This white paper extracts best practices from our experience conducting win-loss analyses, one of the most powerful diagnostic tools for any b-to-b vendor. While sometimes assumed to focus primarily on elements of the sales process, an effective win-loss analysis should be a broad-based assessment that considers all internal as well as external factors affecting a sale: product capabilities and underlying technology; pricing and other commercial terms; sales processes; and technical and end-user support; and competition. It also seeks to understand internal customer issues, including official and unofficial goals and requirements, budgets, decision-making authorities and processes, and value perception drivers. Finally, it should consider external factors, such as competitive alternatives, legal and regulatory pressures, and underlying trends in the customer’s industry.
We conduct market research extensively in our consulting practice. Over the years, we’ve evolved our approaches and established some guiding principles which we think are worth sharing.
Many books have been written about competitive strategy, but few deal specifically with information businesses. Our work with clients over the years has led us to believe that information businesses require their own competitive framework because of their special characteristics. First, information is an intangible product whose value varies in different circumstances. Second, information products are typically (and increasingly) a complex package of content, applications, functionality, and delivery. Third, despite being intangible, information purchases outside of the consumer market are seldom discretionary because information is a “fuel” that drives many industries. Finally, information businesses typically focus narrowly on serving niches, not broad markets. We believe that competitive strategy for information companies boils down to four critical elements, which are briefly outlined in this paper.
This white paper is the result of work conducted with several clients using a new approach to strategic planning. With the urgency of setting a new direction, often under the constraints of tight budgets and stretched staff, we have evolved an accelerated strategic planning process. As with conventional approaches, rapid strategic planning ? is highly structured and results in a road map for a business, but it delivers an actionable plan faster and at less cost than most conventional methods. In addition, our approach connects the resulting strategic plan to a company’s operations, so that the plan serves as an ongoing management tool, not a term paper. Because it is streamlined, rapid strategic planning works just as well for both smaller situations, such as departmental or divisional planning, as for enterprise-wide strategic planning. Rapid strategic planning can be carried out in as little as four weeks depending on the size and complexity of the organization. Regardless of the type or size of the organization, the process adheres to a step-by-step process.
Pricing is an especially challenging strategic issue for all digital information companies because of at least three intertwined factors: 1) Information content and services are intangible and perishable, unlike physical goods, 2)The same information content may have widely different value to different types of customers, and 3) Technology can dramatically enhance the value of information content by overlaying functional applications, such as searching, sorting, alerting, analytics, and visualization. Publishers and other information service companies often find it daunting to devise pricing approaches that can apply across all customers. Lack of effective pricing drives many information companies and their customers to expect negotiation as a normal part of the sales process. In our experience, pricing negotiation is both undesirable and avoidable.
The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is a technology that helps make information more discoverable through persistent linking and interlinking. It has been adopted universally across the scientific/technical/medical (STM) publishing sector and more recently is being adopted in other sectors of publishing and other industries. All publishers we studied achieved measurable benefits from the DOI, and publishers in the process of implementation expected similar results. Publishers experienced benefits in one or more of the following ways: increased discoverability of their content, increased content sales, and reduced costs in product development and maintenance. Increased discoverability of content via cross-linking. Publishers using DOIs have experienced significant increases in inbound traffic to specific pieces of content from a variety of sources: search engines, aggregators, and other publishers’ content. This white paper is the bi-product of research originally commissioned by a major publisher to assess the opportunities and financial returns for using the DOI within its various publishing businesses. The findings are based on interviews with publishers in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.