market and product research – to what degree should the fear of competitive espionage determine your marketing/pr program?

Good News….Bad News. Which would you like first?

Here’s the good news – business has been tough over the last few years…but the economy looks to be at the bottom and things are starting to look up. Now the bad news – although things are looking up, the Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) landscape has changed dramatically within the US and it is no longer “business as usual.”

An industry that for years has enjoyed a robust economic landscape where the competition knew its place and concentrated within niche markets, is now experiencing a blurring of the lines. The market is now driven by hyper-competition; hyper-competition is where too many businesses are pursuing too little business. Large mega companies are pursuing smaller projects that they never would have thought of pursing in the past. Smaller firms are partnering to compete for large projects in an effort to expand their opportunities. There is just not enough demand to go around for everyone.

For years as a marketer within the AEC industry I was continuously warned about “keeping my mouth shut” during networking events and various marketing initiatives. We do not want to tip our hand and let the competition know our business. However, as a marketer my job was also to keep my company’s name in front of the market, which also meant the competition.

Now that I am on my own…I am still faced with the same dilemma. As a small company, strategic and comprehensive public relations is critical to my success. Therefore, I seek to take advantage of every opportunity available to me to keep the DAVNA name in front of my potential clients, and unfortunately the competition. So where does the balance come in?

Strategic Planning and Competitive Intelligence (CI)

To paraphrase Sun Tzu from the Art of War

”Know thy-self, know thy competition, and get it right almost every time. Know thy-self, not know thy competition, and get it right about half the time. Not know thy-self, not know thy competition, and get it wrong almost every time.”

Managing within a hyper-competitive environment involves strategic planning, also called  Competitive Intelligence (CI)a process of understanding the market and where it is going; being able to anticipate what the competition’s approach to the market might be; and strategically positioning yourself ahead of the competition as the market moves through its paces.

Intelligence differs from data collection and information gathering as it requires some form of analysis designed to shed light on what the data/information is telling us. According to the authors of the book The Intelligence Edge, – “Knowledge is what your are after. Information is the raw material you use. Intelligence is what finds and processes information.”

There are two key objectives of an effective CI campaign – the first is to minimize threats  – by gaining a better understanding of what short-term operational initiatives a firm might take to position itself as a leader within its competitive market(benchmarking), the firm can remain aware and responsive to threats as they arise. This reactionary perspective, although CI’sprimary objective, should not be the end all of your CI initiative.  The second objective is to help maximize opportunities –this proactive approach provides the data necessary for finding “low hanging fruit” such as new markets for existing offerings, fresh revenue streams, or other opportunities for the firm to grow and add value for stakeholders.

An effective CI campaign can also help the firm determine expansion into or abandonment of a market by identifying its maturity or potential economic demise. An example is DAVNA’s most recent international expansion efforts, providing International Brokering Services in Brazil, as a result of the recent bid award of the 2014 FIFA and 2016 Olympic games. Through a strategic CI campaign effort, we were able to determine where the immediate opportunities were, the most effective approach to breaking into the market, how DAVNA and our offerings stacked up to the competition, and the immediate market product/service needs. As a result of our CI and subsequent marketing initiative … DAVNA has established itself as a leading expert within the Brazilian market for connecting Brazilian firms with quality AEC products and service providers from the US.

The bottom line…Competitive Intelligence (CI) allows us to effectively strategize our marketing and PR approaches in relation to our competitive environment. It is not an exact science but allows us to stay one step ahead and remain competitive within a volatile market by providing enough information to draw reasonable conclusions to base our strategies upon.

Is that your “final” answer?

Back to our initial question, “To What Degree Should the FEAR of Competitive ESPIONAGE determine your Marketing/PR Program?” The answer lies in the homework done to date and how much your efforts would contribute to “tipping your hand” to your competitors. If your marketing/PR initiatives are strategic, the tipping aspect should only come into play when you already have a counter-action in place.

CI is all about knowing what is going to happen before it happens with a reliable degree of accuracy … and then playing your cards to minimize the impact of such events to the firm. DAVNA can provide you with the expertise and tools needed to strategically plot your success course within a down economy. For more information on establishing a Competitive Intelligence campaign within your organization contact

DAVNA Enterprises, LLC is a marketing solutions firm dedicated to the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry to improve the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives and keeping marketing professionals apprised of new and upcoming marketing tools and resources.

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