How to find your competitor's customers

The second of a series of worked examples using secondary research to answer common questions in competitive intelligence.

For this exercise, we will take SugarCRM as the target, and find their North America customers using secondary research. It is a randomly chosen company that is not too big (listing Microsoft's clients might not be a good demonstration of techniques) or too small (requiring primary research), or too this or too that.

1. The competitor's public customer list

The first port of call, not surprisingly, is the company's own website. SugarCRM provides a helpful breakdown of key clients, from which we get the following 47 customers: 

ThyssenKrupp System Engineering, Affinity4, Tacamor, Bright House Networks, State of Oregon, NinjaTrader, CBI Group, INNOCUTIS, Bank of Marin, A. M. Castle & Co., Sherwin-Williams, Harper Inc., Men’s Wearhouse, Security Public Storage, Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York, Telesphere, VTech, Hilco, Paramount Global Services, Luxury Link, JAB Broadband, Ingram Book Company, Estes Inc., The Braun Corporation, Idealease, Hunter Industries, Hornblower Cruises & Events, HealthEquity, HRsmart, Cogburn Law, TengoInternet, Zenoss, ViaWest, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Castle Branch, Colloquy, SDN Technologies, University Readers, USAFact, Carpathia Hosting, Insource Performance Solutions, BNSF Logistics, Advanced Glazings Ltd., BancVue, E3 Technology Inc., TheaterMania, Control Technology Corp.

Customer count: 47

2. The competitor's blog(s)

SugarCRM maintains two blogs. From one blog, we learn little. One entry by an IBM executive may point to IBM being a customer. The two companies are partners, and that can sometimes lead to one being a customer of the other, so this would require further investigation. From the other blog, we see customers already listed elsewhere, such as Bright House Networks) and at least one new customer, CTI Group.

Customer count: 48.5 (IBM is the 0.5)

3. Press releases

Companies will sometimes announce new customer signings in press releases. Searching for SugarCRM's 2012 press releases (in a client project, we would go further back) adds one client, The Sherwin-Williams Company.

Customer count: 49.5.

4. Competitor-hosted events

SugarCRM holds an annual conference. Some of the speakers will be their clients. Unfortunately, the website for the 2012 conference has been superceded by the 2013 website, which does not yet feature speakers.

Customer count: 49.5.

5. Elsewhere on the company website

SugarCRM shows off some of its clients' logos around its websites, from which we learn that clients include Chrysler, Coca Cola, Avis and Harris.

Customer count: 53.5.

6. LinkedIn

Looking at SugarCRM's ~30 sales employee profiles on LinkedIn (for a client project, we would look at the profile of every employee) confirms IBM as a client, with one profile claiming "a Global Alliance with IBM, identifying in excess of $10M in partner revenue over 5 years, and establishing SugarCRM as the internal use choice within IBM ... Worked with IBM to establish SugarCRM as the customer relationship management component of several key initiatives, including Smarter Commerce, Smarter Cities, and Social Selling".

Customer count: 54.

7. Google search

Searching Google for phrases such as "customers including" turns up some more customers: Honeywell, Yahoo!, Starbucks, NASA Ames Research, AXA Rosenberg, First Federal Bank and BDO Seidman.

Customer count: 61.

8. Partners

SugarCRM has a number of partners, who will themselves list SugarCRM implementations on their websites and the other sources named above. A quick glance at just one Gold Partner's website shows clients including BancVue, City of San Francisco, Fujitsu, Gerber Life, Hunter Industries, Idealease, Ingram Book Company, Mohawk Fine Papers, Otterbox, PlumChoice, PuroClean, Teacher’s Retirement System of the City of New York, Telesphere, The Great Books Foundation, The National Beta Club, USADA, Valtim Marketing Solutions, VTech North America, Wearwell, Weitbrecht and Xcel Energy.

Customer count: 82

There are many more sources of information that can be pursued, and in a real project, we would be more thorough than here, but the above is a good indication of how secondary research can uncover a competitor's customer list.