Integrating Win-Loss Analysis into Your Competitive Intelligence Program
There are two ways to measure a company’s performance. First, you can look at how the business is doing with regard to the KPIs, targets, and goals it sets for itself. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you can compare the company’s performance to those of its significant competitors.
Competitive Intelligence is the process of obtaining the comparative metrics that allow a business to assess its performance in relation to its rivals. Competitive Intelligence (CI) is complex, involving scouring the net for thousands of data points, from new product launches to pricing data to consumer reviews.
It tends to be partly automated, with AI-powered algorithmic searches pulling in hundreds of thousands of data points, validating the data, collating it, and presenting the information in digestible form.
CI is vital in a competitive marketplace because it’s one of the only ways to get a clear picture of where a particular brand sits within its sector, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. It allows companies to seize opportunities presented by market gaps and get the jump on the competition with new products and marketing campaigns.
In an environment that has become a technological arms race, competitive analysis has practically become mandatory.
What is Win-Loss Analysis?
Within CI, there’s a strand of analysis that focuses on deals won and lost. Win-Loss Analysis looks at a company’s performance in winning new business, securing clients, and building its customer base, breaking this down into two key metrics:
- Win-Loss Ratio – the proportion of deals won to deals lost.
- Win Rate – the proportion of all opportunities that a company wins.
Perhaps more than any other metrics, these scores indicate how well a business is doing in its marketing and sales performance. They are concrete, difficult to argue with and, most importantly, these scores can be measured and improved.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges is knowing how well your competitors are doing in terms of win-loss ratio, since the specifics of deal-making are necessarily private. However, if the assumption is made that all competitors in a sector have equal access to the same number of potential clients, then scores can be generated for all entities.
The Importance of Win-Loss Analysis
Without considering win-loss ratios, a business may be under the illusion that they’re doing well when, in fact, they have overlooked a large volume of potential sales. Alternatively, by failing to compare win rates to those of its rivals, a company may not recognize that a slump in performance merely reflects an overall stagnancy in the industry.
Win-loss analysis allows a business to look both inwards and outwards with the same degree of scrutiny and obtain a properly objective understanding of the corporate position. It’s not merely about counting the number of deals won or lost, either. To get a fuller understanding of competitive performance, win-loss analysis must consider a range of variables including:
- Company size
- Brand identity
- Typical Client Persona
- Lead Source
It’s important to compare like with like. For instance, a high-end clothing retailer like Ralph Lauren would not be comparing their win-loss ratio with that of Asos. While both companies market clothing, they are aiming at very different segments of the clothing-buying public, as well as selling their wares in different media (Ralph Lauren mostly in-store, Asos largely online).
However, both brands in the above example may consider one another rivals in the arena of low-cost accessories purchased online, for instance. It’s vital to make sure the win-loss analysis looks closely at comparable rivals from whom a brand could potentially snatch revenue or clients.
Win-Loss analysis produces data that can help a company in a range of different ways. We’ll look at some of them next in greater detail.
Win-Loss Analysis to Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
First, and most obviously, if you know what proportion of available business you are winning, you have a better idea of your position within the competitive landscape. You gain a fuller understanding of how well your sales and marketing stack up against your most significant rivals.
If you are not winning the deals or clients you’d expect to, then it’s possible to dig into the competitive data to find out why. Here are some of the possibilities:
- Your product is not as popular with customers as your rivals’.
- Your marketing messages aren’t getting through to your target audience.
- Your competitors have an angle that’s reaching your customer base.
- Your pricing strategy is wrong.
And these are just four of the options. Fortunately, you’ll have access to information about customer feedback on both your products and your rivals’ products. You’ll have data on pricing, and information about product launches and marketing messaging. All this data and research will have been obtained as part of the CI process.
The next challenge will be to analyze the patterns in the data which point towards a particular explanation and identify strengths or weaknesses as a result. You might, for instance, conclude that while your product secures great feedback from existing customers, new customers see it as overpriced compared to other comparable brands. In other words, pricing is your weakness but product design is your strength.
When looking at competitors, though you may have access to less information, you’ll still be able to draw upon a wide range of sources using CI, including:
- Pricing data, including discounting and seasonal sales.
