How to Maintain a Connection between Competitive Intelligence and Key Players

As you position competitive intelligence as a service center, consider using a pull marketing approach rather than a push approach. Pull marketing involves attracting customers to a product rather than trying to advertise products to people who may not need or want them (push marketing). Find out who your internal customers are and what they need in terms of intelligence, and then deliver information and insights that meet those needs.

How to keep your internal competitive intelligence customers and sponsors engaged

In the process of conducting CI, especially when you're immersed in analysis, becoming isolated is easy. After all, good analysis requires a great deal of concentration. However, isolation undermines your ability to rally the troops. You need to stay engaged with everyone in the company through the following activities:

  • Conducting regular briefings

  • Performing periodic needs assessments

  • Requesting information, opinions, and insights on an as-needed basis

    Asking people to share their information, insights, and opinions (with sincere interest) to keep people engaged

Pathfinders and listeners are typically much more open to receiving information and supporting CI's efforts than are organizers, followers, and diehards. If you keep them engaged, they can help you make others feel involved and supportive.

How to create a contact calendar for competitive intelligence

If you're like most people in the workforce, your work runs you when you should really be running your work. With CI, a contact calendar can put you back in the driver's seat and ensure that you maintain periodic contact with your internal customers and sponsors. A contact calendar offers two major benefits:

  • It allows you to plan ahead so you can make appointments with key people well in advance (to get on their calendars).

  • It ensures that you never let the battles of the day override a critically important aspect of your job — maintaining continual contact with your key resources.

To create a contact calendar, start with a spreadsheet or table with 13 columns (one column for contact activities and the remaining 12 for the months of the year). In the left column, list the contact activities that you must perform regularly. Place an X in the column for each month you plan to perform each contact activity.

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Consider the following schedule:

  • Monthly briefing for the CEO, or more frequently depending on the CEO's preference and the velocity of change.

  • Monthly executive team briefings.

  • Quarterly face-to-face meetings with the senior executive team to confirm CI's value contribution.

  • Quarterly (or more frequent) briefings for CI sponsors and internal customers.

  • Periodic reminder to the CEO to express some gesture of recognition to publicly celebrate CI wins. (The best way to get this done is to prepare the vignette for the CEO and request approval. For example, if someone in the sales department gathers some important information for you, ghostwrite an article by the CEO saluting that person and ask for approval to publish it in the company newsletter.)

Rather than keeping your contact calendar on your computer, consider using a whiteboard or poster board and hanging it in a prominent location in your office or in the CI area. This tactic keeps your CI to-do list front and center and makes adding notes easy and convenient.

Always work by appointment rather than on a drop-by basis to convey the message that your work and time is high value, and always do the following:

  • Confirm each appointment at least one day prior to your meeting so the person has ample time to prepare.

  • In your reminder, describe the purpose of the meeting.

  • Remain on schedule; arrive on time and use only the allotted time.

  • Find out what you can do for the person prior to your next meeting. After all, your objective is service excellence.

Maintaining a calendar is a good practice, but sharing the CI team's time and resources fairly with all constituencies can still be quite a challenge. In the real world, what often happens is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In other words, certain groups that know about the value and capabilities of the CI team (usually sales, marketing, and product development) try to monopolize the CI team's time and resources. Sales teams always seem to be in "capture" mode, marketing always in "business development" battle stations, and product development always pushing the latest widget.

Don't inadvertently ignore an important constituency. One solution is to look for opportunities to repurpose intelligence products you created for tactical consumers to create briefings for your executive (strategic) consumers. Sometimes, just rewriting intel reports with a different consumer prospective is sufficient.

How updated needs assessments keep competitive intelligence current

Keeping CI on everyone's radar is only one of the purposes of regular contact. You also need to get information from the people you meet with about what they need from the CI team and how useful prior CI analysis has been to them.

And you need to remember that information and the source, because executives, managers, and working grunts alike will be annoyed and less interested in helping CI if you never remember what they tell you. So to keep track of what you learn, prior to and during meetings with internal customers, sponsors, resource people, and other personnel, complete the internal resource/customer needs assessment below.

Fill in the information at the top, as well as the Briefing summary section, before the meeting and complete the rest of the form during the meeting.

Periodically update your needs assessments and needs map to maintain the focus of your efforts on the needs of your internal customers and sponsors.

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