Building a Snowball

Primary research is perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of the competitive intelligence process.  It involves gathering information firsthand, or actually talking to people.  Randy Richter, president and founder of Richter & Company, often compares the task of conducting primary research to gathering snowflakes.

If you stand in the center of a field and are asked to examine a blizzard, it may seem an impossible task.  With thousands of snowflakes falling each second, it’s difficult to imagine that one is capable of gathering any kind of meaningful information regarding the composition of snow.

If you stick your icy mittened hand out and begin to grasp at a single snowflake, you have but a single snowflake.  But if you gradually gather single snowflake by single snowflake, you will soon hold a snowball in your hand.  And that snowball will be a good representation of the makeup of snow:  it will be a sufficient amount of raw data that can be examined and assessed.

In speaking with individuals regarding a specific program or opportunity, one conversation may not yield much.  As with gathering snowflakes, it is the sheer volume of the conversations that provides significant raw data that can be analyzed.  Once you have talked to some appropriate contacts, you can start to piece together an image of the competitive field:  the players, the solutions they’ll offer, and the general consensus regarding their capabilities.  You’ve built your snowball of competitive information