Information that is actionable is intelligence. Actionable information from outside the four walls of your office, from your market, is market intelligence (MI).
But Market Intelligence is one of the worst-kept secrets in organizations. Almost every department practices it. We do whatever is necessary to stay updated on the changing market conditions by keeping a close watch on press announcements by competitors, fundraising by prospects, management changes at key accounts, new competing products, and macro industry trends. However, most of this intelligence remains between a few individuals and is lost as they move out to other organizations.
Companies not only lose such intelligence but also fail to use whatever intelligence is available. The cost of such intelligence leakage could be fatal — especially in the current environment when new technologies are disrupting almost all markets.
Is there a way to stop this intelligence leakage? Is there a way to capture intelligence and make it available to the right audience, at the time when it is needed? Is there a way to make our companies market intelligent?
The answer, unfortunately, is not a resounding YES. The answer is a progressive journey towards building a market intelligent company — it is not a destination. Each step of the journey improves how the intelligence is captured and utilized.
Here are some of the best practices based on how leading companies run their market intelligence program.
Define goals for market intelligence
One of the reasons for MI initiatives to underperform is that companies fail to define the goals for their intelligence program. In the absence of defined goals, it is difficult to measure their success or measure any impact on the company’s business performance.
Usually, intelligence professionals ask their users what they need, try to find that information, and then ask the user for feedback on the quality of intelligence. But more often than not, there is no feedback. And then they wonder why?
Let’s first agree that our users aren’t trying to sabotage our market intelligence program. As for why they’re not as involved in the intelligence function as we’d like them to be, there are two reasons — first, they are very busy in meeting their KPIs. And second, they don’t know what to tell us. Most of our intelligence is just interesting information to them.
Just like asking customers what they need doesn’t give the insights to develop useful products, asking users what they need doesn’t help either. If they knew what they needed (and if it existed) they would have already found it.
So how do we figure out what our users need? How do we define the goals of our market intelligence program?
Successful MI teams start with the KPIs of their intelligence users. These can be direct revenue targets for the sales teams, or lead gen targets for the marketing team, new features for the product team, or positioning for the product marketing team.
The job of intelligence professionals starts after listing these KPIs. We need to understand the drivers of these KPIs. This is where our users can help us. If probed correctly, they can provide insights into the direct or indirect factors that influence their KPIs. And then it is our job to gather and distribute intelligence that is aligned with these factors.
Consider the case of a Fortune 500 IT major using Contify. The sales team’s KPI is quarterly revenue targets. A key driver of this KPI is the conversion rate. The intelligence team, along with the VP Sales, identified that one of the factors that influence conversion rates is the ability of sales reps to have engaging conversations with prospects.
With this clarity, it was easier to define the goal as intelligence signals for enabling engaging conversations, e.g. recent announcements by the company, or interview of the CXO, negative news or legal issues of the industry.
Crayon’s 2018 State of Market Intelligence report reveals that teams working on market/competitive intelligence spend 43% of their time on research. Why does this happen? The short answer is that finding information on the Internet is not easy. Thousands of business relevant updates pop-up on the web every day. Keeping track of these sources manually is a fool’s errand.
Also, we cannot continuously search on Google for new information and we cannot rely on Google Alerts.
Businesses that depend on sourcing from information databases also struggle because a lot of intelligence resides on sources that are not covered by such databases, e.g. company websites, social media, blogs and government/regulatory websites. The result? Our market intelligence is incomplete.
One of the solutions is to work with an MI vendor who is capable of aggregating information from such sources in spite of the technical complexity of sourcing this information.
When a Big 4 auditing firm deployed Contify across their Asia Pacific offices, they were able to achieve this. As the Sr. Manager for Strategic Projects there puts it, “Since we implemented the solution, the teams have access to live data from many sources so they spend less time on the manual collection of news. Instead, the team can focus on analyzing competitor and market activity.”
Curate with context
In our experience, potential intelligence users are distributed across the company, but the following six groups of people are usually primary users:
- Market/Competitive Intelligence
- Product Management
- Customer success
A competitor’s announcement of product features is interesting for the leadership team but it is intelligence for the product marketing team. A prospect supporting the soccer team Real Madrid can be used like a scalpel in the meeting by a sales executive but to a marketing manager, it’s noise.
In an article titled AI meets BI, Srikanth Velamakanni, the Co-founder of Fractal Analytics, recalls how a bank they work with once sent its senior executives an 800-page report ironically called “at-a-glance” report to understand how the bank was doing.
This sums up the state of Market Intelligence in most companies. 84% of intelligence is general and distributed through email. The intelligence sent out ends up competing with other emails in the recipients’ inbox. As Ben Gilad, the co-founder and President of the Academy of Competitive Intelligence puts it, “companies collect competitive intelligence but don’t use it”.
The culprit here is a lack of curation. In simple words, curation is the act of filtering out the irrelevant information and sending only the bits that are relevant to the recipient.
With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, it has become possible to curate internet-scale information for individual recipients. At Contify, we won an award for developing a platform that leverages machine learning alongside human curation to deliver personalized intelligence.
It is easier to collect information and create a huge database, but it is difficult to define what is “actionable”.
The intelligence that doesn’t influence any decisions or actions is just interesting information, sugar-coated as intelligence. Unfortunately, such information is flung at executives (as intelligence) in the hope that something will stick.
We need to circle back and close the loop by linking the intelligence with their KPIs. Before drinking our own kool-aid, we should ask how this “intelligence” is related to our users’ KPIs. The answer cannot be that it depends on how they are going to use this intelligence. We need to put that extra effort in understanding the drivers of our users’ KPIs.
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are being used to solve almost all business problems. It is time that companies start applying these technologies to their market intelligence program. It is the only way to transform into a Market Intelligent company — a company where intelligence is available to everyone at the right time with the right context and where the market and competitive intelligence (MCI) function spends time generating actionable insights instead of gathering and distributing information.
If you are someone who depends on market intelligence or you’re responsible for running the market intelligence program, I’d love to learn more about your challenges and goals. Also, do take Contify for a spin. We have a free trial and some of the world’s leading companies trust us to deliver Market Intelligence.