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.
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:
- Executive Summary
- Implementation Plan
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.