Winning in business usually means doing a few things very well indeed: developing progressively deeper customer relationships, targeting defined competitors and creating competitively superior customer value. Many companies choose to focus on the first issue, believing that customer-focused marketing creates more shareholder value than beating competitors. But if competitors are looking for business in the same places as you and if some have secured the relationships you also want, you may need to target them. Seek to transfer share of customer to your firm, to ensure that you have a larger share of the customer's future than they do, and even to transfer accounts where they presently have strong relationships. This requires that you not only understand the quality of the relationships your company enjoys with its customers, but also the quality of the relationships your competitors have in your priority accounts and prospects. This can lead to a more complete assessment of specific competitors. This is competitor targeting. Which competitors represent an opportunity for your firm? Which must you overcome to win? Is beating defined competitors part of all the management decisions your firm makes? For example, when recruiting a new Vice President, do you ask if the prospect is better than the person in place in the competitor is? When deciding on a new computer system, do you similarly ask if this is better than competitors' and better able to develop the customer relationships you seek? What we are arguing for here, is an integration of competitive intelligence and customer relationship assessments, leading to competitive advantage over defined losers so that you can win.
In turn, these assessments need to be integrated with your strategic planning processes. This is important: ensure that any assessment of customer relationships and competitors precedes the strategic planning process and integrates with it. This will help ensure that your plans are fact-based and provide a realistic basis to grow. Also ensure that your plans benefit from an assessment of the actions competitors could take and how you, in turn, would respond to their actions. These contingent responses should be a part of your planning process, too. Thinking this through, some companies find they need to revisit their entire strategic planning processes and ensure that their thinking and processes have the potential for beating competitors and accelerating business performance.