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Great ‘Que Takes Planning

In barbecue contests, timing is everything. Each of your four entries (chicken, ribs, pork and brisket) have to be turned in within 5 minutes of a precisely defined time; late entries are disqualified.  To meet this schedule – and to make sure the meat you offer the judges is at its tender, juicy, and flavorful best – requires careful planning and flawless execution at the contest itself.  But it’s the preparatory work done before the contest that separates winners from losers. Losers buy their meats the day before they travel; winners order meat ahead of time so it can be properly aged (30 days or more for brisket!) and prepped. Losers wait until they arrive in the competition’s town and pick up consumer-grade charcoal from a big box store; winners buy specialized charcoal and wood to match their team’s desired flavor profile.  Losers work without a plan; winners develop and test complex checklists, schedules, and procedures so that their work onsite is efficient.  To put it simply, winning takes time, and teams that start too late are not likely to hear their name called during the awards ceremony. Effective competitive analysis and Price To Win efforts start early – well before formal solicitation requirements are known. They follow consistent processes for gathering and analyzing competitive information.  They rely on proven models for projecting solution costs and prices.  They provide actionable intelligence that you can use to shape the opportunity, moving the competition away from lowest cost. Start early, keep working until the final turn-in.
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You Can’t Enter Every Contest

From an economic standpoint, competitive barbecue makes no sense. In a Kansas City Barbecue Society event, teams turn in six individual portions of four meats: 6 (chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket).  A typical entry fee is $300; travel and transportation costs for pulling your big rig total $200 or more; charcoal, wood, ice, rubs, sauces, and incidentals add another $200. And meat – oh, the cost of meat: most teams cook 36 to 50 pounds of incredibly-expensive Wagyu brisket to turn in six perfect slices.  Meat costs can easily top $500.  When all is said and done, the cost of a typical contest easily tops $1,000.  And sad to say, prize money when (if!) you win may not cover those costs.  And we haven’t even talked about the costs of beer and other “adult beverages”… As a result, pitmasters limit the competitions they enter to those which will help them achieve their goals. In my case, I focus on competitions within driving distance of my home which have (a) decent prize money, (b) a relatively small number of competitors, (c) a high proportion of certified (vs amateur) judges, and (d) good public attendance (i.e., good marketing) potential.  I’d love to compete in a contest near my daughter’s home in Nebraska, but that wouldn’t help me increase my catering business’ name recognition in the central Maryland area I can reasonably serve. In the business world, similar constraints apply.  Winning companies pursue opportunities that will help them achieve business goals.  Notice I did not say “perform profitably.”  In today’s hyper-competitive world, businesses commonly pursue money-losing efforts because they achieve longer term objectives like improving name recognition or supporting growth into adjacent markets.  They ruthlessly discard pursuits where they have limited customer intimacy, poor knowledge of potential competitors and solutions, or have no discriminating solution. Like winning pitmasters, they pick and choose their competitions – and believe that they will win every bid they submit.
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The Framework of Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis can be a daunting task.  At Richter & Company, we believe strong, reliable processes build the foundation and framework for sound, defensible analysis.  Competitive analysis can be broken down into three parts: Business Intelligence forms the foundation of competitive intelligence.  It focuses on quantitative numbers, like financial metrics and number of units produced.  Business intelligence consists of solid, irrefutable data points that define a company. Competitor Intelligence lays out the framework for analysis.  It is made up of quantitative data (business intelligence) and qualitative data.  While quantitative data defines, qualitative data describes.  Capabilities (general and specific), relevant news and identified past performance help characterize a company as qualitative data points.  We can define ‘competitor intelligence’ as information specific to a single competitor. Competitive Intelligence enhances competitor intelligence through inclusion of environmental factors (political, economic, social, etc.).  Experienced analysts help determine how these external factors will affect the competitor intelligence gathered.  Companies can then be assessed against one another in some kind of objective evaluation, mimicking the source selection board decision-making process. Richter & Company has been using this framework for competitive analysis to help clients win more than $30B in new business since 2006.  To find out we can help you win, contact us today.
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SWOT to Strategy

