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How to Get Competitive Intelligence Information from Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service Teams

Those who work in marketing, sales, and customer service are on the front lines of customer interaction, so they’re invaluable for your competitive intelligence information gathering. Be sure to talk to members of these departments as you collect information.

How to get marketing input for competitive intelligence

People in marketing are often excellent sources for competitive intelligence because they’re probably gathering data and analyzing it for their own purposes on a daily basis. They’re tracking website traffic and activity and fine-tuning their web-based efforts accordingly, listening in to what customers are saying about the company and its products in social-media venues, and collaborating with sales to improve marketing, sales, and customer satisfaction.

As you approach marketing, keep the following info in mind:

  • Marketing is often privy to custom market research. Getting marketing personnel to share their information can really give weight and importance to the CI’s body of information.

  • Sales is often a part of the marketing department and can provide valuable insight into customer needs and the problems they’re dealing with. In addition, salespeople often hear about competitors through customers.

  • Marketing and sales teams often get analytics-based reporting that can provide early input related to product sales trends and opportunities. More often than not, that information has value to CI projects as well.

    Never forget the exchange opportunities you can facilitate with marketing. For example, you may get intelligence about a specific client from the finance department that ends up being something that helps an account manager in the marketing area.

  • Marketing and sales folks are pretty busy at conventions and trade shows, so try to help them by gathering information at these events.

Bottom line: Marketing and salespeople can provide extensive intelligence that you may not be able to get from any other resource. Discover how to use them effectively!

Unfortunately, because the marketing department is often already involved in its own intelligence work, CI is most likely to get into a turf war with this group over sharing information and competing over approaches to grow market share. So approach marketing very carefully, with an attitude of gratitude and a commitment to give more than you get.

Avoiding political sensitivities can be challenging at times, but if you can convince departments that have extensive market interface of your desire to help them, you can also establish key resource relationships for CI information gathering.

Your challenge often involves power or money. Sometimes a manager’s compensation is tied to the number of people he supervises. He may want to try to justify his headcount by trying to bring all the CI work into his department. Conversely, CI provides service for multiple users, so CI can be caught in the middle because CI also needs personnel to do its work.

How to get sales input for competitive intelligence

Because they like to talk, salespeople often gather gobs of information from customers and are easy to extract information from, so take a salesperson to lunch every so often and talk shop.

Ask if you can go on a few sales calls so you can hear for yourself what customers have to say about your company, its products, issues that customers often struggle with, questions they ask, what they have to say about competitors, and so on. You may pick up on something important that someone in sales dismisses as too insignificant to mention to you.

How to get sales input for competitive intelligence

Like salespeople, customer-service personnel deal directly with customers, especially dissatisfied customers, so they’re likely to hear about problems and unmet needs that often lead to future opportunities. Tap customer-service personnel for information in the following ways:

  • Ask customer service to log all customer complaints, concerns, and comments and send them to the CI team.

  • Request that customer service listen for unmet needs — products or services that customers are looking for but not finding.

  • Ask customer service to listen for any comments that customers make about using products for nontraditional uses; for example, using a toolbox for organizing art supplies.

  • Request that customer service reps tune their ears to pick up any other potentially valuable information from customers, including comments about specific products, technologies, or offerings.

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