properly attribute.
Thus, I wasn’t surprised when a Crayon survey on the State of Competitive Intelligence found that only 61% of CI Professionals and Stakeholders believed that CI boosts revenue (26% felt that it did not). And it may be that some of those professionals that hold a dim view of CI worked at companies that lacked somebody in that role or simply assigned a product marketing manager to perform CI along with several other duties.
But the confidence level should be higher. After all, a good CI person or team:
- Monitors the market for general trends, new product launches, product enhancements, emerging technologies, key events (partnerships, funding, acquisitions, executive changes, filings), and competitors.
- Briefs senior level management on the market, highlighting opportunities and threats.
- Briefs product management on product gaps and weaknesses that place the company at a market disadvantage.
- Performs competitive benchmarking, collects pricing data and market collateral, and monitors competitive positioning.
- Assesses competitor’s product launches and major upgrades and briefs internal stakeholders.
- Assists with product launches by briefing marketing and sales on competitive positioning, addressing the question of how new products and features stack up in the marketplace.
- Supports new hire onboarding, particularly for product management, product marketing, executives, and sales professionals.
- Trains sales reps in how to position vs. competitors, lay landmines for competitors, parry competitive charges, and stay above the fray (i.e. remain professional and avoid slinging mud).
- Manages or participates in win/loss analyses.
- Joins sales calls (usually virtually) when the client wishes to discuss the competitive landscape.
- Provide on-demand support to sales reps.
- Review RFPs and RFIs to determine whether they are neutral or one of the competitors has influenced the process.
- Collects internal competitive data from CRMs and competitive mentions during sales calls. Conversational Intelligence from vendors such as Chorus and Gong is an emerging data collection opportunity.
If a CI team is performing these duties in a timely and accurate manner, then there is no doubt that they influence revenue generation both in the short and long-term.
Crayon also found that the impact to CI was strongly related to the creation of KPIs for the program. Without KPIs, 57% of professionals were unsure about the impact of CI on revenue. When KPIs were in place, 78% of survey respondents were confident that CI helped drive revenue.
The frequency of CI distribution is also strongly related to its impact. 70% of respondents with daily or weekly intelligence distribution said that CI helped increase revenue, falling to 55% monthly and 46% quarterly. The frequency of messaging probably has several effects: it reinforces the role of CI in the organization, it delivers a timelier and more comprehensive work product, and it embeds CI into the knowledge flow and company discussions.
Competitive Intelligence professionals help drive revenue growth through their interactions with sales, marketing, product management, and c-level executives, fostering better planning, messaging, and product development.