Many companies include the SWOT chart as part of a competitive intelligence presentation.  They spend a lot of time preparing the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and creating a beautiful image.  And… that’s it. SWOT charts were designed to be springboards for creating strategies.  What products or services will the company leverage?  How will they differentiate their offering?  What story will they tell?  What are their weaknesses?  Are they aware of them?  How will they mitigate those weaknesses?  How are they perceived by the outside market?  What kinds of opportunities and threats exist outside of the company’s control? Strengths identified in other companies should give you incentive to bolster your own solutions.  If your solution is not as capable, or desirable, should you be bidding?  Opportunities allow you to assess how your own company will be viewed, and where you can maximize play in a potential marketplace. Weaknesses and threats can be turned into ghosting opportunities.  How can you capitalize on potential (or perceived) risk?  How can you differentiate your own offering to highlight an area of weakness in another solution? SWOTs can be extremely valuable tools, if they’re used correctly.  Contact Richter & Company today to find out more about positioning and strategies that help you win.
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A Strong Knowledgebase

In the journey of competitive intelligence, it’s essential to have some kind of knowledgebase to store information.  This knowledgebase allows you to capture data, analyze historical trends and preposition information as you move into the future.  Here are a few characteristics of a strong knowledgebase: A strong knowledgebase is shared by your team.  Too often, there are no shared data points between coworkers.  One has a Rolodex of his references; another has an Excel file saved on her desktop.  The best knowledgebase is one that’s shared among coworkers so it’s robust and constantly updated.  In order for that to happen… A strong knowledgebase is accessible.  If your team can’t locate the knowledgebase or doesn’t know how to use it, the tool becomes worthless.  Train your team.  Let them know what goes into the knowledgebase, and what is expected from them for each program.  All of your people need to know how to enter information, and how to pull information out.  Make it easy for all of them to log in and enter information.  But most importantly, A strong knowledgebase is used.  Whether it’s a CRM tool, a sharepoint site or a specialized Excel tool, a strong knowledgebase is one that is used regularly.  Summaries and trends can be analyzed when there are many, many data points being entered into the knowledgebase.  Be sure to use your knowledgebase regularly to maximize its potential. Richter & Company’s knowledgebase includes some 80,000 contacts, and allows us to preposition data for every program.  Contact us today to find out how you can win more business.
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A Process of People

The process of government acquisition is designed to be as objective as possible.  But it’s important to remember that the people issuing government requirements and awarding government contracts are just people. At Richter & Company, we’ve seen some poorly written RFPs lately.   The acquisition force is facing a wave of retirements, meaning there are some inexperienced acquisition personnel trying to put together cohesive RFPs for the first time.  Often, the people writing the requirements aren’t the end users, so there’s disconnect between what the government is saying it wants, and what it actually wants.  No matter.  It’s important to try to get as many questions as possible responded to before the RFP is actually issued.  After that, answer the mail.  Talk about what the Government needs and how you will respond, while responding to what’s written.  And, it might not be a bad idea to prepare for a protest. The selection of an awardee is a highly human process as well.  Identify the source selection board you’re proposing work for.  Speak to and respond to their desires.  Prove the benefit of your solution in a concise, compliant and compelling proposal.  Address areas where your proposal carries risk.  And ghost your competitors by highlighting your strengths in areas you know they have weakness.  Offer low cost!  No contracting shop has ever gotten in trouble by awarding the lowest offer. Richter & Company and our trusted partners can help you address the people behind government acquisitions.  Contact us for more information regarding our services to help you win.
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We Never Cross the Line

To avoid conflicts of interest, we never cross the line. Our work focuses on competitive analysis.  To do this work, we perform research to identify the detailed solutions and strategies companies are likely to employ to beat our clients. This work is ethical, moral and legal when the research relies on open source, non-proprietary data – but most definitely unethical, immoral and illegal when proprietary data is used.  Continue reading We Never Cross the Line