The past is not prologue: Each competition is a new event and you cannot assume that “the usual suspects” will be your opponents. Whether you’re pursuing a new contract or re-competing to win an old one, scanning your competitive landscape is important.
This is an oft-discussed challenge, as seen by this sampling of common quotes that we’ve heard from even the most experienced firms:
“We haven’t worked much with this agency, so we’re not completely sure who we’re up against.”
“We’re worried that we’re only thinking about the usual suspects and might miss someone else.”
“We’re concerned about an unorthodox competitor surprising everyone.”
“We’ve been the incumbent since the dawn of time and don’t want to let our biases or overconfidence interfere with our capture.”
“It’s going to be the usual suspects, and we already know what they’ll do.”
Whether you’re entirely sober about the landscape or coming down with an acute case of incumbenitis, environmental scans can help you to refine your view on highly likely competitors, high-threat competitors, and potential unconventional or underdog competitors. FedSavvy Strategies completes these scans in three simple steps: Identify, Assess, and Rank.
First, we need to identify potential competitors operating in the relevant space. Pulling the customer’s spending data lets us see who the competitors are within a specific agency, i.e., those that have familiarity with the customer and mission. While this narrows down the potential pool of opponents, this only has meaning if the competitors align with the context of the opportunity. For example, award-winning facilities maintenance contractors may be hitting some amazing sales numbers across an agency, but they’re not relevant in the pursuit of a Cyber SOC opportunity. Yes, we recognize this may seem like a “Master of the Obvious” moment, but we witness far too many broad assessments of potential competitors without context this requires a statement. We also consider who operates in adjacent markets (i.e., related agencies and/or related contract subject-matter) that could cross over to compete.
Next, we need to figure out who these competitors really are. We’re not doing a deep-dive competitor profile on every single competitor. (That’s what we do in Black Hat reviews at a later stage in the process.) Instead, as we assess the competitive environment, we’re trying to learn enough about these firms to determine whether they are a threat. Some aspects to consider include:
- Do they have relevant past performance? Do they have what it takes to compete on relevant opportunities? Do they have experience with this customer? Is the set of services offered on another contract similar? Do they have knowledge of systems and/or technology used by the customer in the contract of interest?
- Who are the companies’ super stars? – Do they have someone to lead the charge on relevant captures? Do they have technical SMEs to guide their solution? Do they have people that have unusual customer influence?
- Are there any exceptional traits to their businesses? What might the competitors have that embody a unique offering? Is it a piece of technology? Is it a process or facility?
Once we have assessed the potential competitors, we can rank them, highest to lowest, to determine which are the greatest threats to our own bids. We at FedSavvy Strategies recommend that this step is best completed as a small-group activity, staffed by personnel who are familiar with the space or customer. Combining target-focused knowledge and personal experience to the facts and insights that you’ve accumulated through the previous two assessment steps can develop a more complete picture of your competitors.
The environmental scan serves as an excellent tool to assess the competitive landscape, leading into the development of in-depth competitor profiles, strategic teaming decisions, and a capture-shaping black hat review. Knowing thy enemy through these activities allows your proposal team to craft responses that emphasize winning strengths and which hit on competitor weaknesses.
For a more expansive exploration of black hat review basics, check out a blast-from-the-past post on the topic at the FedSavvy Strategies’ blog: “Capture Essentials: Black Hat Review Session” or the more recent blog: “How to Focus Your Black Hat Review.” If you need assistance in getting started on competitor assessments, black hat reviews, or establishing internal processes to maximize your capture and business development dollars, contact FedSavvy Strategies and we’ll be happy to help!
As always… stay focused. Do your capture homework. There are some great opportunities out there. Good hunting!
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