- Marketing messages, and advertising.
- Customer feedback from review sites and social media.
- New product launches.
- New personnel hires and capital expansion.
- News stories in trade papers.
- Industry statistics and economic data.
From this mountain of data, obtained with the help of your AI-driven CI platform, you can derive insights, using your domain experts to help analyze the results and create summary reports.
Win-Loss Analysis to Inform Product Development and Strategy
Once weaknesses and strengths are identified, it becomes possible to derive priorities for improvement. One area which benefits significantly from this technique is product development.
Using a combination of collated customer feedback, on both your products and your competitors, and an overview of the sector in general, it becomes possible to identify areas for improvement, as well as aspects of your product range that are popular and should not be touched.
Here are some examples of typical user comments that might hint at areas for reevaluation:
- I found it pretty hard to navigate through the menus. [solution: UX/UI tweaks]
- X’s service is much easier to book. You don’t have to fill out a massive form. [Solution: website form restructuring; revision of messaging]
- Even the basic tier is way too expensive. I don’t need all those features. [Solution: consider devising a new pricing tier for a stripped-down version of the product]
- They don’t do it in my size. Nobody does. [solution: consider expanding sizing range]
It should be noted that you should only consider making product changes if there’s a sufficient volume of similar sentiment from customers. However, if a clear pattern of customer feedback emerges, it would be foolish to ignore it.
The last fictional example above also hints at the possibility of new product development. If customers are commenting that they can’t find an appropriate product at all, then that may suggest an area for brand innovation.
The second example I’ve given makes a direct comparison with a rival product. However, most of your feedback and data won’t make direct comparisons. Instead, you’ll have to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of your products and your rivals, then compare them side-by-side.
Win-Loss Analysis to Improve Marketing
If your rivals are out-competing you, likely, your marketing and sales strategy aren’t working as well as they might. Win-Loss analysis can provide you with the evidence you need to consider revising your approach.
Maybe you’re not winning sufficient deals because your customers aren’t aware that you’re a viable option. Perhaps they consider your brand too high-end, or too mass-market. Maybe they’ve missed your last discount sale or are unaware of your product launch.
You can back up some of these suppositions, which will be hinted at in your CI data, with customer surveys, focus groups, as well as sentiment analysis of customer feedback on review sites, forums, and social media.
Win-Loss Analysis for Corporate Strategy
When looked at in the aggregate, all your CI data will surely reveal trends that will suggest whether your current corporate strategy is working or not. Has your win-loss ratio risen since your last product launch? If not, was this due to a failure in marketing, poor product design, or an under-prepared sales team who weren’t supplied with the most promising leads?
It may require a little digging, but you’ll find the likely sources of any shortfall in win-loss performance. Even if you’re uncertain what the proximate cause is, once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three possibilities and made improvements in each area, you should see subsequent improvement.
Win-Loss analysis is an ongoing process, albeit one that must be done at regular intervals, rather than continuously, so that you can graph change over time. For instance, you might carry out a win-loss analysis annually, quarterly, or monthly, but since some changes may take time to bed in and provide results, it doesn’t make sense to run such studies every week.
Win-Loss Analysis for C-Suite Reporting
C-Suite Executives and boards like win-loss analysis because it produces concrete metrics which can be tracked longitudinally. It’s science, rather than philosophy, if you like.
If you regularly engage in CI and the necessary trend analysis, it becomes easier to incorporate win-loss ratios and win rates into regular reports.
Integrating Win Loss Analyses into Your Competitive Intelligence Program
Competitive Intelligence produces a broad swathe of information and data ranging from concrete figures (such as sales data) to more subjective measures (sentiment analysis of customer feedback, for instance). The win-loss ratio helps concretize and distill a lot of complex analysis into metrics that a child could comprehend.
However, for that to work, and be maximally informative, you need to get data back from your marketing, sales, customer service, and support teams. Here’s the kind of information you can obtain to help inform a win-loss analysis:
- MARKETING: This team will inform you of the precise sector of your potential marketplace targeted at specific times. This will help make sense of inbound leads, and why they proved convertible into sales, or not.
