Customer Experience, Social Competitive Intelligence Answers the 'So What?' Question
Both business intelligence and competitive intelligence crunch big data to deliver answers to the questions, “what happened?” and “how did that happen?” Only a social competitive intelligence framework can answer the most important question, “so what?”

Social competitive intelligence is a new discipline. It is emerging now and will continue to grow over the next decade.

Some solutions exist already. But they and their marketing cousins -- social media management software -- are still largely focused on listening to and tracking social mentions and sentiment activity. While these are important, the solutions today are overly simplistic. Rather than helping marketing or customer service or product managers understand what’s coming and what to do next, they add to the data tsunami. When your cup is already running over, it makes little sense to put it under a faster faucet.

The better solution is to put into place a framework that gathers, filters, synthesizes and analyzes social competitive intelligence. Then use that framework as a lens through which to view your existing BI and CI data. Then you will be able to answer the all-important, “so what?” question.

Here are several real-world examples.

The Call Center Cost Hole

BI reporting shows increasing costs and increasing churn in your call center; overall a bad trend. If that were the only information you had, the “so what?” answer would be to kick up call center recruiting to fill the gaps and some stricter MBOs for call center managers on employee retention.

However, with a social competitive intelligence framework in place, it is revealed that social media, blogs and discussion boards are full with blistering criticism of your call center escalation processes. The withering criticism is poisoning the work environment and making a tough job even more unpleasant. Viewed through this lens, the correct answer to “so what?” is not to step up recruiting. Rather, it is to fix the poison call center environment and re-engineer the escalation processes while empowering call center employees.

Not only does this save substantial time and money, it actually boosts net productivity by empowering knowledgeable employees and eliminating training and the ramp up to full productivity required for each new hire.

The Outside Expert

You are ready to launch a new product into an overseas market. But there are a host of regulatory issues to navigate. While you have plenty of independent research and case studies validating your approach, you still want an expert in your technology and the foreign market to help guide you through the approval process. The regulators don’t look kindly on experts who are among your paid staff due to potential conflict of interest. You want an external expert but you want to avoid someone who regularly works for your competitors or who has expressed harsh opinions of your company or product in the past.

Traditional competitive intelligence will not provide expertise location like this. Traditional BI only tells you that your new market has a lot of potential. If that were the only information you had, the “so what?” answer would be to get some internal recommendations and do a Google search and hope the person is available and credible. But hope makes for a poor strategy, especially with something as big as a new foreign market launch.

With a social competitive intelligence framework in place, you are able to perform a social network analysis to first locate the influencers on the topic area, measure their credibility and influence relative to one another, and finally screen them for competitor interaction and engagement. This approach yields not only a deeper, more highly qualified “short list” of available experts, it also reveals a large and rich set of topic influencers who your team can target for engagement and awareness of your new product.

Ultimately, this delivers not only the help navigating new regulatory processes in new markets, it also identifies a new set of up and coming influencers who will help your product remain successful after the initial splash.

The Competitor Customer List

Your internal BI tells you that sales are plateauing despite the fact that you have a better product with more features and a better history of quality. Your competitive intelligence tells you that competitors are facing similar slow-growth periods. It looks like the market is reaching saturation and new opportunities are small.

If that were all the information you had, the answer to the “so what?” question would be to switch over your sales strategy from a hunting to a farming operation. Marketing would shift to promoting small incremental improvements and the grind of upgrades/maintenance/renewal would become the core of your revenue model.

However, with a social competitive intelligence framework in place you would reveal a gold mine of new accounts that you can hunt while dramatically boosting your competitive advantage. The framework would reveal your competitor’s customer lists in whole or in part. This means there is opportunity to knock out your competitor or at least to come alongside them and establish a beach head; but only if you know who they are and how to approach them. This is what a social competitive intelligence framework delivers.

A social competitive intelligence framework makes developing a target list of your competitor’s customers easy. First, perform a social network analysis of your competitor. See who is commenting, following, liking and (re)tweeting about your competitor. Then filter that list by companies and contacts you’d like to target.

Perform this analysis again around the time of your competitor’s big events like conferences and trade shows. The cadence of social activity spikes during those times. Additionally, your competitor will trot out their favorite case studies and customer testimonials during that time to add credibility to their pitch. What they’re doing for you is validating the customer need, interest and ability to pay.

Your job becomes positioning your superior or complementary product/service. Finally, mine your competitor’s website for their customer information. Companies routinely post logos and ROI or case studies online. Even if competitor brag sheets use unnamed customers, there will generally be enough information to make a very educated guess and narrow it down to only one or two possible companies (your potential customers!) in the area.

Conclusion

As the old saying goes, “text without context becomes pretext.” No matter how good your BI data is alone, without the contextualizing force of a social competitive intelligence framework, it becomes justification for gut feelings, political games-playing and flights of fancy. That is no way to run a business.

Enterprises and especially CIOs, CMOs and Sales EVPs need to implement a social competitive intelligence framework that understands how to do the following:

  1. Collect & Gather deep web and social information
  2. Filter & Categorize information to keep what matters and cull what doesn’t
  3. Analyze & Synthesize that information with existing BI & CI data
  4. Report & Act so that actionable intelligence can deliver meaningful business impact.

Title image courtesy of igor.stevanovic (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: See how Billy did with his 2013 predictions in Trendspotting 2013: Information at the Center