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Intel and inspiration for the world's best marketers.

A Primer on Win Loss Analysis as a Competitive Intelligence Tool

Posted by Guest Blogger on November 20, 2017.

The following post was written by Zach Golden, Consultant at Anova Consulting Group, a leading provider of B2B win loss analysis.

chess-win-lose.pngThere is nothing quite like the feeling of closing a sale with a successful team effort, especially when up against a top competitor. But after the celebration fades, how often do teams have an accurate sense of which aspect of the offering or sales process resonated with the prospect?

Other times, when a top rival wins the day, negative emotions set in -- disbelief, disappointment, maybe even anger. Above all, the number one question facing organizations following a lost opportunity is: why did we lose?

Getting the answer to this question is not necessarily a straightforward process: marketers may not be close enough to the individual prospect or opportunity, and sales teams are not in an objective position to capture unbiased feedback from prospects. According to Anova’s research, salespeople only get the complete and honest truth as to why they win or lose 40% of the time. To put another way, 60% of the data organizations have on why they lose deals is incomplete and incorrect. Without accurate data, how can an organization know where to improve?

Therein lies the need for independent win / loss analysis.

What is win / loss analysis?

Win / loss analysis is a forensic market research exercise that focuses on highlighting how companies’ marketing messaging, sales efforts, and product offerings are perceived from the prospect’s perspective. The practice involves talking with prospects who just evaluated the marketplace and learning more about their decision process and which solution they ultimately chose.

What are the benefits of win / loss analysis?

The ultimate goal of win / loss analysis is to help organizations “raise their game” and increase their new business win rates. A variety of stakeholders within an organization benefit from win / loss information:

  • Senior management can leverage win / loss as a key source of transparent, real-time, quantifiable trending information for use in strategic planning.
  • Sales / sales enablement teams can use win / loss to capture unfiltered prospect feedback regarding sales motions, understand the effectiveness of their go-to-market strategy, and as a coaching tool for sales managers and individual salespeople.
  • Marketing / product management teams can gather extremely current prospect awareness and product feedback to understand how the marketplace perceives product features / functionality as well as value propositions.
  • Competitive intelligence teams value win / loss as a rich source of feedback regarding competitor tactics and differentiation strategies, as well as product positioning and pricing information.

Gathering sales & marketing feedback

Win / loss analysis is critical for companies looking to obtain objective feedback about their business development efforts. On top of feedback on their own marketing and sales activities, win / loss can also capture insights into how rival firms are going to market and gaining competitive advantage. Consider the following example interview questions:

  • How did you learn about ACME Organization? What were your impressions of ACME at the beginning of your search? How did your impressions change throughout your search process?
    • Which other firms did you consider in your search and why?
  • What, if anything, did ACME Organization’s sales team do to differentiate itself from the competition?
    • Did any other competitors do anything unique or creative to differentiate their companies or offerings?

For marketers and business development heads, learning the answers to such questions through the unfiltered voice of the prospect is invaluable to use in coaching sales teams, creating marketing collateral, and building battlecards for head-to-head situations against top competitors.

Gathering product & service feedback

Win / loss interviews can deliver feedback on a wealth of offering-related topics, ranging from product features, customer support and service, and price. Prospects who just engaged in a sales process are a rich source for up-to-date perceptions of the marketplace.

Questions such as “Were there any specific product features or services that impressed you from other vendors?” can pinpoint perceived competitive advantages that organizations can look to address with either future product enhancements or a more effective value proposition articulation.

Third parties are also in an advantageous position to capture price-related feedback, asking questions such as “If all prices were equal, which vendor would you have chosen?” An independent source can move beyond reactions to price points or cost comparisons and drive conversations to perceived value.

What are the pitfalls when implementing a win / loss program?

Remember that 40% number? There are a number of reasons why organizations struggle to gather meaningful data after a sales decision:

  • Honest feedback: Prospects often have issues with sales process that can impact their candor – it can be uncomfortable to give feedback and criticism directly to an organization that was eliminated from consideration.
  • Objective evaluation: Sales reps are not in an objective position to obtain feedback because they are too emotionally involved in the situation.
  • Key questions: Organizations usually do not know the right post-sale questions to ask (and how to ask them).
  • Resource availability: Many organizations simply do not have resources with the bandwidth to attempt to schedule and conduct post-sales debriefs.

