Using competitive intelligence in writing tenders

Competitive intelligence is defining, gathering, analysing, and distributing intelligence about your products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of the operating environment. It is produced to support executives and managers making strategic decisions for your organization.

Competitive intelligence is very important in writing a tender because it helps you to precisely pitch your proposal at the appropriate level in the mind of your client. It is a must have when you are determining your tender strategy. It helps you to know what to emphasise in your bids so that you have a better chance of winning your bid.

Product analysis

There are a lot of questions to answer about how your product or service compares to your competitors. An easy way to do your analysis is to create a competition grid. Create a table or spread-sheet and down the left side add the names of the four or five main products or services that compete with yours.

Across the top of the grid list the main features and characteristics of the products or services. This might include target market, price, size, location, methods of distribution or extent of customer service needed. When you have finished analysing your competitors’ products add a row for your product or service and work out where it fits against the competitors. This should clearly show how your product is differentiated.

The competition grid will help you see where your product fits in the overall market.

Competitor analysis—strengths and weaknesses

Competitor analysis can be undertaken similarly by looking at your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. List your competitors down the left side of the page and create two columns showing strengths and weaknesses. Fill these in for each of your major competitors. Strength and weakness categories will include capacity, capability, price, reliability and quality. Other things to consider are reputation and market perceptions.

Operating environment—opportunities and threats

When looking at the operating environment we can complete what is essentially a SWOT analysis. Once we have looked at the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and your competitors we now can look at how the tender provides opportunities and threats to you and your competitors within your operating environment and market.

What do I mean by the operating environment? Each industry sector relies on suppliers whether local or international to provide raw materials or specialised equipment. Businesses when they expand need access to trained and experienced people to be able to deliver specialists services so the availability of staff is a fundamental requirement of expansion. Other issues to consider are availability of specialist plant or machinery, for instance, during boom times there can be a shortage of cranes.

If the operating environment is at saturation point for any number of reasons, for instance, there is no surplus of raw materials; all the available plant and equipment is being utilised; or all the experienced professionals are mobilised, your organisation has a strong chance of winning work if you have control of the necessary supplier, plant or personnel. If you are a strong client of a major supplier and can leverage price this can give you an advantage. If you already have large projects that control the resources you can easily roll on to the next project.

Therefore having good intelligence on the operating environment will help you to better understand the opportunities and threats in the environment. Understanding these can lead to more creative thinking and can give you the edge in preparing your bid strategy.

Where do you find your competitive intelligence?

Collecting and analysing information about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses must be done in a legal and ethical manner. Competitive intelligence is very different from corporate or industrial espionage, which use illegal and unethical methods to collect information that is not in the public domain.

You can find substantial information about their competitors online, but it is usually not enough. A good typical competitive intelligence study includes information and analysis from numerous sources including the media, customer interviews, industry experts, government and public records.

Getting the edge

Knowing your competitors, your client and the environment in which you are operating and being able to create the best bid strategy will help give you an edge in your proposal.