Competitive Profiling Hillary Rodham Clinton tells the story of how, while a student at Wellesley in 1969, she attended a Harvard Law School function, met a distinguished professor there, and said she was considering Harvard "and its competition" for her graduate studies. "Two things, young lady," the professor replied with the complacency of a market leader, "First, we have no competition. Second, we have more than enough females at the Law School already."
In one of history's ironies, this encounter created a First Lady: Ms. Rodham promptly applied to Yale Law School, where she later met the future president.
This vignette reminds us that those of us in continuing professional education should never lose sight of the fact that we all do have competitors. Our job is to stand out from the competition, which means differentiating our programs, products, and services. Doing that effectively requires understanding where we are relative to the competition. Identification, tracking, and analysis of competitors will clarify this large piece of the puzzle. Competitive profiling, as it is known, will help you comply with two of Shore's Ten Commandments of Achieving High Quality/High Yield Continuing Professional Education: 1) Know Thy Competitors; and 2) Never, Ever, Be Perceived as a Commodity.
We all develop new programs with the competition in our peripheral vision-as when we consider such critical issues as price, place, promotion, and performance. This column will assist you in formalizing the process.
Level I: Preliminary Assessment Screen (PAS) A Level I competitive profile collects data that can be reviewed against your activity to determine whether another event competes with yours. The first instrument is called the PAS, because if the compared event fails to PAS as a competitive threat, no further profiling is needed. Data collected in a Level I screen include the sponsoring organization, date(s) and location, course and conference director(s), type of event (i.e., annual, regional, international), target audience(s), topics/theme, description, and registration fee. This information is in the public domain and is easily obtained. Based on this review it becomes apparent which events should be further investigated, as well as those that need not.
Level II: Detailed Information Gathering (DIG) This stage requires collection of more detailed information, or DIGging. In Level I we simply ask for the name of the course/conference director(s). In Level II under the section entitled "Who is organizing and teaching in the program?", we not only collect the names of course/conference director(s), but also their titles and affiliations, as well as similar data on each of the featured speakers. Other question categories include: Who is the competition? When and where will the compared event be held? Who are the targeted attendees and how are they targeted? What kind of program is it? What are the program's special features? How much will the program charge to participants and what CME/CE credit is offered? Who else is involved (e.g., co-sponsors, commercial supporters)? And, what other relevant information is available about the sponsor?
Level I and II data are easily and quickly collected by anyone in your office. Moreover, once your office becomes a part of your competitors' mailing lists, you will be able to update your profiles for some time to come. The following reference documents will provide immediate access to Level I data as well as much information required for Level II data: http://www.meetingsnet.com), Physicians' Travel and Meeting Guide, and the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association's Directory of Healthcare Meetings and Conventions. The first two are free, while the HCEA handbook nonmember price is $195.magazine's Meetings Update and Web site (
Level III: Competitor Intelligence Analysis (CIA) The Level III Competitor Intelligence Analysis is the stage at which you collect information not readily available on those one or two events that you believe are directly competitive. While it is beyond the scope of this column to discuss a Level III analysis in detail, here are examples of the type of information included: sponsor reputation, market share, and attendance figures. Potential information sources include direct inquiry (not only of the organization, but of pastand attendees), observation, competitor publications (e.g., press releases, annual reports), directories and indexes, data bases, and trade and professional organizations.
Happy niche hunting!