The bottom line

A prospect who just evaluated the competitive landscape and selected a winning vendor is the ultimate source of the latest market intelligence, but this key resource is often left untapped by organizations who are not able to effectively capture this information. Companies that effectively employ win / loss analysis can gain a significant advantage because of their ability to gather and react to unbiased prospect feedback and competitors’ strategies. Furthermore, the benefits of win / loss analysis compound over time, as the effectiveness of implemented initiatives can be monitored and optimized through the established prospect feedback loop.

About Anova Consulting

Established in 2005, Anova Consulting Group is a leading market research and consulting firm focused on win / loss and client retention analysis. By helping clients in sophisticated B2B markets understand why they win, lose, and retain business, Anova provides strategic perspectives driving better decision making, product development, sales effectiveness, client service, and continuous improvement. To learn more or discuss your organization's win / loss approach, visit www.anovaconsulting.com.

We want your input!

Do you manage, consume, or even think about competitive intelligence? We want your input! Take the State of Market Intelligence survey to benchmark your CI program and enter to win a $50 gift card.

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5 Tips for an Effective Competitive Intel Update

Posted by Ellie Mirman on November 07, 2017.

You work hard to stay on top of your competitors’ moves. You sift through big and small changes alike, and analyze the data to identify trends and strategies. What then? One of the biggest challenges with making use of competitive intelligence is distributing that intel to the relevant stakeholders within your organization.

The teams who are most successful at distributing intel have identified relevant communication channels, established a regular cadence for distribution, and, of course, crafted their CI updates to deliver immense value in a compact package.

Borrowing from the ideas of great CI updates, we’ve created a template for distributing competitive intelligence. Download the full guide and pack of templates here, or read on for recommendations to create your own.

Sample Competitive Intel Executive Summary

Competitive Intel Update - Executive Summary

#1: Make it Digestible

It’s easy to get lost in competitive intel, which can lead to not having enough time to act on the intel, or, even worse starting to ignore intel. Competitive intel digests should be digestible to encourage others to consistently review and evaluate the findings. Keep the digests short and focused. Leverage formatting as well to keep the content skimmable.

#2: Answer “So What”

In order for competitive intel to have an impact on your team, you need to help bridge the gap between what happened and why it matters. With every piece of intel you plan to share, ask and answer the question, “So what?” because that’s exactly what others will be thinking. Think of each piece of intel going through the following path: What Happened -> What It Means / Why It Matters -> What We Should Do About It

#3: Tailor it to the Audience

Each stakeholder within your organization has their own set of priorities. No single CI report will work for every audience, so think about how you can customize your update to each group.

#4: Keep up a Regular Cadence

Competitive intelligence is like eating healthy or going to the gym - you need to do it consistently over a long period of time to see the impact. That means whatever cadence you choose for CI should be maintained. This allows you to take advantage of both short term opportunities and long term trends.

#5: Look at the Short Term and Long Term

With a particular CI update cadence, you can risk boxing yourself into the intel delivered in that timeframe. Be sure to take a step back and identify longer term trends to watch, and take a deep dive into the long term view from time to time.

Following these suggestions, you’ll create an impactful CI digest that communicates critical intelligence and helps your business act on market changes.

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13 [Mostly] Free Resources to Learn CI Best Practices

Posted by Matt Desilet on October 25, 2017.

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Competitive intelligence skills need to be honed and sharpened regularly. The field of competitive intelligence changes constantly, with new tactics and strategies popping up and “best practices” losing their effectiveness. The best way to stay ahead of the pack is to be constantly seeking out new learning opportunities.

Fortunately, there are several free resources available for those hoping to learn more about competitive intelligence. We have included sources that lay the groundwork for competitive and strategic intelligence, as well as frequently updated, modern resources to help maintain your edge as a lifelong CI learner. We have included books, organizations, blogs/epubs, online courses, and free CI tools to help you take your CI knowledge to the next level.