- SALES: The frontline sales staff, armed with battle cards and agreed sales strategies, will be able to note pain points and blockers to deals going through. They’ll also provide insights into competitor messaging, and how your product’s appeal compares to the pluses and minuses of your competitors’ products.
- CUSTOMER SERVICE: Particularly for B2B and SaaS products, subscription renewal information is vital. What stops a customer from upgrading or renewing? What competitor products are they considering? What do they most need help with? What aspects of your product need to be improved?
- IT SUPPORT: For software products, IT support can be a vital resource, although it’s sometimes overlooked. What are the common gripes and difficulties that existing customers face? How does your product’s UX/UI compare with your competitors?
There will be areas of overlap, so hopefully, clear trends will emerge. Getting to the heart of why customers might choose a rival product can be tricky, but it’s essential to do this work, to record it, and to make sure your CI tool incorporates this kind of intelligence too.
Data Sources for Win-Loss Analysis
Let’s now look at some of the key data sources you’ll draw upon when deriving your win-loss analyses.
1. CUSTOMER SURVEYS
While customer surveys can be highly informative, they’ll only give you so much. Existing customers may have little or no knowledge of rival product offerings. However, it’s also possible to run “spot quizzes” on social media platforms and landing pages to find out what potential customers who may simply be browsing your site want.
You can incentivize survey completion by unlocking discount codes or downloadable “freemium” versions of your product (if SaaS). You can also run longer surveys on login with offers and discounts for existing customers.
Here are a few sample questions you might ask in a spot quiz:
- In what month do you start buying summer clothes?
- What word would you most associate with our brand?
- What’s the most you would pay for full monthly access?
- Where did you hear about our latest discount offer?
You’ll have encountered that last question a lot, in one form or another. It’s always helpful to know where potential customers encountered your brand, particularly as third-party cookie tracking becomes increasingly difficult. How did they arrive at your page (is your marketing working)?
2. CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
It’s easy to compare customer feedback and feedback on rival products, by mining the mountain of available data to be found on review sites and user forums. Sophisticated sentiment analysis and AI-informed linguistic analysis can dig out positive and negative reviews, as well as confusion, frustration, excitement, and other indicators of customer emotion.
Of course, your sales and support teams will also have access to direct feedback from your customers. It’s important to ascertain how they feel about rival products, without saying anything to push them toward a competitor’s offerings.
For instance, you might ask “are you finding our product easier to use than other brands?” or “do you think our product represents good value for money compared to alternatives?”
3. SALES TEAM FEEDBACK
The sales team can be a vital resource. Sales calls are generally recorded. This means that audio sentiment analysis or analysis of transcripts can be used to locate the pain points and plus points of a product from a potential client’s point of view.
Alternatively, you can incorporate a checklist for sales staff to complete, where they relay how a prospect feels about various aspects of the offering once a pitch is made. For instance, a prospect might express an opinion about pricing, features, ease of use, and aesthetics. This can be encoded either in the form of words, or a numerical score.
Ideally, your sales platform incorporates a method for easily notating each customer response, so that a forensic eye (powered by AI) can be passed over each successful or failed encounter. A good system will take note of any rival brands mentioned and flag these for later analysis too.
4. MARKETING INFORMATION
You need to know several things from your marketing team – what demographic were they targeting and when, via which media, and how did the campaign match their expectations? These are just some of the questions you might ask to assess how well a campaign contributed to a win-loss ratio.
If the marketing department has run A/B tests, the results can be especially helpful. If one version of a campaign worked far better than another, you can adjust messaging, and then see how this affects the next round of win-loss analysis.
5. ECONOMIC DATA
You’ll want to pull in information on how robust your sector is during any given timeframe, so you can adjust expectations accordingly. Businesses that relied on footfall naturally saw a decline during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020-21. Those that did a large proportion of their sales online received a boost. During those difficult years, it wouldn’t be fair to judge your win-loss ratio by the same criteria as you would have pre-pandemic.
An overarching problem of win-loss analysis is the causal inference difficulty. There are a host of possible factors affecting your rate of conversions and win-loss ratio. This multivariant input makes it hard to know exactly which factor contributed to a particular outcome.
