There are actually 3 secrets or truisms when it comes to market intelligence. All within your control. But first let’s allow Wikipedia to align us to a common definition - Wikipedia says, and I agree, that Market Intelligence (MI) is...
"The information relevant to a company’s markets, gathered and analyzed specifically for the purpose of accurate and confident decision-making in determining strategy in areas such as market opportunity, market penetration strategy, and market development."
5 Second Takeaway
Your people need relevant external data to make timely and actionable decisions relative to their products and markets in order to maximize profits. If you don’t get external data for context you are making decisions in a vacuum.
On to the Secrets...
Secret # 1. No company has perfect data about the competition, customer, and the environment.
Regardless of your industry or company size or global place of business, there is no utopian market intelligence report or system that will give you all the answers or perfect information. Removing this “the earth is flat” idea from your company is secret number 1 to enabling better market intelligence. If you have ever purchased an industry report – most likely the data came from your people who were interviewed by the report consolidator. Which leads me to the next secret…
Secret # 2. The best market intelligence comes from your people
...and their current relationships with customers, suppliers, government officials and the like. Many executives find this hard to believe but the truth is that your employees offer current and timely insight that will drive better decision making if only they are being asked the right questions and being guided on a way to consolidate the data to make it actionable to those who need it. E.g. sales reps, product development ….actually all functions need it.
Secret # 3.The System to Gather and Consolidate the Information Must Be Simple.
If the system is not simple, your people will not collect the information or use it. While I support technology as an enabler to decision making, I am blown away by the time and money spent on “systems” that go unused or unpopulated by many, many companies. The best intelligence is relevant questions that the company comes up with, calibrates directional relevant answers and most importantly – ahead of time – know where that relevant data plugs into the decision making cycle.
Two quick stories below to underscore the secrets and are ones your company must and can avoid...
Example 1: WAITING FOR PERFECTION
A manufacturing company we worked with waited for 6 months (i.e. ½ a fiscal year) to get the "Competitive Intelligence" answers completed for their Global Sales team. By Month 1 they had the top 3 out of 10 competitors data they were looking for i.e. # rep distribution across key markets, pricing on key products and market potential in key markets – but decided not to go live with the data because they had not “finished” with the other 7 competitors!! The reality of this delay was they already had the most important data that would directly have changed their decisions but they did not act as they waited for perfection.
Example 2: YOUR PEOPLE KNOW.
Working with a large global set of country managers, we uncovered some key gaps in the understanding of the market size for a new product for each of the countries.
In essence, a new customer need emerged (due to some regulatory changes), which had themselves and competitors clamoring to enter the market – but when asked how big the market was, they could only recite their budget or quota. When asked what was the market size (in $ and units) and growth percent expected over the next 3 years - every Country Manager did not know and said they were waiting for Corporate to provide that information.
When asked if corporate had the special report or answer they replied no – and relaized they had a better understanding of the size and growth rate ….but declined to offer it.
When further questioned on “ then how did you come up with a realistic and meaningful budget that you where trying to hit for thei new product category?" ….that’s when it emerged in a complete silent moment of Eureka …
- No one has perfect information (especially corporate).
- Your people have the best information or are closest to it.
- It has to be simple to be actionable
For those executives who would like to learn of a simple and actionable tool to overlay relevant external data against their priority product and markets I would be happy to share more about our Market Intelligence Matrix (MIM) – a powerful decision making tool that is used by companies across the world to make better decisions and optimize profits.