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Intel and inspiration for the world's best marketers.

Matt Desilet

Matt Desilet is a Marketing Manager at Crayon. Matt focuses on growth & engagement strategy with experience in creating content, campaigns, and customer evangelists.
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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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What We Can Learn From Our Competitors' Customers

Posted by Matt Desilet on September 15, 2017.

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I Can’t Get No: What To Learn From Our Competitor’s Online Customer Satisfaction 

We can learn volumes from our competitors' customers. Customers that take the time to say something about a company online likely have strong opinions. Customer sentiment can be good, bad, and ugly. To learn from those reviews and rants, we must take the time to understand the varying levels of online customer satisfaction, and what they mean. Once we have a baseline for customer satisfaction, it's time to focus on collecting online feedback. How do we best gather online feedback intelligence? What types of online feedback are strong signals for our business? What kind of noise is out there, and how do we look past it?

In this post, we will:

  1. Outline the spectrum of customer satisfaction, and what different sentiments mean
  2. Create a plan to collect and categorize competitor customer feedback data
  3. Propose action items that help you strategically use customer satisfaction insights

 


 

The Customer Satisfaction Spectrum

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What embodies a happy customer? What’s the anatomy of an angry customer? Why is it that some customers don’t seem to care? By the time we get to an online review, we’re already analyzing the symptom, not the disease. We start by establishing a baseline understanding of customer happiness so that when we collect data, we make smart decisions. Let’s look at potential causes, which we’ll call Themes, that exist within the customer satisfaction spectrum.

 

Themes For Happy, Unhappy, and Unmotivated Customers:

Happy Customers:

  • Consider their expectations met
  • Have confidence in their ability to use the product
  • Feel a sense of attachment to your brand
  • Are motivated to promote and praise the brand

Unhappy Customers:

  • Consider their expectations unmet
  • Lack confidence in their ability to use the product
  • Feel a sense of attachment to your brand
  • Are motivated to share discontent with your brand

Unmotivated Customers:

  • Lack or are unaware of baseline expectations
  • Are disinterested and/or unaffected by learning the product
  • Feel disassociated with your brand
  • Prove difficult to connect with

 

We can pull out a couple interesting insights from this perception of customer satisfaction. Notice how both happy and unhappy customers have a sense of attachment to your brand. At first glance, it’s tempting to dismiss the idea that unhappy customers have a close attachment to your brand. How could they care? These customers took the time to bash our competitor online, where’s the connection? In order to become upset over a situation, humans have to care first.

Unmotivated customers feel a certain level of disassociation with your brand, and thus, their happiness loses relevance. As you read the themes for each type of customer satisfaction, think about how you behave as a customer. We have all jumped into a purchase with little expectations. Unsurprisingly, when we are dissatisfied with those purchases, we are not motivated to express those views. It is the depth of our initial expectations that drives us towards the outskirts or center of the spectrum.

 


 

How to Collect and Gauge Feedback

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Brands go to great lengths to quantify customer sentiment. We use formulas like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), Customer Churn Rate (CCR), and even Customer Happiness Index (CHI - an in-house metric created by Crayon Co-Founder, Jonah Lopin). Creating insights from competitor feedback is not as simple as compiling KPIs. Truthfully, we will scarcely have access to competitors' internal KPIs. For the purposes of setting expectations, we will rely on the valuable public customer sentiments that we can access.

 

Review sites are an easy place to start looking for online feedback. Plenty of the review sites out there provide numeric rating systems. Almost all review sites adopt the 5-star format. These rating systems can provide quick insights into overall customer happiness, but be sure to combine that data with the qualitative feedback of the reviews themselves.

Social media has become a popular destination for customers to express varying levels of satisfaction. Twitter users have shown that their voices have the power to incite action from even the most prolific companies.

"Turned" users, or users that have adopted your product after working with a competitor, can be a great resource. It’s crucial to grab that feedback at the onset of the new relationship, while the old wounds are still fresh.

Case studies often act as a hotbed for positive testimonials. Case studies are not limited to positive opinions of what your competition does well. Testimonials show the world what a company's ideal reputation might look like. By making case studies public, the competition places a gold stamp of approval on the content inside the study.

 

The juicy intel lives in a targeted keyword analysis

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We have incredible access to external, public sources for gauging competitor customer satisfaction. We have to be creative in how we produce quantifiable results with anecdotal information. The plural of anecdote is not data. If we instead create a way to extract keywords from wordy reviews, we can connect the dots between intent and sentiment. That’s how we “data-ify” wordy paragraphs.

