6 Minute Read

Market and competitive Intelligence (M/CI) can be illuminating, insightful, and transformative. It can refocus your strategy and help you identify opportunities. 

But it can also be an excruciating waste of time. Marketers can waste 100's of hours on gathering and collating data, only to find nothing of value. Some 75% of M/CI projects fail to produce any actionable intelligence. That’s a lot of work for nothing. 

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A common challenge with M/CI is that most organizations just aren’t set up properly to do it. Most departments within an organization have a tool(s) specifically built to support their department activities.  For example, sales departments have a CRM, HR teams have an ERP system and finance departments have financial management software. Few businesses have invested in an enterprise-grade M/CI software, which means that marketers have to rely on hacks, tricks, and manual processes. It's no wonder their results are so hit-and-miss.  

But that doesn’t mean M/CI isn’t worth doing. The insights and knowledge gained from M/CI activities really can transform your business. It’s just a matter of doing it correctly. 

Why Market and Competitive Intelligence is worth the effort

If so many M/CI projects fail to create any value, then is M/CI really worth doing? Why not focus your marketing resources on other priorities  that are more likely to yield results? 

These are fair questions. But think about the value delivered to your business from an insightful  M/CI report, such as: 

  • Differentiators: What makes you stand out from rivals? What makes your rivals stand out from the rest of the market? (If you just said “your employees” you're wrong. Here’s proof. 
  • Market trends: What’s influencing consumer behavior in your niche?  
  • New markets: Where are your rivals' blind spots? Have they overlooked an audience segment that you can connect with? 
  • Competitor growth and contraction: Which rival companies are growing, potentially threatening your market share? Which ones are shrinking, creating opportunities for you? 
  • Emerging threats: What competitors with a new approach? A new approach grows the market while the incumbent remains roughly static.  They might not consider this threat until it’s too late to catch up. 
  • Context: Often, yesterday’s novelty is tomorrow’s disruption. Remember, in 1975 Kodak invented the digital camera and executives at the company chose not to pursue it. This kind of insight could mean the difference between success and failure on any project. 

But M/CI is something that needs to be done well, or not at all. A winning  M/CI process must be: 

  • Resourced: You’ll need the right people,  software tools and time  to deliver results. 
  • Focused: M/CI projects need an agreed scope, so you can filter out extraneous information and zero in on what matters. 
  • Supported: Great M/CI results are the  product of changes at the cultural level of an organization. Everyone has to share in the  effort. 
  • Impactful: New intelligence should inspire decisive action throughout the organization. 

Market and competitive intelligence should be a cornerstone  factor in the strategic growth plan of your organization, but only if you are able to commit to a comprehensive  process. If you’re not quite there yet, then you may want to begin on a smaller scale before committing significant resources.  

How to do Market and Competitive Intelligence the right way

One of the most common mistakes is to have an on-demand M/CI process. For instance, some teams will run a big M/CI project during the early stages of product development and that’s it until your next major product release or a new product is developed. . 

There are two problems with this approach. First, you miss the opportunity to refine your M/CI processes. When you are analyzing competitors once a year you’re going to have a long learning cycle. When you’re analyzing competitors every day, you get really good at finding sources and identifying relevant data. 

Second, with a piecemeal approach you’re going to miss trends in your markets.. When you fail it see  see the ebb and flow of competitor behavior in your market, it’s like viewing a two dimensional world.  This may be fine unless your rivals have a more sophisticated M/CI process, they’re looking at a three dimensional world.  

Here’s what you need to do to build a M/CI process that delivers. 

1. Identify  an executive sponsor

Today all  major projects require buy-in at a senior level and yours is no different. You’ll need support from executives across your organization to succeed and the easiest way to gain that support is by having a peer support and at times make your requests.  

One way to enlist the support of an executive sponsor is to talk about the  Return on Investment your M/CI work will deliver. You can quantify ROI by offering concrete answers to questions like: 

  • How much would a new M/CI process cost?
  • What are the costs associated with the current M/CI process?
  • What are the potential savings from process automation?
  • What is the value of opportunities identified by an improved M/CI process?

If you’ve got a champion in the boardroom, you’ll have a much easier time with the next steps. 

2. Leverage the right tools

Automated M/CI tools produce more consistent results than manual or semi-automatic processes. The reason for this is simple: there’s just too much data out there. You need a platform that assists with the four main steps of a M/CI process: 

  • Collect: Pull all data available from public sources, including the internet and social media feeds. Once collected, you need to cleanse and validate this data, and then apply relevant tags. 
  • Discover: Search through all of the collated data to find meaningful trends and information. 
  • Analyze: Use competitor information to arrive at market insight, and then make decisions based on what you’ve learned.    
  • Collaborate: Work with all teams across the organization to hone your strategy and surpass your goals. 

Knowledge 360 is a platform that will transform your M/CI process. Find out how we use Artificial Intelligence to save you time. 

3. Segment your internal audiences and stakeholders

Of course, marketing is not the only team that depends on intelligence about competitors. Sales, product development, HR, executives, and others may lean on you for M/CI reports. These parties will all have their own specific requirements – for instance, sales need accurate pricing information, while HR might want to know if any rivals are planning a big hiring push. 

It’s a good idea to understand who’s consuming M/CI information and to learn more about their specific needs. This will help you to ensure that you’re creating knowledge and insights that they will value. Look to processes that allow you to create useful M/CI deliverables on a recurring basis. When you do that, you’ll encourage cultural buy-in.

4. Nurture a M/CI culture

M/CI is a culture. Everyone in your  company has a  part to play, especially when it comes to gathering data. And certainly when it comes to  making key decisions. For instance, sales can share data about their leads, while customer service can share what they hear on support calls. HR can look at M/CI to see if rival companies are planning to hire more people, which could impact your company’s recruitment plans.

Over time, collecting M/CI will become a core element of your culture. You just need to get people to a point where they think: we’re the best at what we do because we always stay one step ahead of the competition. This kind of cultural shift takes time and patience. But it will only happen if you help provide useful M/CI reports. 

Ultimately, the goal is to break down information silos within the company, which is as difficult as it  sounds. Even when people are willing to share information and cooperate with your team, they don’t always understand their own role in the M/CI process. What information should they share and how do they share it? M/CI as a culture will help nurture that understanding and ensure that data keeps flowing throughout the organization. 

5. Build on day-to-day efforts

It can take some time to build your M/CI process. First, you need to create quality intelligence. Then you need people to act decisively on that intelligence. You’ll need some project oversight for this, so remember: 

  • Set clear metrics for your M/CI project before you begin
  • Measure outcomes such as ROI
  • Talk to information consumers across the organization and ask if you’re meeting their expectations
  • Keep looking for manual processes that you can automate
  • Use the collaboration tools on your M/CI platform to ensure everyone is fully engaged with the project. 

You won’t get there overnight. You’ll have to build the process one day at a time, using each win as a stepping stone to the next. 

How a great M/CI process benefits you

Every organization needs an elite-tier competitor intelligence process. But how does this process benefit you as a marketer? 

One of the first benefits you’ll notice is that other teams will stop hitting you up for M/CI reports without providing important data themselves. Competitive intelligence is not inherently a marketing task, but marketers often have to fill the gap if the M/CI process is lacking. Most marketing teams find themselves bombarded with requests to help out with everything from sales battlecards to hiring plans. With a great M/CI process, everyone has instant access to the information they need. 

More importantly, M/CI will give you the insights you need to succeed as a marketer.  Markets move at the speed of light these days. You can’t possibly keep tabs on competitors using manual processes. But with automation and the right culture, you can stay one step ahead of your competition.

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