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Driving Demand Creation With Competitive Intelligence

By Brian Hession, President and Founder, Oceanos

BrianEVPCompetitive Intelligence: What you must know to be successful (Part 1 of 2)


BrianEVPBy Brian Hession, President and Founder, Oceanos

Competitive Intelligence: What you must know to be successful (Part 1 of 2)

As sales and marketing technologists increase their focus on named-account demand creation, they seek new ways to differentiate their message. One approach is to understand the prospect’s technology infrastructure in preparation of a displacement or complimentary program. This install intelligence, when combined with other business intelligence attributes, assists sales and marketers in the prioritization of accounts and the development of more relevant and enticing content.

Profiling an organization’s technology infrastructure is not new, but recently it has gained mainstream popularity, particularly with marketers. The number of providers offering software installs has increased, resulting in varying degrees of quality. A similar scenario presented itself eight years ago when Jigsaw brought disruptive change to the data space. They were the first to provide sales and marketers with full contact records, including phones and email addresses, for perpetual use. Up to that point marketers relied heavily on third-party email rental, which had come to exhibit fatigue and lower responsiveness. Additionally, many organizations were looking to scale their CRM and/or marketing-automation investments, for which the Jigsaw model was ideal. As a result, other data providers came onto the scene with similar crowd-sourced models. It was a gold rush and the provider able to boast the largest counts was the winner, regardless if 20% or more of the emails hard-bounced. In retrospect, this easy consumption led to overindulgence and contributed to data issues that organizations are wrestling with today.

This same phenomenon appears to be repeating itself, this time with software installs. Unfortunately, evaluating quality of software installs isn’t as simple as deploying an email campaign and returning the contacts that hard bounced. As sales and marketers, we need to be more discerning in what we buy and look beyond who has the largest counts. When evaluating vendors it is critical to understand how the information was identified.

For example, outbound calling is promising in theory but often inadequate in practice. Consider the following viewpoints:

In most cases outbound calling is performed offshore. The information is collected by a call agent, who is making hundreds of dials per shift, has received an ambiguous amount/quality of training and is often contending with a language barrier.

  • The person reached may not be qualified to provide accurate information. Additionally, the nature of the call may motivate the individual to provide inaccurate information. If you still have doubts, speak with your technology group and ask them how many sales calls they receive on a weekly basis, how they handle these calls and if they feel comfortable providing information about the technology infrastructure to random call agents.
  • Sharing an organization’s install intelligence rarely provides any benefit to the organization and can lead to issues with future vendor negotiations. In many mid-size and enterprise companies the release of this information to a third party conflicts with internal compliance standards.

This is not to say that call centers have no role in the competitive intelligence discovery process, but one needs to be cognizant of the channel’s weaknesses. It is likely that your sales people are equipped with the skills and access to information necessary to engage a productive conversation. But keep in mind that the whole process relies on self-reported information. The sales group is counting on the prospect to share accurate information, which of course does not always happen.

Consider a scenario that recently occurred here at Oceanos. We had delivered approximately 1,400 sites that use SAP Business Objects software. The marketing group then released the data to inside sales for a call down. During this process, inside sales identified 64 sites which they confirmed did not have Business Objects. Although this was a small percentage (approx. 5%), the BI analyst who performed the initial research was asked to review these 64 accounts. The analyst itemized specific information reasonably confirming that at least 47 out of the 64 sites (74%) did in fact use SAP Business Objects. The remaining 17 were confirmed by an approved partner, but we were unable to provide “proof.”

The outcome of the research highlights the challenge that a sales team faces when targeting contacts based on install intelligence. Certainly call center results would improve with double or triple verification, but costs spiral. Oceanos’ competitive intelligence discovery is diversified, incorporating proprietary search technology, a network of third party contributors and internal research processes performed by a BI analyst. This balanced approach increases reach, but more importantly, serves as a platform to cross-validate information.

When driving demand creation, remember to be discerning. Invest the time to learn the ins and outs of competitive intelligence and ensure that you arm your sales and marketing group with the optimal data. If you are interested in learning more about this topic or how you can leverage business intelligence attributes to secure a competitive advantage, feel free to contact me directly at

In nearly a decade since founding Oceanos, Brian has established himself as a recognized thought leader in demand creation marketing. Under his leadership, Oceanos has become synonymous with a new standard in data strategy and services, recognized with numerous accolades from business and industry sources.