Information about competitors’ pricing is a very common competitive intelligence request. This effort generally requires triangulation and assembly of data from multiple sources, although you might get lucky starting with open source intelligence from the Internet. You can start with a Google search of a competitor name and phrases such as “price list,” perhaps adding the operators filetype:xls OR filetype:xlsx OR filetype:pdf to return only Excel spreadsheets and PDFs.
The Complex, Non-Uniform Reality of B2B Pricing
An early consideration when investigating competitor pricing should be to note the differences between B2B prices—the topic primarily being discussed here—and consumer prices, which are typically readily available from retail websites such as Amazon.com. There is typically no straightforward source for “real” B2B prices.
The prices for B2B products can be fairly large, often in the range of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. More importantly, the prices paid by different B2B customers often vary widely, with various discounting structures making MSRP just a starting point for your analysis. Thus, even the most reliable information sources must be corroborated to account for variations among customers.
On the Need for Human Intelligence
Directly interviewing both customers and resellers is vital to a complete understanding of competitor pricing. That effort must include how vendors incentivize resellers to sell their products, beyond the picture offered by price figures alone. This approach enables you to create a holistic picture of the pricing structure that includes reseller profit margins as well as discounts and incentives to both resellers and customers, rather than a simple price list.
Also discoverable through human intelligence are value-added factors that don’t show up on a price list but can play a major role in winning the deal. For example, some resellers may offer early access to new products, fast turnaround times, or even free hand-delivery of an overlooked cable to an overworked IT team on a Sunday afternoon.
Revealing a Cache of Open Secrets
As you work to uncover competitor pricing, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that this information is not a collection of trade secrets, even if it is not prominently offered as part of product marketing. Particularly as you contact human intelligence subjects, mentioning that you are not looking for confidential information can help put them at ease and clarify that there is no ethical gray area at play in your research effort.
In fact, vendors and resellers that do business with the government are often required to reveal pricing and related details as part of RFPs. Many government agencies publish that information as standard procedure, making a trove of information freely available on public portals such as www.USAspending.gov.
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart