Tag: business development

Tendering to win: the importance of competitive intelligence

competitive-intelligence-new-frontiers

“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy” said Sun Tzu, in the Art of War. Sometimes, competing for business can seem like a battle – with the odds stacked against you and the chances of success slim at best. However, all is not lost. Competitive Intelligence (CI) is a key weapon that will level the battle field and allow you to compete with the advantage of knowledge on your side.

Competitive Intelligence is the ethical gathering and analysis of competitor, customer and market information from open sources. This analysis is used by organisations to make better strategic decisions. It is the difference between competing and winning.

Why should I care about CI?

Your organisational survival may well depend on the knowledge that you can acquire from and about your prospects and market competitors. Public sector procurement is becoming increasingly transparent and the victors are those that can demonstrate that they understand their clients’ needs and have positioned themselves favourably in comparison to other suppliers. It is not overstating the case to say that embedding competitive intelligence as a core management process is increasingly essential towards survival and growth in the 21st century.

Embedding CI into my organisation

Make the acquisition and safe-guarding of CI part of your normal business operations. Create profiles of your target customers, as well as your main competitors. Collect data from the companies’ own websites and their published case studies; add to this aggregate from news and social media websites and also flesh out from your real world connections. Finally, use your organisation’s own human intelligence to identify the areas that you have competitive advantage in and work on your weaknesses to improve your overall ability to compete.

Best practice for managing CI

Qualify your Tenders:

  1. Tendering is expensive – compete only where it makes good sense and learn as much from losing as from winning
  2. Make intelligence gathering systemic – Know your customer, your competitor, your partner… and yourself
  3. Procurement history – Identify buying habits, incumbent suppliers, decision makers, previous purchases and evaluation criteria
  4. Maintain an information repository – Protect your corporate knowledge and facilitate fact-based decisions

Remember that CI is more concerned with understanding the big picture and having the right perception of the marketplace that trying to precisely quantify or qualify competitive threats and business opportunities.

How do I get started?

A good first step towards increasing revenues is to identify your competitive landscape. Identify the clients that you want to work with,  the competitors you want to take business from and the type of business that you want to be doing. Next, consider how well-positioned you are to be successful – do your target clients know and like you? Are your competitors better than you? Do you have the capability and capacity to service the needs of those clients? The answers to those questions will evolve over time as you become more attuned to the dynamics of the competitive landscape.

While you’re working on that, it’s also a good idea to try competing for some business; the public procurement portal etenders.gov.ie is a good place to start. By writing proposals, your value proposition will be critically evaluated against the value propositions of your competitors, by actual buyers. That’s incredibly valuable information that tells you exactly where you need to improve, shows you what the expectations are in your industry and where you rate against the competition. After that it’s up to you to create a strategy to address that feedback and start winning more business.

Each time you participate in the tendering process, you learn a little more about what it takes to win. As Sun Tzu noted, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

About the author

Tony-Corrigan-New-FrontiersTony Corrigan

Tony is the Director of TenderScout and a past participant on New Frontiers. His disruptive SaaS company has won the Eircom Spider Business Choice award and was recently shortlisted for the ESB Spark of Genius award at the Web Summit, as well as being an Enterprise Ireland client and in receipt of Competitive Start Funds (CSF)… [Read Tony’s profile]

How to craft your Value Proposition – a tool and a formula

value-proposition-tool-formula

A Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is extremely important for every startup business. It is the answer to the question: What is it that makes your product or service different, unique and most importantly will persuade people to buy from you? The problem for early-stage promoters is defining the essence of their solution and communicating it concisely. This article will outline a process for crafting your Value Proposition and outline some examples from participants on New Frontiers programmes.

UVP is a critical component of any marketing strategy

A strong value proposition is the first step in deciding how a business is going to market its solution. It goes to the heart of what the business does (or does not do) and why that matters to customers. One of the primary objectives of marketing is to generate awareness of and interest in your solution in a target market that is being constantly bombarded with marketing messages.

Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean holds that the definition of UVP needs to be redefined. He challenges startups to ‘distil the essence of your product in a few words that can fit in the headline of your landing page’.

First-time visitors spend eight seconds on average on a landing page. Your UVP is their first interaction with your product. Craft a good UVP and they might stay and view the rest of your site. Otherwise they’ll simply leave.

Ash Maurya, Running Lean

Remember, you’re not trying to tell the entire story in one line, but get across that you have a story worth considering. The reaction to your UVP should be ‘How does it do that?’ or ‘Tell me more’.

value-proposition-canvasValue Proposition Canvas

I use this value Proposition canvas from the Business Model Foundry as an exercise with Phase 2 participants in Tralee and Dundalk IT and it has received great feedback as it provides a structure for considering all elements. My advice is to start with the Customer Segment and the jobs that customers want done and then work through the rest. Then write your one or two line UVP.

There is a detailed explanation of all six elements in the Canvas in their pdf download.

A UVP Formula

The classic formula for crafting your UVP is:

Instant Clarity Headline = End Result Customer Wants (+ Special Period of Time + Address the Objections)

And the classic example of this formula in action is:

Hot fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or it’s free (Dominos)

The entire formula won’t be relevant or applicable in every situation, but the headline should definitely reference the target customer and their wants. It is also important to consider if the objections of the target buyer can be addressed.

Crafting your UVP

When creating your UVP, the key is to focus on the benefits your customers derive from your product. These ‘finished story benefits’ will ensure that your UVP gets inside the heads of your customers. For example, consider how to formulate the proposition of a resume-building service:

  • Feature: professionally designed templates
  • Benefit: eye-catching CV
  • Finished story benefit: landing your dream job

I think that the finished story benefit will definitely grab attention. It is then up to your product solution to deliver, which is a sure way to delight your customer.

Test and refine your UVP

The first step in testing your proposition is to discuss it with a trusted business advisor or mentor. It is also important to verify your customer assumptions, so you’ll need to engage with as many customers as you can and find out if their priorities, pains and gains are as you have described them. Once you have done this, you’ll be able to tweak or even change your proposition based on these insights. Here’s a great example:

I don’t play golf, but I love Golf Voyager’s value proposition. The key problem they are trying to solve is the hassle involved in organised group golf trips. A New Frontiers business in Limerick in 2013, they have a brilliant hook to their model in that they pay part of your next year’s golf membership if you book trips and hotel stays through their website:

“Book all your hotel stays and golf holidays through Golf Voyager and save on your membership fees next year.”

My Conclusion and Call to Action

One of my favourite quotes from a business book that I highly recommend, The Jelly Effect, is:

AFTERs – People don’t care what you do. They only care about what they are left with after you have done it.

Andy Bounds, The Jelly Effect

This might seem a bit harsh, but it’s definitely true!  My final example is from Olive O’Connor, a New Frontiers participant in 2013, who has developed a Filofax-type medical organiser for people and carers managing chronic illnesses. The MediStori gives people who don’t wish to use technology an easy-to-use, paper-based solution. On one level, this allows people to record their medical history and keep a daily medical record which can be easily shared, and on another level it gives them back a sense of control over their own lives. The result is a prototype that has garnered endorsements from charities, doctors, pharmacists and patient groups. Olive has used her UVP to produce a video to promote MediStori (see below).

My challenge to you is to craft a value proposition that works for your business. I hope that you find the UVP formula and the value proposition canvas useful as you set about this task!

About the author

Donncha Hughes profileDonncha Hughes

Donncha Hughes is a former incubation centre manager and has worked with startups for almost ten years. A big advocate of Lean Startup, his areas of expertise include: marketing, sales, business models, supports for business, business plans and financial projections. An EI mentor and member of the CSF Evaluation Panel, Donncha specialises in working with early stage startups… [Read Donncha’s profile]

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