Depending on the organization and industry, the responsibility for gathering competitive intelligence can rest with any number of job roles or departments. Regardless of whether it’s the responsibility of strategy, marketing, product development, sales or all of the above, eventually that competitive intel will need to be communicated to the C-suite.
Executive reporting is an art unto itself, but when it comes to sharing updates on the competitive landscape there are three specific steps that can help you to relay the most important information more effectively and efficiently.
Agree on a Competitive Intelligence Framework and Areas of Focus
Competitive intelligence is a broad discipline, and it’s important to specifically narrow (or broaden) the scope of research to meet C-suite expectations. To do this, there are a number of factors to consider. Reporting across the entire C-suite may require tailoring key data points for different disciplines or even specific executives. While the chief marketing officer may be interested in new campaigns launched by in-segment competitors, the chief operations officer may be more concerned with the newest patents secured by competitors.
Setting these expectations upfront maximizes efficiency. And by providing members of the executive team with the data they find most useful, you’re also ensuring that they clearly see the ROI of their competitive research and intelligence investments.
Research can also take you on unexpected journeys and looking for one competitive data set can often lead to an entirely new discovery. That said, it’s important to understand how broad that you, as the researcher, can and should review. Conversely, if there are certain budgetary or time parameters in place, be sure to have honest, upfront conversations with the C-Suite about prioritization and resource allocation.
Set a Regular Cadence – And Know When to Break It
Much like it’s important to establish a framework of what competitive intelligence to report, it’s equally vital to establish when the C-suite needs to be updated on what that research uncovers. It may sound straightforward, but misaligned timing on communicating information can mean that vital business decisions are made without the most up-to-date competitive framework.
More frequent updates may be required for highly volatile industries—tech/digital, media, real estate and finance, for example—that experience quick changes and regular M&A activity. For organizations in more stable industries—like consumer-packaged goods, food service and healthcare— it may not be critical to update the C-suite with as much regularity.
Once a cadence is established, don’t be afraid to break the convention. Even in the most slow-moving industries, critical competitive updates with wide-reaching implications should be swiftly communicated to the C-suite. Identify the appropriate channels to communicate such alerts and have a plan in place to respond to competitive intel that has the potential to significantly impact the operations of your organization.
Research into competitive intelligence is an ongoing task, with new developments on an almost constant basis. The Nexis® and Company Dossier alert functionality brings critical updates to the top of your inbox.
In both instances, there are tools that can help make this process easier. Nexis® research solutions allow teams to set alerts for any number of specific search parameters. Whether your organization wants real-time intelligence of competitors in the headlines, legal filings from or against competitors, changes in the executive staff of an industry rival or the latest details on corporate mergers, Nexis® alerts can automatically notify you of information important to your organization.
Make Information Digestible and Actionable
For those responsible for researching the finer points of competitive intelligence, it can be easy to geek out over the vast amount of insights and data available (no shame—we’re research geeks too!). For the benefit of the C-suite, it’s best to provide updates and insights that are succinct and actionable.
Pruning datasets to the essential, high level points can be difficult. If you’re utilizing Nexis® for competitive intelligence research (and, we may be biased, but we think you should be!) applying the various filters to narrow your research parameters is a great place to start. Beyond that, use your critical judgement to identify the data insights which matter most for your audience. It’s also best to filter out routine findings (standard SEC filings, non-critical legal motions, unremarkable media coverage) and call attention to intelligence that can be used to effect business decisions. From there, start with the highlights—but be prepared with back pocket information should questions come up.
The most important thing—and underlying each of these tips—is to be open and upfront when communicating with your organization’s executive team. They have a need for information, and you have a desire to show them the value of competitive intelligence and research. With that common ground, you can work together to lay the groundwork for better, more informed business decisions.