We have created a shortlist of common keywords found amongst online reviews. We used Crayon data from the last quarter to highlight common words associated with good, bad, and average reviews. For this study, we created the following legend:

Good review = > 4 Stars

Bad review = < 3 Stars

Average review = 3.0 - 3.9 Stars

We separated our keyword analysis by B2B product/service reviews and B2C reviews:

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After processing over 17,000 online reviews, we picked up on a few anecdotal trends:

Good review keyword trends

Bad review keyword trends

Great

Time (+ Save)

Bad

Expensive

Useful

Quality

Purchase

Not (+ Worth)

Full

Strong 

Poor

Poor

Easy

Worth

Needs

Decent

 

If you’re wondering where the list of “average” keywords is, keep wondering! Average reviews do not show consistent keyword strings. Moreover, mediocre reviews rarely make it out to the public world, and when they do, they’re not very detailed. Think back to the lack of attachment at the onset of a new user-product relationship. Those users who fall into the apathetic bucket do not see the value in putting time into an online review. 

Looking for a great “hack” to spot an average review? Consider combining the recurring keywords from the good and bad reviews in one string. The most identifiable trend in average reviews is a combination of “good” and “bad” review words. Another hack to spot the average is to look for conjunctions. Conjunctions can also lean towards negative reviews. Again, we attribute this to unmet expectations that create dissatisfied customers.

 


What can we do with the competition’s customer feedback?

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It’s not competitive intel if you can’t find actionable insights. Collecting insights without acting is research. As professionals focused on competitive intelligence, we have to interpret the meaning of the data and act on it. 

Each customer satisfaction profile supports different sets of action items. Negative feedback will guide your next steps in a very different direction than positive feedback. We want to take sets of negative data and reference ourselves against that data. How can we avoid the pitfalls customers have identified in these online outlets? How can we distribute news of a new product issue trending on Twitter to our sales teams? Can we act fast to adjust our talk tracks and lead prioritization, or will we miss the opportunity?

Realizing the difficulty here, we have created a quick start guide on how you can act on different sentimental insights.

 

Use Positive Competitor Feedback to: Learn from your competitors

Use Negative Competitor Feedback to: Correct unmet expectations

 

How positive feedback creates opportunities to learn:

  • Compare the sentiments from happy competitor users with positive reviews of your own products and log trends
  • Use positive comments about competitive solutions to inform teammates in product on what’s working outside of your business
  • Generate inspiration from case studies, testimonials, and customer appreciation content on how you can bring positivity to your brand on your own terms

 

How negative feedback shows where misalignment exists:

  • Modify your positioning to attack the competition’s weaknesses - as stated by users
  • Product-related reviews can be used to help your internal roadmap, avoiding pitfalls of the competition’s design
  • Create a study on unmet expectations amongst competitors to help your customer success team train new clients 


Wait… so what do we do with “average” feedback. Can we use it?

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Drawing conclusions from positive and negative reviews is a much easier task than using "average" online opinions. Average reviews often contain both good and bad sentiments. Acting on unclear data from disinterested users is difficult. Managing expectations from average reviews is a good start.

One tactic to try when analyzing average reviews is to re-tool that negative keyword strategy. By looking at negative keywords in "average" feedback, we can find threats to competition within their common user base. If you find issues worth mentioning among average reviewers, you may have identified a trend that the competition hasn't. Small differences, when positioned, could make all the difference in winning a competitive sale down the road.

Consider how you could use positive keywords within average reviews as well. Positive keyword analysis can show emerging trends. These keywords can also identify non-mission-critical sentiments amongst average customers.

Leverage the "average":

The most valuable takeaway from “average” customer feedback is the potential to use this data to "lean in" to your own "standard" user. Knowing that “average” feedback contains some level of dissatisfaction or recommendation, consider creating a customer survey that targets the issues prevalent in average feedback. As a target audience for the survey, choose a set of “average” customers in your user base to mimic the customer feedback profile. Consider a very similar set of competitors. Let’s say you have a total of 300 + “average” reviews, via 6 competitors, over 6 months. What if you only have 50 “average” customer reviews for your company in the same timeframe? In a way, did you not 6X your data set for analyzing common customer sentiment?

Bottom Line? To get the most value out of those 3.0 - 3.9-star reviews, we must be creative.

 


 

Wrapping it all up

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Taking the time to learn from our competitors' customers is a fantastic way to find and use free intel. Strong opinions make their way online, and we can learn a lot about where our competitors win, and where we win when it comes to customer satisfaction. Knowing what different types of feedback mean, and how we can use them, help us guide the way we collect data. Well-mined data and insight into customer sentiment allow us to act with unique focus. We can target our work based on each type of feedback collected.

