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Gain Rich, Actionable Competitive Intelligence from In-Depth Interviews

Using In-Depth Interviews For Competitive Intelligence

While quantitative data provides valuable insights, there's often a need for qualitative feedback to uncover "the why" behind the numbers. In this blog post, we will explore the power of conducting semi-structured, one-on-one, In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) to gain rich and candid competitive intelligence (CI) from key contacts at existing, former, and prospective customers.

Gaining CI Through Common IDI Programs

IDIs can be structured in various ways to extract valuable insights. Let's explore three common IDI programs that can provide actionable competitive intelligence.

  1. Sales Win-Loss Interviews: By understanding why sales opportunities are won or lost, organizations can optimize their sales strategies. IDIs can delve into the sales team's performance, key drivers of wins and losses, messaging effectiveness, and how the company's offerings resonate with the target audience.

  2. Churn Interviews: To reduce customer churn, organizations need to identify the primary drivers behind it. Churn interviews uncover frustrations, identify areas where customers fail to experience value and highlight product or service gaps.

  3. Key Account Interviews: Maintaining and expanding relationships with top accounts is vital for long-term success. IDIs with key accounts help gauge satisfaction levels, gather feedback for improvement, and identify opportunities for account expansion.

Competitive Intelligence Opportunities

In addition to understanding the factors above, IDIs can also elicit valuable insights into the competitive landscape. Let's explore how these interviews can uncover competitive intelligence.

  1. Sales Win-Loss Interviews: By exploring which competitors are consistently won or lost against, organizations can better understand their positioning. IDIs help compare products, services, and perceptions against alternatives in the market.

  2. Churn Interviews: Examining whether competitors are gaining a competitive advantage and uncovering instances where product or service gaps lead to customer loss is vital. IDIs also provide insights into how competitors may undercut prices or target customers aggressively.

  3. Key Account Interviews: IDIs with key accounts help identify emerging competitors making noise, understand customer perception of the competitive landscape, and uncover potential threats to customer retention.

How Will Your CI IDI Findings Be Actioned?

Collecting data is just the first step; the real value lies in actioning the insights. Let's explore how different stakeholders can leverage CI IDI findings:

  1. C-Suite: Key insights can inform strategic decisions and drive organizational growth.

  2. Marketing: Findings help refine messaging, align marketing strategies with customer expectations, and identify market differentiators.

  3. Sales: Sales teams can optimize their approach based on customer feedback, improve their competitive positioning, and address pain points effectively.

  4. Product: Insights guide product development, identify areas for improvement, and ensure products meet customer expectations.

  5. Customer Success: Understanding customer satisfaction levels and reasons for churn allows for proactive customer retention efforts and personalized engagement.

  6. Operations: Findings help streamline processes, improve customer experience, and identify areas for operational efficiency.

Program Due Diligence

To ensure a successful CI IDI program, it is essential to follow these key steps:

  1. Identify your executive sponsor: A sponsor can intervene when roadblocks arise and ensure the program's success.

  2. Interview internal stakeholders: Gain insights from sales, customer success, product, and marketing leadership to align objectives and areas of interest.

  3. Document objectives and areas of interest: Clearly define what you aim to achieve with each round of interviews, ensuring regular review every 3 to 6 months.

  4. Understand data usage: Determine how the insights will be analyzed, reported, and shared within the organization.

Targeting The Best Accounts

To maximize the impact of CI IDIs, target specific accounts that yield the most valuable insights:

  • Competitive deals: Accounts where you face strong competition, can provide valuable insights into market dynamics.
  • High revenue accounts: Focus on accounts that contribute significantly to your business.
  • Surprise wins, losses, or terminations: Analyze unexpected outcomes to gain deeper insights.
  • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) alignment: Target accounts that closely align with your target customer persona.
  • Strong relationships: Interview accounts with established relationships to foster open and candid conversations.
  • Specific verticals, regions, etc.: Select accounts representing key market segments.

