Any company that takes the competition seriously does some sort of competitor analysis. Some of these assessments are simple and static, while others are more complex and dynamic, requiring constant monitoring to keep profiles updated. But the one thing that stays the same across companies is the type of information required for a competitor analysis, which usually includes the following in this order:
I. Executive Summary
- Industry and Company Overview
- Business Model and Value Drivers
- Commercial Strategy
- The Future
II. Company Background
- Financial Figures
III. Commercial Strategy
- Consumer Profile
- Brand Strategy
- Product Positioning
IV. Manufacturing & Distribution
V. SWOT and Competitive Outlook
These information bits should be at the core of a solid competitor analysis, but there is one element that’s usually missing from most other competitor analyses.
It’s executive profiles, which contain deep professional, behavioral, and personal insights on C-level and senior employees who work to compete against your company. While financial reports and product lists could tell you what’s happening on a tactical, day-to-day level, executive profiles will tell you what’s happening or will happen on a strategic, big-picture level for a competitor analysis. After all, an executive's personality, past experiences, and current activities do play a role in their company’s competitive advantage.
Consider the strategic moves of J.C. Penney when ex-Apple retail executive Ron Johnson became the company’s CEO in 2011. Coming off the success of Apple’s retail launch, JCPenney competitors could have predicted that Johnson would employ similar pricing and storefront tactics from Apple. He ended up doing so when he cut coupons and promotions JCPenney customers were used to and completely redesigned stores into compartmentalized sections. Although his vision worked for Apple, his push ended up not working so well for JCPenney. Anticipating these kinds of moves is something that can be cued when executive profiling is an ongoing part of a competitor analysis.
Executive profiles don't have to require extensive primary intelligence tactics; all that’s needed to begin are a few sources of information and competitor analysis tools to capture new ongoing data. Here are a few sources where you can get the latest scoop on your competitor’s executives and upper management teams:
With over 200 million registered users, LinkedIn is the number one social network for professionals of all levels and industries. If your target executive has a profile, this is a good starting point for gathering basic background information. Take note of their current role and responsibilities, past experiences and responsibilities, skills, and connections. This can give you some insight into their interests and professional strengths.
On the surface, a LinkedIn profile may not reveal too much strategic insight, but it’s the updates and activities you should track. Switching into a new title may indicate a pivot for the company. If they get poached by another company or competitor, they likely want to follow the same strategies from the executive’s past experiences. Competitor analysis tools do a great job at catching both the obvious and subtle changes on a LinkedIn profile page, giving you the ability to keep tabs on multiple executives 24/7.
2) News Sites & Blogs
The media and most bloggers don’t have set working hours or extended vacations, so you can be sure they’ll report on executive activity and company news as it breaks. From these articles, you’ll begin to see what decision executives are making, who they consult, and what factors played into their decision-making.
Unlike a corporate press release, news and blog articles strive to give you the full story of a company’s situation or move. Blogs can be especially useful if they are written by industry experts, specialists or product evangelists. A few great examples include health care, investor, startup, gadgets or technology blogs, which do a good job at reporting trends or radical changes in the industry. Competitor analysis tools can pick up these articles as they publish so you can analyze what could be an executive’s next move, strategic approach. Competitor analysis tools can also be used to get articles with an objective and credible view of executives' past successes or failures.
This micro-blogging platform is not just for large company brands. CEOs, VPs, and other executives have Twitter accounts that show a more personable side. Tweets from executives reveal their personality, current activities, and who they’re connected to.
Following tweets can actually let you get inside the heads of executives. Since they’re essentially publishing their thoughts, these tweets reveal their personality, preferences, opinions, and views on issues either affecting their company or industry. Competitor analysis tools help collect these tweets and filter them by topic or keyword, so you’ll be able to keep tabs on what executives are saying or who they’re talking to on Twitter.
Don’t wait until your next competitor analysis to consider executive profiles, since these insights can reveal facets of competitor strategies, next moves, and the minds of rival executives.
What do you think? Is information on executives used in your competitor analysis? What methods and sources do you use to profile executives?