You may be left with a range of possible changes to make. Unless you make them one at a time it may be very hard to know which one generated an eventual improvement.
However, information on the health and promise of a sector remains an important consideration, regardless of what other factors are at play. And one of the good aspects of win-loss analysis is that it zeroes in on the share of the pie you win, rather than the size of the pie itself.
6. PRICING INFORMATION
Here’s another publicly available and trackable source of information that you will have access to for both your product lines and those of your rivals. You’ll very easily be able to track pricing strategies over time and compare your own to those of your rivals.
If you’re fortunate, you work in a sector with high transparency in terms of revenue reporting. This will allow you to relate pricing strategy to overall revenue, and draw some convincing conclusions.
Competitive Intelligence analysis should give you plenty of information about pricing, including:
- Average price for the product.
- Dynamic pricing strategies – when discounts are applied.
- Subscription tier information.
- Information on seasonal sales.
- Whether pricing indicates a premium or budget product.
This could be one of the most contributory datasets you’ll consider for your CI win-loss analyses.
3 Tips for Conducting Win-Loss Analysis
Here are three key pointers for engaging in effective win-loss analysis:
- Establish Clear Objectives. What aspects of your performance are you interested in enquiring about? This will help the project from becoming too unfocused or unwieldy.
- Ask Meaningful Questions. Any customer outreach or targeted algorithmic searches must be asking questions that have clear and definable answers. For instance, “what three product benefits are most important to customers?” is meaningful but “how do customers feel about our product?” is not. The latter question is far too broad and woolly to produce helpful results.
- Ensure Data Completeness and Accuracy. Make sure you are using a CI platform that obtains data in sufficient quantity and also validates it for accuracy and quality. Remember the old acronym, GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage Out).
Benefits of Win Loss Analysis for Companies
Conducting a win-loss analysis conveys a range of benefits that are hard to obtain by other means. These include:
Improved Product Development and Innovation: Customer feedback provides insight into the strengths and weaknesses of both your product range and that of your competitors. It should also flag areas where customers are currently underserved, and those may act as triggers for innovation.
Better Marketing and Messaging: You’ll discover where your product hasn’t been preferred simply because your marketing has been poorly constructed or targeted. In this case, it’s not so much the product that needs revision, but the messaging around it.
Fuller Sector Comprehension: By engaging in thorough and regular win-loss analysis as part of your competitive intelligence work, you’ll end up with a better overall picture of the competitive landscape. You’ll know who your core and subsidiary competitors are and how your brand fits into the mix. Are you niche? Mass-market? Specialized? Luxury?
Increased Sales and Revenue: This may be the main reason why you’re engaging in win-loss analysis, to find out how to better reach and convince customers. You should be in a position to create more convincing sales strategies, better battle cards, and improved approaches to conversion. Together with better-targeted marketing and pricing, you should see an improvement in revenue.
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty: With a better understanding of where you stand in the competitive landscape, you should have a better product-customer match and therefore see an uptick in customer satisfaction. You’ll enjoy more customer loyalty and demonstrate a better understanding of what customers want.
Benefit of Win-Loss Analysis
Win-Loss is Win-Win
As we’ve seen in this overview, win-loss analysis is a way of benchmarking success against both internally set sales targets and external competition. It’s a branch of competitive analysis that gets down to the crux of the issue – how can you make your brand a bigger player in your sector, and generate more revenue?
Win-loss analysis is a vital part of a company’s strategic armory and should be a significant strand of your CI efforts. Few types of analysis are more applicable across the whole organization while being easy to explain and leverage for product, marketing, and revenue improvement.
To make win-loss analysis part of your competitive intelligence package, employ a solution that derives as much qualitative data as it does quantitative. That’s what Evalueserve’s InsightsFirst tool has been designed to achieve.
Incorporate win-loss analysis into your CI program today and you’ll soon reap the benefits of this unique and versatile tool.
For more on exactly how to conduct a win-loss analysis, check out our other related article. Visit our product pages for more information.
Talk to One of Our Experts
Get in touch today to ﬁnd out about how Evalueserve can help you improve your processes, making you better, faster and more efﬁcient.