Digital technologies are making businesses more agile and the markets more dynamic. Thus, in order to survive, organizations need to be competitive, lest they be left behind by their competitors. Market and competitive intelligence has emerged as a popular discipline in the last decade for organizations to gain strategic agility and develop a competitive advantage. Organizations are evolving their market and competitive intelligence (M&CI) processes to get a near-real-time, 360-degree view of their ecosystems, which includes market segment, competitors, customers, suppliers, disruptions, megatrends, and the like. Simply monitoring competitors and reacting to their moves isn’t enough anymore. However, keeping track of your entire market and competitive landscape is no easy task by any means, and requires a well-thought-out M&CI program. This is where a number of organizations face problems. In this article, we’ll discuss 3 common problems faced by organizations in implementing a market and competitive intelligence program, as well as how to solve them. Let’s go.
What constitutes a well-built M&CI process?
A well-thought-out M&CI program to support successful business strategies will have to be comprehensive, to say the least. It should provide a comprehensive perspective of the market, the customers and the competition to the organization undertaking it. According to MarketResearch.Com , “a good market and competitive intelligence process can help managers discover new markets or businesses, beat the competition to market, foresee competitor's actions, determine which companies to acquire, learn about new products and technologies that will affect the industry, and forecast political or legislative changes that will affect the company”.
An M&CI program is an amalgamation of two similar processes, namely the market intelligence process and the competitive intelligence process. Following the best practices involved in both these processes can yield a robust M&CI program. This is how a well-thought-out M&CI program ideally works:
1. You gather information on the market, customers and competition.
2. Insights are gleaned from this aggregated information by your analysts.
3. These insights are then used to answer specific business questions or challenges.
4. Strategies are formulated after determining the best course of action in the present and future market landscape.
5. These strategies are communicated to everyone involved in their execution, and then actions are taken based on these strategies.
However, a lot of times, the M&CI program at organizations is less than ideal due to a lack of understanding of M&CI best practices, outdated M&CI strategies, and lack of M&CI tools or software, or unwillingness to invest in one. There could be a number of reasons why your M&CI program isn’t getting results, but there are three that are most common in our experience. Let’s have a look at them.
3 common M&CI problems and their solutions
1. Problems with collection of intelligence
Collecting information on your market, competitors and customers is the first step of any market and competitive intelligence process, and also where a number of organizations face problems. The data or information you collect will determine the effectiveness of your M&CI program, which is why it is imperative that you gather high-quality data from a variety of sources. Each bit of quality information is like a piece of the puzzle that will make you see your market and competition a bit more clearly, while inadequate information will paint a blurry picture, which can be more damaging than helpful.
The problem might also lie with the method of data collection. If you’re still using traditional methods of collecting intelligence, i.e. manually searching for it, you’ve probably faced challenges. The reason behind this is quite simple. Manual data collection in this day and age requires you to sift through terabytes of information, which is not only humanly impossible but also a highly inefficient use of your time and resources. Technology has advanced a lot since the days of traditional gathering of intelligence, and organizations these days use competitive intelligence software to collect data.
Sometimes, problems in your M&CI process regarding data collection might not be as apparent. Here are some signs which indicate that you need to improve your data collection efforts.
- There isn’t a fixed process or time to collect intel. It is collected infrequently or on an “as-and-when-needed” basis.
- Poorly defined market segments, competitors, products or topics of interest (to track)
- Major updates from the competition and the market are missed frequently, or are reported too late to take action.
- Insights on significant industry news, trends and innovations are missed or overlooked.
- Emerging competitors or potential adversaries go unnoticed until they make major news.
If any of these signs seem familiar, your M&CI program suffers from a huge gap regarding data collection, and you need to invest in a market and competitive intelligence tool or software that automates the collection of actionable information.
