We have written before about the importance of using the competitive intelligence (CI) you gather for decision-making support.
Today, let’s focus on creating a solid company profile using a set of building blocks that will enable you to generate high-quality insights about that organization and what opportunities and/or threats it might present.
Whether you need to know more about a company because it is a prospective customer, key client, potential partner, existing competitor or future threat — many of the basic elements of a good CI report remain the same.
Sources and methods
Good intelligence begins with quality data sources and sound policies for searching, collecting and analyzing that information. Knowing where to look — and which sources provide trustworthy information — is important. Sources to prioritize include public databases, government reports and filings, corporate publications, analyst reports, peer-reviewed journals, specialist and general media, subscription databases and more. Questionable sources or those purporting to peddle private or confidential information should be avoided.
Establishing a clear and simple CI policy upfront and adhering to it can solve many potential problems before they happen. At LAC, we support the code of ethics of the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, and adhere to our own company policies.
What a company profile should include
The basics of the company or firm itself
Of course, all company profiles will contain the name of the organization, the headquarters or main office address, any international or satellite locations, primary contact information and website URLs.
This may include information like the following:
- Number of employees
- Revenue and other financial information
- How the company is structured—public or private, partnership or corporation
A company’s financial profile can provide crucial information.
- What are their key assets and liabilities?
- What is the overall financial status—flush with cash, buried in debt, on the brink of bankruptcy?
- Could the organization be on the acquiring side or an acquisition target?
Looking at a company’s recent financial history can also yield important insights. So look for recent acquisitions, divestitures, fundraising and debt financing in order to build a complete picture of its financial status and any trends that might be evident.
Governance, sustainability, diversity and other key intangibles
In today’s business environment, understanding a company’s ESG policies and practices — as well as its goals and performance related to diversity — are essential to measuring its long-term growth prospects as well as its risk profile.
Management and other key people
Short biographies of senior leaders are useful to build a deeper understanding of the company and its capabilities, culture, direction and decision-making. This often includes executive leadership encompassing at least the C-suite and board of directors. But heads of business lines and relevant departments or divisions may also be desirable depending on the purpose of your profile.
You may also want key personnel. In law, that would be the firm’s top attorneys. In business, it could be engineers, sales people or other individuals with high-value, mission-critical roles. Learn about recent key hires and in the case of law, monitor lateral attorney moves.
In addition to official company bios, information on key people can be gleaned from social media and their activity on networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. Press releases and media coverage are also useful resources for information on management and key personnel.
Products and services
Understanding how a company earns revenue, generates value and where it hopes to grow its earnings often starts with an overview of its offerings. This might be a description of all the products and services offered. Or you may choose to narrow this down to specific, relevant offerings, especially in the case of large, diverse enterprises.
Along with current products and services, it is valuable to monitor future offerings.
- What is the organization’s growth strategy?
- Where is it investing in new research, growing organically or acquiring new businesses?
When looking at current and future competitors or business partners, you’ll also want to assess how their plans and intentions might encroach upon your own.
Sales and marketing information
How does the organization get their products and services to market? Direct sales and business development, through various resellers or distribution channels, or some combination? And it is important to capture both “brick and mortar” as well as online efforts.
Do they target specific market segments? If so, how are they defined? Other important marketing considerations include branding and advertising. What are the organization’s key messages and selling propositions? What differentiates them and sets them apart?
In law firm profiles, understanding positioning can help determine how your firm can stand out over the competition in directories based on reputation and skills.
Sales and revenue performance and trends are also useful. Have sales increased, decreased or remained flat over time?
Scanning the news, including general media and industry or specialty press, is a critical step in building your company profile. Look for reporting to confirm (or challenge) information you have gathered from other sources, and to help build context for your analysis.
Going further to gain insights: SWOTs and other competitive analysis
The purpose of the CI profile is to deliver enough data to generate actionable insights through competitive analysis. That analysis can take a number of forms. One of the most common is a SWOT analysis, in which you develop a concise overview of a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
With a sound company profile, you will have the information and rationale to understand implications, limitations and advantages to support your decisions and actions.
A great advantage of CI analysis is that when it is done well, it can be used in multiple ways. For example, it can support tactical goals to create better sales proposals or ad campaigns. It can also strategically identify new markets, acquisitions or new products and services.
These are a few of the points that should be included in a company profile, and there is more information to gain so you can have better knowledge of your competition and how their business could affect your business.
Getting the maximum return on your CI investment
Now that you know the essential elements to building a solid company profile, the next step is to ensure that it adds value. To do that, consider these next steps:
- Communicate your findings clearly and succinctly to your audience. Our Law Firm Librarian Guide to Competitive Intelligence is the perfect resource to help organize, analyze and present your insights.
- Seek feedback on your reporting in order to address any gaps and improve future reports.
- If a company you are profiling is of lasting interest to your organization, set up ongoing monitoring and reporting on it.