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Marketing the CI function to ensure its survival

Guest blogger: Henrik Sköld

If you are involved in Competitive Intelligence (CI) in your organization – quite likely since you are reading this blog – your main mission could probably be described along the lines of future-proofing your organization by increasing its capability to adapt to external change. But how do you future-proof the CI function itself?

Apart from the obvious – delivering consistent value to the organisation – marketing the CI function is a critical, but often an underestimated aspect. Let’s start off with the main reasons why marketing should be top of mind for every CI manager.

Broadening the client base is one reason. For you to be able to deliver value to the organisation, all relevant target groups for CI need to know about your existence. Fairly obvious, but this is not always the case.

Creating legitimacy is related to this. By showing how the organisation can benefit from the CI work, this helps creating acceptance and opening doors.

Building a network of experts is another aspect of this. When the CI function’s visibility in the organisation increases, getting access to experts when needed becomes a lot easier.

As a side benefit, since most of the marketing should be done through dialogue, you will also get a lot of input, such as increased knowledge about key intelligence questions, i.e. the most important (external) issues for management right now.

Diminishing the risk of cutbacks might be more defensive than the other reasons mentioned, but this is also important. Even though knowledge of the value derived from good CI work is increasing in many industries, it is still a function that runs the risk of cutbacks when the organisation hits dire straits financially. To avoid this, a solid combination of delivering value and marketing the CI work is needed.

Last but not least, social contacts and inspiration is an important benefit of marketing the CI work. By making yourselves well-known throughout the organisation, you will get a lot in return socially as well as in terms of new thoughts and inspiration. This is also critical for the ability to perform excellent CI work.

By now, I hope that you agree on the need to systematically market the CI function.How, then, should you go about this? Well, in most cases, marketing should be done on several levels.

First of all, focus on building relations with the most important existing and potential CI customers. One good way to achieve this is to catch up with them as well as informally follow up on your work, when encountering your customers by the coffee machine.

The second part of marketing is to create a broader network within the organization. Try to identify the “movers and shakers”, the people that are appointed to lead important projects, participate in strategic workshops etc. These people are often well-connected and can serve as good ambassadors for the CI function. Also, they are often open-minded and curious, hence susceptible to your key messages about the CI work.

Last but not least, consider making a communications plan for the CI work. If you’re not a communications specialist yourself, you might want to enlist the help of those who are (another important group to build good relations with).

Major steps of a solid plan involve identifying the target groups for the CI work (necessary in order to focus your efforts), formulating the key messages for these target groups, and setting goals for every target group (increasing knowledge about CI? Changing their attitude? Stimulating action?). And, subsequently, choosing and carrying out appropriate communicative strategies and activities. Proper activities might encompass the whole range of channels from articles on the intranet to visiting regular meetings but, as mentioned earlier, dialogue should be a key component.

If you work systematically with marketing the CI work in the manner described above, the CI function’s chances of survival increases significantly, thereby helping to future-proof not only the CI function itself but ultimately the entire organisation.

This was a guest blog entry by: Henrik Sköld.

About Henrik Sköld

 

Henrik Sköld is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and has worked with Competitive Intelligence (CI) since the mid 1990’s. Currently, he manages the CI function at theSwedish Post and Telecom Authority. Previous experiences include e.g. consulting for a broad range of private companies and public sector organizations in Sweden and internationally. Earlier this year, he published his first book, a handbook in Swedish about how to create an effective CI function. Henrik is also available for minor consulting assignments. More information and contact details can be found atwww.henrikskold.com.