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Competitive Intelligence Customers Survey Results
In April of 2010, I conducted a survey of competitive intelligence professionals from thirty five organizations about competitive intelligence. The goal of the survey was to understand how competitive intelligence practitioners view their customers (and vice versa). The survey can be downloaded here.
The survey consisted of five questions. (The results are presented following the questions.)
  1. What functions in a company do you most often serve with competitive intelligence information?

  2. How would you describe your confidence in providing regularly actionable and valuable competitive intelligence to your customers?

  3. How would you describe your customer’s confidence that you deliver valuable and actionable competitive intelligence information?

  4. How do your customers commonly recognize the value of competitive intelligence?

  5. How do your customers usually indicate that they are satisfied (or not) with your competitive intelligence deliverables?

CI Functions Served  Notes:
The answers illustrate how competitive intelligence often serves the outward viewing functions of an organization. Note that the "Management" responses are surprising unless the respondents lumped the functional management in the individual categories (e.g., strategic marketing management in the strategic marketing response).

Another survey is needed to drill down into the specific ways that CI serves each function.
Confidence  Notes:
The second and third questions deal with the confidence that the competitive intelligence function delivered valuable and actionable competitive intelligence.

One question deals with the practitioner's self confidence while the second deals with the perceived confidence of the customer.

Overall, note the high confidence reported in both dimensions. This could mean that the respondents are exceptionally good at CI and that their customers share that opinion. Or, this might be an atypical sample.

A survey of customers would add color to this set of responses.
Competitive Intelligence Confidences  Notes:
This graph continue the analysis of questions 2 and 3. Here, the "customer confidence" score is subtracted from the "self confidence" score. Overall, most of the time there appears to be equal confidence. Except for one outlier, the scores are symmetrical.

These results indicate consistent alignment between CI and their customers, at least among the thirty five respondents.
Competitive Intelligence Benefits  Notes:
The most common benefit cited was improved understanding of the competitive environment. Some of the other possible responses were more tangible. For instance, helping with specific wins is a measurable outcome.

Another fascinating (though not unexpected) finding is that many use CI to confirm their intuition. Rather than expecting that CI will provide an answer, apparently many are using it to justify an answer that is already known. Using CI to avoid mistakes is another "guardrail" function for CI.
Competitive Intelligence Feedback  Notes:
The most common feedback mechanisms appear to be informal or indirect. This is a danger for CI though perhaps it is difficult to avoid particularly in shops where CI's uses results in less tangible outcomes (see question 4).

It is hard to reconcile this answer set with the answers given to questions 2 and 3 unless the feedback (informal or not) is so effective as to justify high confidence for both CI and customers.

Lastly, for the six percent that do not get feedback, it seems to be a problematic assignment. A lack of communication from customers is often a death knell for CI.
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