Three Ways to Break the Silence and Get the Ball Rolling
Once an organization has recognized the value of human sources to the overall competitive intelligence effort, there can still be some question about what first steps to take, especially if human intelligence sources haven’t played a large role in past projects. The following possibilities are a good place to start your planning:
- Sales and marketing teams. These are the obvious place to start, since they are the nerve endings of the company, in terms of having the largest degree of customer contact. In addition to knowing what customers are saying about you, they may also have information gathered indirectly from those customers (and often not officially recorded anywhere) about how your products are being positioned by the competition, including what perceived weaknesses they are focusing on.
- Product engineering and other development groups. These organizations have a unique depth of understanding about the capabilities of your company’s offerings. In most cases, they will also have identified many of the strengths and weaknesses of the competition as part of the process of deciding what should go into their product. Moreover, like sales and marketing, they stand to benefit from the outcome of your analysis as they consider the best course for evolving the product in the future.
- Partners, distributors, and resellers. Although your access to these groups may be relatively limited (including by your own management, especially in cases of customers at delicate points in the sales cycle), they can be a treasure trove of insight. For example, they may be positioning your products as their preferred solution in some parts of the channel but not others. In such cases, you will want to include that information in your analysis, including conclusions about why those decisions have been made and how to affect them to your advantage.
This is the second in a series of three blog postings about human intelligence gathering. The first, “Three Insights from People Needing (Intelligent) People,”gives some guidance that can help define the overall human-intelligence process, and the third installment, “A Three-Part Framework for Culling the Herd to Find the Right Humans,”examines some sources for interview prospects, as well as a framework for deciding which ones to contact first.
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart