Profiling Customers for Competitive Intelligence

competitive intelligenceA great place to start in unseating a competitor is not with competitive information but with your own customers. A careful and precise view of your current customers is the necessary backdrop on which to evaluate all of your competitive research. This is especially true for your best customers who are the types of customers you want to lure away.

A profile of your best customers contains information that assists you in understanding their values, needs and goals. It includes their purchasing behaviors, interests, hot buttons, attitudes, preferences and decision styles. It can take some work to set up, but it is the key to putting the rest of your competitive playbook in context. Fortunately, a distribution-specific CRM solution makes it a lot easier to track the things that are important to your customers.

Where should you start? We recommend tracking the following items in your customer profile. Of course, you can add as much detail as you like with each customer or prospect.

Basic demographic information

  • Years in business or alternatively the stage they operate in (e.g., start-up, growth, mature, decline, etc.)
  • Size statistics, which should include number of employees, annual revenue, branches and locations, geographies, etc.
  • Corporate structure (private, public, franchisee, etc.)

Industry and purchasing information:

  • Who are the competitors they currently work with?
  • Specific industry, SIC code, NAICS code and a written description (e.g., electrical contractor, building materials retailer, HVAC installer, etc.)
  • Categories of products and services they offer
  • Do they have special needs like rare stock items, kitting, special packaging or value-added service components?
  • What is their order frequency?
  • Do they have HazMat needs?
  • The markets and customers that they serve
  • Associations they belong to or lists they’re featured on (e.g., top contractors of 2015)

The pains and concerns they typically face:

  • What are the top needs for your services?
  • What are their needs, pains and hot button issues?
  • What are their biggest concerns or complaints with their suppliers?

The myriad benefits of good customer profiles are beyond the scope of this report. From a competitive strategy perspective, all of these questions and more help you recognize opportunities to best your competition with service and product offerings that better match your customer profiles.

For example, when a competitor eliminates or reduces a particular type of service, wouldn’t it be great to run a report that lists all of the prospects who need that service and currently use that competitor? That kind of list can make you first in line when the customer or prospect starts shopping for a new source.

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