 

Good old fashioned books

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There’s nothing wrong with a tried and true book. The competitive intelligence field has been around for decades, and it can be enlightening to go back to its roots. Whether you dig into a newly published book detailing how to leverage AI or big data for CI, or grab one of the original CI blueprints, you can find great strategies to apply to your business. There are plenty of published works that focus on intel alone, but consider venturing beyond, into topics of business strategy, branding, or customer analytics.

Here are some of the Crayon team’s favorites books:

 

The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence

Leonard M. Fuld

A favorite work of Crayon team, and on everyone’s required reading list, Fuld’s work is a staple for any CI professional. There is a fluid and easy-to-follow layout with useful methods for structuring a competitive intelligence project.

 

Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance

Michael E. Porter

Porter’s book offers a relatively granular look into the strategic and tactical needs of a competitive intelligence program. Topics covered include selecting competitors, industry segmentation, complementary products, defensive strategy, and more. If Fuld’s work is the quintessential starter for CI, then Porter’s is the tactician’s deep-dive.

 

The Art of War

Sun Tzu

The Art of War is an ancient text, dating back to the 5th century BC. The text has been translated and used to drive competitive strategy since the early 1900’s. While the text was originally written to inform military strategy, TAoW has been applied to sports, politics, chess, academics, law, and of course business. The 13 chapters of the book speak directly about different aspects of competition, with remarkable insight for the time. Of the 13 chapters, CI professionals should take particular note of chapters 1 (Laying Plans), 2 (Waging War), 8 (Variation of Tactics), and 13 (Use of Intelligence). If you have the time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to tackle the whole book.


 

Organizations and Groups

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Every discipline has at least some professional groups that exist to educate, advance, and expand the reach of their respective cohort. Whether you come from marketing, sales, product management, HR, or a different department, you’re probably familiar with at least one professional organization designed to help you succeed. Professional associations vary from highly formalized groups with certifications, courses, and conferences to informal gatherings like casual meetups and LinkedIn groups.

Here are a few organizations and associations relevant to CI professionals:

 

SCIP

SCIP is the premier organization for Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals. The mission of SCIP is to become the global organization of choice for professionals engaged in strategic, integrated, and competitive intelligence and related organizational decision influencing disciplines. SCIP also has a robust learning arm, aptly named “SCIP University” with a training-on-demand certification program.

 

The Academy of Competitive Intelligence

The Academy of Competitive Intelligence, co-founded by CI pioneers Leonard Fuld and Dr. Benjamin Gilad is another fine example of a formal professional CI association. Their CIP™ Certification goes the extra mile as it’s the only educational institution in the space of CI training boasting IACET accreditation.

 

Meetups & LinkedIn Groups

These associations fall into the “informal” category. Every interest/professional specialty is different, so it’s important to regularly scan these options frequently and expect lots of changing tides. These groups act like one part blog, one part professional association. As an example, let’s say you’re an aspiring music producer in Los Angeles. Here are perfect examples of informal groups that you could consider joining:

 

 

There are also several LinkedIn groups that specialize in competitive and market intelligence. Check them out here:

 


 

Blogs and E-Reading

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Blogs and other online publications represent the cutting-edge of professional learning today. Though there’s nothing conceptually new about following relevant blogs, the speed at which this information is available online plays a critical role in being able to leverage it. By the time strategies, tactics, and tips hit a published book, an online course, or even a product, the blogosphere could already have 100x the data on that particular subject.

Here are a few choice online publications with a recommended post from each:

 

Crayon Resources Page

While this may be the obligatory Crayon plug, we really do make an effort to share out the latest strategies and best practices as it relates to market and competitive intelligence. As a software company, we believe it’s critical to share free educational content on new, modern approaches to the field.

If you’re here, you are already familiar with our blog. That’s not where the Crayon online learning stops! Our free resource hub offers downloadable guides and templates on topics such as intel-driven content, measuring product marketing, and landing page trends, to name a few.

