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Market and competitive intelligence (CI) can feel like a corporate superpower when done correctly. That’s because, with proper research and analytics, companies can essentially predict the future...
Market and competitive intelligence (CI) can feel like a corporate superpower when done correctly. That’s because, with proper research and analytics, companies can essentially predict the future. What is going to happen in your industry over the next one, five, ten years? What businesses are headed for bankruptcy, and which are gearing up to take their spots? It’s all in the data.
If you haven’t yet elevated your CI capabilities for better predictions, it’s never too late. Here are all the ways to turn your CI strategy into a business-defining department.
Of course, consulting for a client depends heavily on your ability to know their wants, needs, growth opportunities, and blind spots. And that means asking the right questions and knowing where to go for the answers. Here are two ways to fully know and understand clients:
Build a complete picture of your client by creating a record with all their background information. This ongoing portfolio can include media monitoring—what’s being said about the client in the media and press releases—as well as a review of industry and company reports, both internal and external.
A background report should also identify the low-hanging fruit, such as companies in the same corporate family as the current client, to address similarities and get ahead of comparisons. Nobody wants to show up to a meeting accidentally presenting the Oreos strategy to another Nabisco brand who is already in the know.
Along with an evergreen background document for the client, you should also have a record of all client requests. That can include areas of interest, types of requests, rhythm of work (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) and preferred formats. Ideally, this should be kept in one central location for easy sharing and organization.
This record can serve as a key for your entire internal team to know how to engage with a particular client. By keeping everything in the same format and referring to important strategies you’ve already crafted, the client will feel important and understood—and it shows your team is effective at communicating and collaborating.
MORE: Creating an effective workflow process
The next step in leveling up your CI capabilities is to get to know a handful of trustworthy, helpful sources that you can rely on. If, for instance, you know that the Pew Research website tends to have helpful knowledge about your client’s industry, you can begin to check that database more frequently and develop an understanding of their coverage and relevance. Here are some other ideas:
Many reliable sources are free to use. Consider categories like government/NGO data (The Census, Statistics Canada, The World Bank), large consulting companies (McKinsey, Bain, etc.), non-partisan foundations (Pew, Kaiser), and industry associations and professional organizations like SCIP.
However, it can be time-consuming to search these sources individually. This is where having a database that can monitor and send alerts from these sources can be helpful.
Human intelligence (HUMINT) can also be of service when it comes to CI, and it is another place where the researcher can invest time and trust. Develop and maintain a database (or at least a spreadsheet) of human intelligence sources like trusted journalists or industry experts, including contact details, preferences, and potential conflicts of interest, that way, you know exactly who to call up for specific concerns.
To build rapport, you should always be upfront with a source about what the purpose of your contact is. Overall, remember that 10 minutes talking with an expert yield far more than 10 minutes of secondary research. LinkedIn, professional associations, and conference speaker lists are an excellent way to locate sources of human intelligence.
MORE: How competitive intelligence has changed in the digital age
Are your tools worth their cost? Keeping track of the return-on-investment, like portfolio generation and trustworthiness of a third-party tool, ensures that you aren’t simply burning money just to feel like you are checking all of the boxes. Market research reporting should come with a list of pre-approved suppliers (that is to be updated after relevant CI projects) and should be pre-validated when it comes to the terms and conditions.
You should also be sure to validate information quality and reliability by checking how frequently the data is updated and what the producer’s mechanism is for correcting any errors you might spot in the data.
Take advantage of advanced functionality offered by databases like Nexis, such as saving results in folders and setting up alerts to stay on top of emerging news. Databases and subscription sources are built to serve researchers in myriad ways, so you should spend time pre-setting options for the common requirements, setting up workflows, and paying attention to new product releases and trainings so that you maximize your benefits from a tool.
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Consistently adding or subtracting steps and guidelines leads to dropped balls and internal confusion. You and your team should all be aware of your process, and it should be something that does not change, regardless of the project. It’s important, then, to continually optimize the cross-sector process so that new improvements happen seamlessly.
Use product templates, workflow technology, and other standard resources to thoroughly document your process, and then look through those notes to discover areas for improvement. Periodic evaluations will help prioritize your workflow and remove any unnecessary steps or obstacles.
Treating your processes as a flexible framework that frees up your mind to do the “higher value” work of analysis, creativity, and connecting the dots that may not be immediately apparent. The less time you spend on deciding how to get started, the more brain power you have for applying your expertise.
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This part might seem obvious, but it’s by far the most crucial. Data and research mean nothing if you’re not able to spot patterns, interpret numbers, and present your information in a way that resonates with the clients.
Save time and make your clients’ lives easier by starting from standard offerings (i.e., established types of reports, data visualizations, presentations, formats, etc.) When asked to dive into a particular area, don’t just answer the question but think about the business and commercial implications of why they asked this question.
Approaching the work from a strategic, dynamic perspective is what separates consultants from AI systems who can already do much of the data processing on their own.
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CI is a crucial part of any company’s strategic planning and should be old hat to consultants and third-party vendors. Your CI can improve by adding more perspective and strategy to the numbers, finding reputable sources that you familiarize yourself with, and knowing the client’s wants and needs. Tools like Nexis help make most of the logistics possible so that you can focus on the personal and strategic parts.
With Nexis, you can set up alerts on a client and their entire industry, vet, and background check third-party vendors, perform media monitoring on any given topic or institution, and much more. Combined with an impressive amount of otherwise hard to find sources, Nexis is a one-stop shop for research needs. This means you spend less time searching for information and more time making strategic decisions to help your clients win. Get started today!