Want to create your own competitor customer feedback summary? As a thank you for reading the article, check out this template based on our “Customer Satisfaction Spectrum” graphic.

 


 

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How Competitive Intelligence Puts the "OT" in SWOT

Posted by Matt Desilet on August 30, 2017.

The web is full of noise about "optimizing strategy." The explosion of B2B content marketing has flooded our inboxes with playbooks about improving your marketing and competitive intelligence efforts. While the info can be valuable, these tools and the content they push only focus on how to boost your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

The thing that's missing in all of this content is how to look at the other half of SWOT. We're talking about Opportunities and Threats.

Some of the obstacles to finding relevant content that covers the "OT" in SWOT is the challenge of separating the signal from the noise in external intelligence, and doing so in a timely way. In this post, we will help you understand how to identify real threats and genuine opportunities, and then outline an action plan to win. After all, we don't want to limit our marketing strategy to what happens inside of the four walls of our business.


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Before we jump into the intricacies of Threats and Opportunities, let's tackle two of the most common hurdles that can slow down a good competitive SWOT analysis project.

 

#1. Separating Signal from Noise

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First, we need  to separate the signal from noise when qualifying opportunities and threats. Business professionals who focus on competitive and market intelligence should constantly ask themselves questions like; “how relevant is this?” and “how does this impact our bottom line?” It is easy to fall down the rabbit hole of competitive and market intelligence. Once you've started to track other companies’ social media and landing page activity, it becomes addictive. Understanding what insights matter most to your company and for your market is key. If you run an ecommerce company, shipping policies from your competition matter quite a bit. The color of your competition’s web fonts matter less. Prioritize intel that impacts the competition’s ability to win (or lose) against you. If it is a piece of market intel, the same applies. How will this market intel tangibly help or hurt you?

 

#2. Timeliness of Intelligence

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 In line with our signal-to-noise hurdle, it’s also essential to address timeliness when retrieving and acting upon intelligence. Unfortunately, it's not enough to catalog the "OT's" of the world and run quarterly presentations proving that you can spot opportunities and threats. It is pivotal that you can produce insights in a manner that is timely enough to act on and generate impact. In the same way that a Super Bowl ad campaign wouldn’t make much sense in August, old intel about a competitor isn't going to win tons of business. Acting quickly, as well as strategically distributing your insights, can increase the impact of your work.

Consider creating a yearly “market calendar” and start to track important external events and milestones across your organization. However, the best competitive and market strategists make intelligence part of their day-to-day. Rob Bois, Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Fuze, advised“Staying on top of competitive and industry moves is something you need to do every day to take advantage of intelligence effectively."

You can also use Google Alerts as a lightweight way to catch the biggest news events in your industry or use a more robust competitive intelligence tools to catch every key event in your market. These tools provide you an early cheat-sheet to understand when to expect external forces to impact your business. Coupled with a calendar, you can also front-load your quarterly strategy and plan time and resources accordingly.

  

Now that we’ve established how important it is to separate signal from noise, as well as act in a timely manner, let’s learn how actively addressing Opportunities and Threats can be transformative for our competitive and market intelligence efforts!


 

Defining and Identifying Opportunities

Opportunities regularly present themselves in our markets and help us evolve our businesses. The speed with which we identify and capitalize on those opportunities can make all the difference for our long-term success in the market. We must be careful not to confuse these market-driven chances with internally-driven strengths. That misunderstanding can lead to missing out on opportunities, which can make customers and investors wonder if we're keeping up with our market. Are they wrong if we continue to miss? No.

A good way to remember how to distinguish opportunities from strengths: Opportunities will originate from external forces. Our strengths come from within our organization.

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 A Real World Example:

Just a few years ago, the mobile carrier business model stipulated on contracts. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all worked off of discounting phones, and locking people into service contracts for two years. While consumers may have appreciated the lower phone costs, the inconsistency in fees and service were troublesome from the model's inception. In 2013, T-Mobile changed the game. At the time, new CEO John Legere said that his motivation behind the “Uncarrier” movement and the elimination of contracts was to survive in a crowded market.

“A lot of this started because we were a small company — we still are. There's no way we can out-brand or out-share our voice over AT&T and Verizon, so we created our own atmosphere. Social media became involved, and we started being very noisy, very listened to, and we put them on their heels.”