 

Recommended Download: Crayon Competitive Analysis Template

 

Harvard Business Review

The Harvard Business Review (hbr.org) is a must-read if you’re searching for top-notch business content. HBR pieces touch on virtually every subject and discipline conceivable under the general umbrella of business. HBR publications frequently include cross-disciplinary data that elevates their materials above and beyond other available sources.

 

Recommended Reading: Leaders Can Turn Creativity into a Competitive Advantage

 

Quora

Quora is the world’s open-source Q&A platform. Like anything sourced openly, answers are not always high quality. Because there is no “gate” preventing amateurs from answering questions, you can expect results that vary in usefulness. The way that Quora handles this issue is by allowing users to vote up/down on the quality of the response, pushing the best answers to the top. While this isn’t exactly IBM Watson, it’s at least as good as having the “Ask the Audience” lifeline on Millionaire.

 

Recommended Thread: Is there a site you can use to search competitor's sites?


 

Online Courses

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There are TONS of free courses out on EdX, Coursera, iTunesU, and beyond that can help aspiring competitive intelligence professionals grow. CI pro’s stand to gain a significant advantage by incorporating a “lifelong learner” mindset. Teachable skills in analysis, strategy, decision making, and market research (among others) can vastly improve the CI toolkit of anyone who reserves a seat in class.

 

Here are 6 free online classes that can add value to your CI skillset: 

 

EdX

  1. Marketing Analytics: Competitive Analysis and Market Segmentation - UC Berkeley

  2. Analytics for Decision Making - Babson

  3. Business Strategy from Wharton: Competitive Advantage - Penn (Wharton Business School)

 

Coursera

  1. Business Intelligence Concepts, Tools, and Applications - University of Colorado

  2. Marketing and Competition in Pricing Strategy - UVA

  3. Anticipating Your Next Battle, in Business and Beyond - HEC Paris


 

BONUS: 2 Free Competitive Intelligence Tools

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If you’re looking to practice competitive intelligence and you want to work with a platform, consider Crayon’s two most popular free tools - Inspire and Intel Free. Our Inspire tool is like having lightning in a bottle for creative design inspiration across the web. For discovering, analyzing, and acting on just some of your competitor’s online content, look no further than Crayon Intel Free.

Crayon Inspire

  • Browse and save millions of web design examples
  • Get inspired for your next marketing design project

Crayon Intel Free

  • Discover and monitor content and design changes from key competitors
  • Share your newfound insights and take ownership of your next competitive strategy

 


 

Calling all marketing and competitive intelligence professionals! Benchmark your CI efforts by participating in this study, and get entered to win a $50 gift card:

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Business Case Template: The Case for Competitive Intelligence

Posted by Ellie Mirman on October 10, 2017.

Would you like to be oblivious of your competitors? Of course not, though a world of blissful ignorance can sound appealing. No one wants to be blind-sided or overtaken by a competitor, no matter how big or small they may appear to be. Yet actually making the commitment - in terms of time or money - can be a difficult task, especially if and when it involves getting teammates and managers on board with the decision.

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A business case can be an effective means of gaining that commitment as well as alignment when going into a new initiative like competitive intelligence. If you’re building your own case for funding a competitive intelligence program at your business, here’s a template you can follow to get started. Simply fill in each section, and leverage the suggestions that come from our work with Crayon’s customers.

There are 7 key elements of a business case:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Objectives
  3. Stakeholders
  4. Solution
  5. Implementation Plan
  6. Costs
  7. Impact

1. Executive Summary

This summary section should outline the highlights from the rest of the business case. Describe the business problem/need and the goal of this initiative. Touch on the timeline and expected impact to set the stage for the detailed plan.

2. Objectives

Objectives are presented up front to position the to-be-named solution in the context of business priorities. Here, describe the business problem or opportunity at hand. Leverage key business priorities and metrics to frame the importance of this initiative. From there, outline the objectives as they relates to tackling the problem or opportunity.

