Our competitive intelligence (CI) team has one overarching mission: create value for our clients by delivering CI insights, and I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to give our cadre of highly-skilled analysts an edge. These efforts include working with new tools and studying the research published by our peers in the strategy and CI fields.
LAC Group strives to monitor the field of information tools while remaining vendor-neutral. We work with the preferred platforms of our clients, supplemented by our own tools and resources, which allows us to help them pinpoint and focus on the most relevant information.
One relative newcomer to the CI field that has started to make a name for itself is Crayon. After executing a pivot several years ago, Crayon has sought to develop its platform as a tool to access online competitor information—backing those efforts with additional research into the state of CI.
For 2020, Crayon joined forces with the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). The survey was conducted at the end of 2019 and compiles the input of over 1,000 respondents from a mix of CI professionals, stakeholders and CI agencies and consultants. The respondents are distributed across small, medium and large organizations mostly in North America.
Following are some key findings of the 2020 Crayon / SCIP report. I’ll include a link at the bottom for you to download a copy.
Competitive landscapes have become more competitive
“90% of businesses report that their industry has become more competitive in the last three years, and 48% say it has become much more competitive. Large enterprises face the most competitors, but all size businesses have seen an increase in the number of competitors year over year, with the average climbing from 25 competitors to 29.”
Unless you’re part of the 10%, a more competitive landscape is likely a reality that you and your sales teams are battling everyday. If that battle seems particularly brutal lately, you are not alone.
More competitors mean more data to collect, sort and make sense of in order to build and maintain your competitive edge. For some of our clients and prospects, there can be a demand versus resource gap that they have trouble closing. And any number of factors can create hurdles, like processes, accountability and staff constraints. Success with any platform will be difficult to attain without first identifying and finding ways to overcome your hurdles. But as I have seen played out many times, CI and MI—properly gathered and used—is essential ammunition in any marketing and sales arsenal.
Competitive research is time-consuming
“Competitive research continues to be the most time consuming CI activity, with 36% of CI time put towards this step. This has decreased over time, perhaps due to the increase in CI automation, and CI professionals are shifting those hours towards analysis and, especially, communication.”
This finding tracks with my experience, and it demonstrates that CI teams are striving to use their time and internal resources for the highest-value purpose of answering the priority, “So what does this mean for us?” questions.
At the same time, they are fighting a running battle with information overload. While CI platforms are great time-savers, they still deliver what can be overwhelming volumes of information. And as true with any technology, the tool in and of itself is only part of the solution. Tools are only as effective as their implementation and utilization.
CI gathering is a challenge
“95% of CI professionals noted struggling with some aspect of the CI process, with the most common challenge being gathering CI data, followed by the challenge of measuring their impact on the organization.”
Struggles signal opportunities for enhancement and change. The resource gap is one I often see and have helped resolve for our clients. One critical best practice here is to solve the “make vs buy” equation by determining what only your team can do (or do most efficiently), and what would be a better value if it came from a strategic partner or outside vendor.
Building an intelligence-gathering department in-house is a substantial long-term commitment. Buying what you need from service providers like LAC Group offers a more flexible option.
A strong CI foundation can be the difference between failure and success
- “Companies with defined KPIs for CI were more than 2x as likely to see revenue increases as a result of CI efforts compared to those without defined KPIs.”
- “Companies that share CI daily or weekly were twice as likely to see revenue increases as a result of CI as compared to those who share CI less frequently.”
As mentioned already, closing the cost / benefit gap can be a hurdle. One way to begin narrowing that gap is to define the right metrics and monitor them, making adjustments and taking action as needed along the way. This process can help you gain leadership buy-in, user and stakeholder participation, accountability and relevance. Measurement is key to connecting CI initiatives to business goals and outcomes.
Following CI best practices
I’ll finish with some best practice suggestions included in the report, practices that we also follow and find to be true:
- Gain executive buy-in and ongoing support.
- Engage stakeholders (and I might add include adding accountability for providing feedback and putting intelligence deliverables to work).
- Assess and define your key competitors and markets, tracking the complete picture.
- Analyze your competitive findings relevant to your plans, goals and targets.
- Make your results easily digestible and usable.
- Start small, then scale.
- Commit to CI and MI as an ongoing process.
I applaud Crayon for conducting this annual survey and partnering with SCIP for the first time to add value and increase the reach and participation. While over half of respondents report a revenue increase, the other half is either uncertain or hasn’t seen results. This is an opportunity for improvement.
If you’re considering making an investment in Crayon or any other CI platform, remember that LAC Group can offer guidance and additional researcher support to help make the most of your investment.
- 2020 State of Competitive Intelligence Report by Crayon and SCIP (registration required)
- Law firm CMO’s guide to competitive intelligence by LAC Group, with more essential elements and advice for an effective CI function (registration required)
- More information on LAC Group’s CI research services