2. Problems with organization/curation of intelligence
Sometimes an organization may have a suitable information collection process, however, they still find themselves unable to glean proper business insights from the collected intelligence. If and when this is the case, it is due to improper organization, and inefficient analysis and/or curation of said information. The information is usually stored in silos scattered across the entire organization. This is a common problem, as manually sorting and classifying collected information is an extremely burdensome task, which can become near-impossible if the information is voluminous. Without the proper organization of information, it is of no use because users can’t find it when they need it.
Another problem regarding the organization of collected data is the lack of a centralized repository that can be accessed by all the intelligence users of the company. Of course, this point is moot as long as the intel isn’t organized.
This problem is becoming increasingly common, as there is no dearth of information on the internet, even that which relates to an organization’s market and competitors. In fact, it is that ocean of data and information that makes organizing it so difficult. Investing in a market and competitive intelligence platform that can automate the classification and filtering of relevant business information from the digital noise, and even provide a searchable repository that can be accessed by the users at any time.
If the users in your organization aren’t able to make use of your collected intel, there will be other signs that point towards a gap regarding the organization of intelligence. These may include:
- Overwhelming amounts of competitive intelligence that never get used
- Intelligence is not organized - difficult to find by functions, products, source, topic, industry segment, geography, etc.
- Intelligence is not prioritized according to relevance or level of strategic importance
- Users/stakeholders find your market and competitive intelligence system hard to navigate
If any of these signs seem familiar, your MCI program suffers from the problem of data organization and curation. The solution is the creation of a centralized repository that can be accessed by all the stakeholders of the company.
3. Problems with the distribution of intelligence
The final, and most important, step in a market and competitive intelligence process, is the distribution of intelligence that has been meticulously collected and organized. The importance of this step cannot be overstated, as intelligence has value only when it reaches the right audience at the right time. A failure in proper distribution means that your entire MCI was essentially for nothing. An organization, thus, requires a precise distribution mechanism that can efficiently deliver the relevant intelligence to its targeted stakeholders who can use it for informed decision making.
Organizations who use ad-hoc emails or meetings as the channels to distribute market and competitive intelligence generally find that the intelligence isn’t used effectively.
Unfortunately, a majority of organizations still use ad-hoc emails (71%) and team meetings (64%) to distribute CI, according to the 2021 Contify’s Benchmark Report for B2B Marketers.
As a result, around 50% of all CI users say that they don’t use the intelligence shared with them.
In addition to the relevancy, Stakeholders need competitive intelligence in formats that are bite-sized, easily accessible and digestible. There are cutting-edge competitive and market intelligence software available that can distribute information to stakeholders in a number of customizable ways, including:
- Instant Alerts
- Custom Market and Competitive Intelligence Reports
- Continuously updated News feeds
- Intelligence dashboards
- Integration into other enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM, KMs, and more
Such software enables the organization to go beyond the traditional one-size-fits-all approach, and distribute personalized intelligence to each stakeholder in accordance with what works best for them. This ensures that they drive the value from the intelligence that you provided to them.
If your organization suffers from poor distribution, these signs will be evident:
- General one-size-fits-all distribution channels
- Misalignment between CI team and stakeholders
- Users don’t use the intelligence that they receive
- Users are not able to find the information
- Lack of options for users to consume intelligence
With the ease of publishing digital information, there are thousands of new sources on the internet where intelligence on your markets and competitors are available. This has resulted in cognitive overload with too much information, which is difficult to find. Most of us are drowning in information but starving for insights. Therefore, automation in the MCI process is not an option but a necessity. A market and competitive intelligence software - that leverages technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing - can help with each phase of the MCI process. Collection, organization and distribution of market and competitive intelligence now comes with an excessive and untenable workload, which isn’t practical. And, even if it were, it would take too much time and effort, which is better off being used in analyzing the information rather than collecting and curating it. It’s time for organizations to embrace MCI software and tools, so that they can streamline their MCI process, and invest the saved time, effort and resources into using the intelligence for the betterment of their organization.