Ask the Industry Expert: Q&A with Udo Hohlfeld
This is the third installment in our Q&A series where we talk to some of the leading Competitive Intelligence professionals to get their expert views on industry trends and best practices. Udo Hohlfeld founded INFO + DATEN to provide customers with targeted intelligence to succeed in their markets. He is an established competitive intelligence specialist with senior operating experience in information research worldwide, analysis and management.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic of intelligence professionals?
The most important characteristic of intelligence professionals is to be open-minded and curious. If you are not interested in searching, finding and analyzing, you are simply doing the wrong job. Additionally, although no customer likes to hear this, take your time to find the gems that push your analysis towards the right answers. In general, put an emphasis on qualitative analysis! Quantitative analysis is fine and necessary but it forces you to look back. Competitive Intelligence is about looking ahead and being predictive. This has a very different quality for corporate customers and their strategies.
Q. You've worked with a lot of companies advising them on competitive strategy. What advice do you have for businesses with a more limited budget, that want to implement an intelligence strategy.
In former times, companies were told that every employee is a sales person. This is true as every employee who is directly and indirectly in touch with customers shapes a customer's picture of the company, of its products and service. The same is valid for Competitive Intelligence. Almost every employee owns information and insights on the market and the competitors. From purchasing to customer service to sales, from production to marketing - across all departments valuable knowledge is at hand. It does not matter if you have a limited budget or not, this is the most logical first step to build a successful competitive intelligence function and strategy and the least expensive one. Extract and leverage the intelligence that is in the head of your employees and then build on it a systematic intelligence effort aligned with your most important goals and objectives. In the end this means that the corporate communication culture should support the Competitive Intelligence activities.
Q. What type of things should organizations consider before partnering with an external consultant or CI specialist?
For partnering with an external CI consultancy companies should be aware of three things:
• Without top management support there will not be a satisfying result - be clear what kind of intelligence you need and how you want to use it
• A systematic and structured approach will bring the best results, yet, this will take some time
• Start small and focused - do not follow an "all you can eat"-approach
Q. Companies have access to more data than ever before. How can they obtain the maximum benefit from all this information?
My advice: do not use it all - focus only on important information, do not get distracted while searching and most of all: be careful with publicly available data - Google does not cover the world's information (although they claim to at least organize it) and most important: Google does not provide you with intelligence. Seek high quality data and analyze it, this gives you maximum benefit. Reducing the information flood to must-have information is imperative.
Q. What are your top 3 tips for managing a CI project?
My top 3 tips for managing a CI project are:
• identify the key intelligence requirements
• manage client expectations and be realistic about objectives and achievements
• continuously review plan / execution / results together with the customer
Q. What impact do you think Competitive Intelligence is having on other business functions such as Marketing, R&D, HR etc?
Competitive Intelligence supports all business functions. It is imperative for a successful and competitive company strategy. And like a strategy that is broken down into sub-strategies, tasks and processes according to the organizational structure, Competitive Intelligence accompanies it along the way. Competitive Intelligence fulfills a strategic function as well as a tactical one. The impact is the same across any corporate function: inform, provide actionable intelligence, trigger decisions and activities to stay abreast of the competition.
Q. What type of data from social media channels should companies be monitoring?
My top three type of data to be monitored from social media channels are:
• Customer opinions and needs
• Own reputation and brand
• Competitors' marketing activities and messaging
About Udo Hohlfeld
Udo Hohlfeld founded INFO + DATEN to provide customers with targeted intelligence to succeed in their markets. He is an established competitive intelligence specialist with senior operating experience in information research worldwide, analysis and management. While continuously further developing his skills, Udo provides customers with unique intelligence services for their strategic and tactical business activities: successfully, worldwide, for more than 12 years.
Specialty: Enabling customers to lead in their markets with Competitive Intelligence, qualitative analysis, competitive monitoring and Counterintelligence as well as profiling of individuals / companies.
Written by Jerome Maisch
Marketing Manager @digimindci. Passionate about big data & social marketing. Photography, music and hiking lover