-John Legere, CEO T-Mobile

T-Mobile's removal of all contracts created new expectations for the other three major carriers. Regardless of whether Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon were prepared to change, a change was coming. The mobile market saw significant growth in inexpensive prepaid, contract-less plans in the late 2010’s. Those plans rarely threatened the larger carriers, as they did not have the latest phones to offer with their plans. With that intel, T-Mobile identified a way to disrupt the larger players in the industry: Offer the world’s most popular phones (Apple, Android) with post-paid, contract-less agreements. As Legere stated, he could not outbrand or out-share Verizon or AT&T, so there needed to be a truly disruptive change.

Coming from the back of the pack, T-Mobile’s immediate impact on the other three major carriers was significant. T-Mobile beat Sprint on iPhone sales for 2 consecutive quarters in 2013. When it came to AT&T and Verizon, the largest competition in terms of market share, T-Mobile’s new practices for the same devices, namely the iPhone, forced the carriers to modify negotiating tactics and heavily invest in retraining staff across the United States. What’s more, if you highlight T-Mobile’s market share and 3-year growth prior to and after this change, you find that the Uncarrier took a massive bite out of the mobile services market.

 

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With a real-world example in our rearview mirror, how can we identify other cases and catalog them for our benefit? The mistakes of the competition are not the only opportunities worth watching. For example, if you run a digital advertising agency, the exponential growth in mobile adoption presents an opportunity to reach an order of magnitude more devices than previously possible. If you work in clean energy and your state government has recently qualified your product for major personal and commercial tax breaks, you must capitalize on this chance to grow. Meaningful opportunities can originate from anywhere.

 

Think critically about:

    • Growth of your market: If the products, services, and technology offered by your market as a whole are being universally adopted, great! How can you make sure that you have significant market share as the market reaches critical mass?
    • Trending news coverage: Maybe your latest product ends up on Good Morning America. Perhaps your latest funding round has garnered local interest in your firm. How will you capitalize?
  • Consumer and user trends: Industry publications, blogs, social media, and occasionally mainstream media will catch changes in user behavior and preferences. How can you jump on these trends?
  • Influencer-generated content: Whether it’s a big name celebrity or a trusted voice in a strong B2B community, influencers are essentially top-of-the-funnel referrals. You’ll want a plan to activate and close on influencer-driven opportunities.
  • Viral content: This is similar to news coverage, but much more timely. Virality online does not last longer than a week, so you really have to be on top of social media monitoring to catch these events.
  • Competitor's reviews: Competitor reviews can help you decide what features to develop, how to modify your customer service process, or even help inform your sales team!
  • Your market disrupts or penetrates other markets: This is your Canon/Fuji to Kodak situation (more to come on that). Be prepared to take customers of old and dying technology when the time comes.
  • Competition failure: You competition is failing to compete. They may have issues with sales processes, an unstable executive team, or inferior products. Learn from their mistakes and keep your head above water.
  • Competitive stagnation: This is a precursor to competitive failure. Be prepared to act before the fall of your competitors to gain even even more of their previous customers.
  • Governmental / policy changes: Sometimes regulatory changes occur in your favor. If you create breakthrough medical treatments and the FDA approves of your practices - you just got the green light to move forward!
  • Economic growth, increase of demand: More money in the market means that non-essential products and services get a boost. How can you take advantage of this newly generated interest?
  • Growth of supportive/ancillary/complementary products and services: Manufacturers of electric guitar strings really like to see the electric guitar market grow. More guitar sales = more string sales.

 


 

Defining and Identifying Threats

Threats exist all around us, though it's not all gloom and doom. The environment in which our organizations operate is not something under our control. Because of this, it's crucial to be able to identify and, to the best of our ability, predict threats in the greater marketplace. Consider for a moment how threats within the market can shape the future of that market. Even if the action did not come from within (weakness, by SWOT analysis), it could still create sea change within your organization. 

One way to remember how to distinguish threats from weaknesses: Threats will emanate from the environment. Weaknesses will originate from your organization.

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A Real World Example:

If you don’t remember what a “Kodak Moment” was, allow me to quickly surmise. This was the old tagline for the Rochester, NY film giant. Kodak was the undisputed market leader in photography and film technology, so much so that quality pictures were referred to as “Kodak Moments.” This was all prior to the digital disruption of the industry that took off in the 80’s and left Kodak’s place at the top of the consumer camera market behind.

One of the more unfortunate parts of this story is that the digital camera was actually invented within Kodak’s walls in 1975 by Steve Sasson.

Kodak has become a classic cautionary tale for those concerned with threats to their businesses. Their competitors, namely Nikon, Canon, and Sony capitalized on the technology by investing on and focusing towards the future, which was digital.