Scheduling The Interview

To maximize participation and engagement, follow these best practices when scheduling CI IDI interviews:

  • Prompt outreach: Reach out soon after a win, loss, or churn notification to capture fresh feedback.
  • Key Account Interviews: Schedule these interviews several months before the account's renewal to address concerns and ensure satisfaction.
  • Warm introduction: Request Sales or Customer Success to send a warm introduction before the interview.
  • Compelling messaging: Clearly communicate the purpose of the interviews and how they benefit the participants.
  • Convenience: Make the interview process as easy and flexible as possible, using tools like Calendly for scheduling.
  • Incentives: Consider offering incentives like gift cards or donations to charity to encourage participation.
  • Follow-up: Send up to three follow-up emails, spaced a week apart, to remind participants and express appreciation.

To learn how to conduct a competitive intelligence session, check out our article.

How To Perform A Competitive Landscape Analysis

Reporting & Analysis

To extract actionable insights from CI IDIs, follow these steps for effective reporting and analysis:

  • Individual interview reports: Document each interview's findings, including detailed transcripts.
  • Audio files: Optionally, record the interviews for reference and additional analysis (be sure to abide by local laws about recording).
  • Deep dive analysis: Conduct in-depth analysis every 3 to 6 months to identify trends and patterns.
  • Code book creation: Start creating a code book after a few interviews to categorize and analyze recurring themes.
  • Final report outline: Create an outline for the final report, incorporating key findings, executive summary, and recommendations.
  • Collaboration with stakeholders: Engage internal stakeholders to understand their perspectives and align on the value of the insights.

Analyzing Qualitative Data - Methods

When analyzing qualitative data from CI IDIs, consider using these methods:

  • Content Analysis: Count the frequency of mentions, such as the number of competitor references.
  • Sentiment Analysis: Determine the sentiment (positive, negative, or neutral) expressed in the interviews.
  • Narrative Analysis: Listen for compelling stories and anecdotes illustrating the interviewee's experiences.
  • Word Clouds: Generate visual representations of frequently mentioned keywords.
  • Key Quotes: Highlight quotes that encapsulate important insights.
  • Thematic Analysis: Identify patterns, derive themes, and create a narrative that reflects the qualitative feedback.

Thematic Analysis

The thematic analysis involves systematically identifying patterns in qualitative feedback to derive themes and create a cohesive narrative. Here's a step-by-step approach:

  • Review interview transcripts: Carefully read and observe patterns and recurring topics.
  • Create initial codes: Develop a set of initial codes representing different interview aspects.
  • Refine and add codes: As you progress, refine existing codes and add new ones as needed.
  • Associate codes with comments: Categorize specific interview comments under relevant codes.
  • Group codes into themes: Identify overarching themes by grouping related codes together.
  • Write the final narrative: Use the themes to craft a comprehensive narrative reflecting qualitative insights.

Final Analysis & Readout

When presenting the final analysis of CI IDIs, consider including the following elements:

  • Approach & methodology: Explain the overall approach, including the interview process and data analysis methods used.
  • Theme definitions: Provide clear definitions of the identified themes to ensure a common understanding.
  • Participation rates: Share information on the number of interviews conducted and the overall participation rate.
  • Interviewee details: Provide a summary of the interviewees' roles, responsibilities, and relevant information.
  • Key findings: Highlight the most significant insights, trends, and patterns that emerged from the interviews.
  • Competitive insights: Present key competitive intelligence gathered, including perceptions, drivers, and sentiment.
  • Recommendations: Offer actionable recommendations based on the insights to drive business strategies and improve competitive positioning.


IDIs provide a powerful method for gathering competitive intelligence by engaging in one-on-one conversations with key contacts. By leveraging IDI programs, organizations can gain valuable insights into sales performance, churn, and key accounts and uncover competitive intelligence. When conducting CI IDIs, thorough preparation, effective interviewing techniques, and strategic analysis is key to deriving actionable insights that drive organizational growth and competitive advantage.