Some of the common objectives and use cases we see with regards to competitive intel programs span sales support, company strategy, and specific campaign initiatives. For example:

  • Support Sales Enablement: Arm sales with timely and complete competitive intelligence
  • Competitive Knowledge: Stay ahead of competitors’ moves and get deeper insight into their strategies and campaigns
  • Increase Competitive Win Rate: Increase the success rate of competitive deals to win more business
  • Guide Product Strategy: Make smart decisions about product investments based on competitive feedback
  • Improve Marketing Campaign Effectiveness: Increase effectiveness across demand gen, content marketing, PR, and more by contrasting and getting inspired by competitors’ campaigns
 

3. Stakeholders

Identify each of the relevant stakeholders in this section. In addition to naming names, also describe each person’s role in the project, key responsibilities, and top goals. This helps gain alignment and get buy-in from all the relevant parties, while also reminding the team of what matters to each person.

A successful competitive intelligence program will include multiple stakeholders from the beginning. The level of involvement varies significantly, as does the set of goals across these audiences. Key roles for a CI initiative include:

  • Project manager or lead - who is leading and executing the initiative
  • Executive sponsor - who is supporting the project lead and acting as an internal advocate
  • Collaborators - those who will be involved in executing the initiative
  • Recipients - those who will consume the output of the initiative and drive further action

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4. Solution

With the problem and people identified, it’s time to present the solution. Start by outlining the criteria used in the evaluation, and follow that with a summary of the solutions evaluated. This helps show the due diligence involved leading up to the business case, and explains why you’ve chosen a particular solution. Finally, wrap up this section with the solution selected and the benefits involved.

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5. Implementation Plan

Here’s where you get into the nuts and bolts of the plan execution. Lay out the timeline, note key milestones, and describe the deliverables. It can be helpful to separate the tasks and deliverables by owner to get agreement before diving into the project. Note any dependencies and risks involved in executing the project as well.

6. Costs

Tally up the costs related to executing this project, including software, services, and personnel. Note any assumptions that go into the calculation, and leverage industry or company benchmarks as helpful. If there has already been budget allocated, make that amount clear.

7. Impact

Finally, wrap up with the part everyone cares about - the impact on the business, and when they can expect to see it. Keep in mind that there are different kinds of benefits: direct and indirect, measurable and subjective. Consider your audience and what they value most, and potentially include each of those kinds of impact for the greatest effect. Also think about the impact at each level of the business: the immediate team, the department, other departments, and the executive team. Describe the measures of success you plan to use and note the expected return on investment (ROI).

There are three drivers of competitive intelligence ROI:

1. Efficiency Gain

Automating and streamlining the collection and organization of competitive intelligence frees up time for higher value analysis as well as the ultimate actions driven by competitive findings. This can have a significant impact on reducing the cost of investment.

Crayon customer Budget Dumpster reported a savings of $25,000+ by automating the collection of competitive intelligence. “We would have to spend hours every week collecting the intel that Crayon just delivers to our doorstep,” shared Budget Dumpster CMO Dominic Litten. “We save $25,000 or more by using Crayon and we’re able to move faster now too.”

2. Lift in Key Metrics

One of the most common metrics of focus in competitive intelligence business cases is the competitive win/loss rate. That said, other metrics across sales, marketing, and the business overall can also play a role depending on your priorities.

Some customers specifically focused on competitive content marketing reported an increase in traffic and leads by creating more unique content as a result of their CI program. Other customers more focused on sales enablement reported an improvement in sales knowledge checks as a result of more regularly updated battlecards fed by their CI program. There are many more examples that you can highlight as well.

3. Strategic Advantage

Strategic advantage can be hard to measure, and can take a long, dedicated effort to achieve. But leaders in competitive industries know that it's a requirement to win long term. Competitive intelligence provides an informational advantage so that the company can jump on rare opportunities, protect against threats, and focus on the right things.

Leonard Fuld, in his classic and time-tested book The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence, explains: “Denial locks out good intelligence, which in turn results in poor strategy and irrational decision making. The formula is a common one: Denial - Facts = Irrational Strategy. Unless you are willing to look under the hood at your competition, you may find yourself chasing the wrong problem."

With these seven components included in your business case, you can show a deliberate and thoughtful approach to competitive intelligence, instilling confidence in your ability to create incredible enterprise value. If you have business case examples you're willing to share, we would love to see them! Please share your own best practices for gaining internal commitment and alignment through competitive intelligence business cases.