 

sony-mavica.jpgThe Sony Mavica. Released, 1981

 

nikon-2020.jpgThe Nikon F-501. Released, 1986

 

In 1981, Sony developed the first commercially-focused electric camera prototype. By 1986, Japanese competitors were already uncovering the power of single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera technology. In less than 10 years from Sasson’s invention, Eastman Kodak was already behind the curve. Flash forward to the late 90’s and Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus dominate a market of D-SLR (Digital SLR) cameras, and Kodak is left on the outside looking in. 

Dissecting the threats to Kodak, we see that what Kodak really missed out on was leveraging proper market and competitive intelligence practices. While the executive team at Kodak did uncover the potential impact of the digital disruption on their business as early as 1981, they did not act quickly enough. In many ways, Kodak’s story is one that could have been changed for the better at many turns. Kodak’s inability to identify threats as those threats emerged, grew, and eventually captured market share caused Kodak to lose money at scale. When you stick your head in the sand, you miss what’s going on around you! Agile and aggressive competition eventually overtook Kodak in the market, ultimately leading them to bankruptcy and significant reduction in company size - even the selling of patents and other significant assets.


 

Now that we know what a threat looks like out in the wild, how can we use the real-world example to understand other threats? Depending on your business, there are many data points to consider when evaluating the market and potential threats before they hit the evening news. If you are a local restaurateur, watching Yelp reviews are fundamental to understanding the competitive landscape. SaaS-model B2B app? Watch G2 Crowd, Trustpilot, and Capterra to name a few. Brand new mobile app for sending and receiving money? Make sure you regularly audit App Store reviews. Serious threats can emerge from a few foundational landscapes.

 

Think critically about:

  • Decline of your market size: Everyone is losing business. Why? What external forces are causing this? Do you need to pivot in order to survive?
  • Emerging competitors: Who is new on the block? What are they doing differently? What can we learn from their fresh perspective?
  • Better-positioned alternatives: How is our brand positioning? Where do we stand in the market? What is our brand-persona?
  • Competitor pricing: How do we match? Are we premium, discount, or industry standard? Are we service-competitive at our price?
  • Reviews: Not simply reading reviews, but taking action based on those reviews. Poor competitor reviews can inform sales, marketing, and even HR strategy. How can you modify your positioning based on your competition’s weaknesses?
  • New tech disruption: How can we compete with the latest tech? Can we incorporate new tech or innovate?
  • Competition success: We’re losing market share and others are gaining. It’s time for a competitive intel audit!
  • Governmental / policy changes: New policies can cripple your business if they disrupt your ability to produce and/or sell.
  • Economic downturn: If you’re not selling a staple, how do you survive a decrease of demand at scale? How can you convince people that your widget is worth their budget?
  • Deterioration of supportive/ancillary/complementary products and services: If you make mousepads and people stop using mice, you need to have a plan to stay afloat!

 


 

Let's Create a Plan

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It shouldn't shock you to learn that truly mastering opportunity and threat analysis at your organization is going to take significant time and effort. Did you know that not every piece of content out in the web is public and easily searchable? Google will not catch everything! Major news stories highlight content that publications believe will generate interest, and a company’s website only makes up a portion of a company’s digital footprint. Without a solid competitive intel program in place, by the time members of your marketing, sales, or competitive intel teams catch competitive trends, it's likely being addressed internally at the target company. Plus, as leaders we have to assume that our peers have caught these trends as well - meaning, we lose our edge if we wait too long! So how can you gain an advantage? Consider investing in competitive and market intelligence at your organization!

If you're interested in streamlining this process by leveraging the power of AI, machine learning, and expert analysts, schedule a free demo of Crayon Intel Pro.


 

Creating a competitive and market intelligence strategy is never an "if" for serious leaders. While we would ideally know our competition inside and out from day one, we can't. It would be great to predict market forces before they happen, but generally, we can't. The best that we can do as strategic leaders who require meaningful insights on our competition and market is to have a system in place that we are comfortable using, tweaking, and sharing. Competitive and market intel is not a dictatorship; it is a collaborative activity within an organization. Your process has to be usable: if you can't understand what you're following and why - it's already broken. The system you create must be flexible: if your insights aren't dynamic and changeable, you could be creating a rigid program that will become difficult to alter and improve. We have to be willing to share our work so that our teammates can help us get better. Taking the initiative to promote competitive and market intelligence at your company can show your coworkers that you think outside the box, and the walls of your business.  

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