• Whitney

4 Important Questions for Competitor Assessment


Recently I've had a few clients approach me for support in assessing their competition. It's true - understanding who your competitors are and what they plan to propose is essential to assembling a strong proposal. If you don't know your competitors, how do you form a bid strategy?

Yet, just like with prioritizing capture, many of my clients don't have strong processes in place to ensure that every proposal includes a detailed competitor assessment, which feeds into strategy discussions and decision making.

Here are four important questions to guide you in competitor assessment.

1. Who are your competitors?

Okay, I'm starting basic here. But I'm doing that for a reason. Most organizations I've seen have one or two competitors they can easily identify. If I ask who the competition is on a bid, they state whether or not those one or two competitors are bidding. That's not enough. Look beyond your usual suspects to find a long list - the size of which depends on the sector, of course. You can consider direct competitors, indirect competitors who have slightly different offerings, or substitute competitors who have completely different offerings. My point here is to look beyond the usual suspects.

2. What are your competitors strengths and weaknesses?

The research involved here doesn't have to be cumbersome and it can greatly increase your likelihood of winning. Look into their approaches and strategies. How does it differ from what you would propose? What do you like or dislike? What do you think the funding organization would like or dislike? Analyze their website, published documents, brochures, social media, etc. If you know people who have worked for or with the competitor in the past, ask their perspective as well.

Taking all this information into a written analysis can help build out a SWOT analysis. This will give you an idea of how you can adapt your bid strategy to live up to their strengths and highlight their weaknesses.

3. If you were working for your competition, what would you propose?

Looking specifically at the opportunity at hand, given what you've learned about their strategies and approaches (as well as any recruiting or bid prep you've been able to identify), what does each competitor's proposal likely look like? How can you use this information? First, beware the trap of identifying all of their weaknesses and areas of improvement. Assume that they are good at their jobs and working to minimize these. Instead, focus on comparative analysis and put yourself in the perspective of the donor as much as possible.

4. How can you integrate this analysis into your proposal design?

If you were the donor, what would be the positive aspects of their proposal? Look for ways to learn from your competition. I don't mean steal from your competition. But if they have a particular area that is much stronger than yours, take a moment with your strategy team and look at why that weakness exists. Is this a problem which can be solved by restructuring your proposed team, or hiring different personnel? Or is it that your proposal team needs a subcontractor to add missing skills? All of these problems can be addressed, but only if you've done the analysis ahead of time.

Competitor assessment does not have to be complicated.

Just using these three simple questions, you're miles ahead of where you once were. The most important thing is to integrate competitor analysis as a standard part of the bid process.

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