The problem with planning a Black Hat review is understanding what people’s expectations are. Everyone defines it differently. I’ve never seen two practiced the same way. The very name tells you nothing about its scope. But it does sound cool, and everyone wants to have one.
So let me start off with a definition: A Black Hat review is a (preferably pre-proposal) competitive assessment.
But that doesn’t tell you what should go into it or how it should be conducted.
Learn what your stakeholders' priorities are
To get to that level of detail, you need to know your priorities. Is the "Black Hat" going to be about:
- Articulating language for the proposal?
- Uncovering what your competitors might propose so you can better position against them?
- Assessing competitors' strengths and weaknesses? Maybe a SWOT chart?
- Assessing competitive pricing ? When is a Black Hat really a Price to Win?
- Attempting to score the competitors against the evaluation criteria as if you were the customer?
Before conducting a Black Hat review, I recommend circulating a list of possible goals to be discussed and ranked first by all of the stakeholders to the review. Some people want everything. But you need to prioritize. One reason I’ve never seen a Black Hat review done the same way twice is that doing them well is time-consuming and expensive. You can’t just show up to the review, throw some opinion bombs, and pat yourself on the back for not needing to do any research.
Building your Black Hat review around your goals
Once you have defined and prioritized the goals, a "Black Hat" is just intelligence gathering and strategy development to achieve the goals people said were important to them. How to plan and implement your Black Hat review becomes a solvable problem once you know the goals.
Keep in mind that the goal is not going to be to prepare some wicked PowerPoint. The ultimate goal is to impact the proposal. The Black Hat review deliverables should provide guidance to the proposal writers regarding what to talk about, how to position things, and how to present them. Use the Black Hat to determine where you need to change your offering, your team, or your messaging. Then section by section drive those changes into the proposal.
Instead of making your Black Hat review about aggregating data about the competitors that none of the proposal writers will know what to do with, try making your Black Hat about discovering and articulating what it will take to win.