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How to Stay Ahead of the Competition With Market Intelligence

December 11, 2020

market intelligence

If you’re responsible for the success of a business and find yourself asking “Now what?” pretty often, chances are you lack data.

It’s crazy to think that companies still aren’t making the most out of data – even with so much of it already available at our fingertips – to propel their business forward. Markets today are evolving faster than ever. Even the slightest shift in customer perception or trends can make the market swing one way or the other.

With markets fluctuating as frequently as they do, it comes as no surprise that sales and marketing teams need more accurate customer personas if they want to achieve high-quality leads in their funnel.

Accuracy however, requires a lot of relevant data. Insufficient data on your customer base for instance, can prove costly with customers deciding to switch from your business – almost $138.8 billion costly. To get their hands on good data, marketing teams will find themselves doing market research, competitive benchmarking, surveys, a lot of A/B testing and experimentation.

Which means one thing: congratulations – you are now looking at a sales cycle that’s several months long.

Market trends don’t announce themselves in advance, nor do they wait for anyone to catch up. By the time you finish covering most of the groundwork, the industry will likely have already seen some changes, so you’re back to square one.

In order to be able to act quickly on these trends, marketers need to be equipped with ammo in the form of market intelligence.

Why do we need market intelligence?

We’re all guilty of scouring our competitors’ websites to get a pulse on what they’re up to, what new logos they’ve added to their list of growing customers, and what’s new in their product line-up. The problem is by the time all this information is up on their website, it’s already implemented and you’re only finding out about it along with the rest of the world.

To stay ahead of the competition, you can’t afford to be late to the party. Market intelligence is sort of the VIP pass to all the key customer feedback and marketing strategies you were probably missing out on.

Unlike business intelligence, where businesses are usually hyper-focused on ideation within their internal environment, to understand what the rest of the market is doing, external data is absolutely necessary to make any strategic move, big or small. This is the problem statement market intelligence aims to tackle.

While businesses already do their share of data gathering and draw their conclusions from the same, it certainly isn’t the whole picture. They’re just looking at data that is probably relevant to only their existing audience. It doesn’t tell you about the market segments that your business isn’t engaging with, emerging trends or crises that other teams would be unaware about for months, or how you fare against your direct or indirect competitors.

Market intelligence is real-time, actionable data about your audience, potential customers, and the competition. Like a weather forecast, it helps you anticipate what lies ahead. It guides your business’s decision-making by cutting through the noise out there in the market.

Gathering market intelligence helps businesses like yours get insights on the competitive landscape, the target market, customer trends, and specific buyer personas.

What you shouldn’t do with market intelligence

The number one rule of adopting market intelligence into your business is “to tweak your approach on the fly."

Data is dynamic. From customer sentiments to current affairs, change is the only constant you can be sure of. It makes sense then that any market strategy needs to be consistently monitored.

Simply adopting market intelligence does not give you the license to become lazy. Even though it would be easier to just make a few major changes at certain touchpoints and call it a day, market intelligence is all about depth.

To be the best, you have to assume every other business out there is putting their best foot forward. Your business runs the risk of losing market share and missing out on a lot of invaluable market insights if you don’t monitor what everyone’s doing and accordingly tweak your strategy to see consistent impact.

4 cornerstones of market intelligence

Market intelligence isn’t just limited to one form of data – it covers information ranging across a broad spectrum of actionable industry insights. The burning question here is: what datasets should your business be looking at?

Here are the four main foundational elements of marketing intelligence:

1. Competitor intelligence

Competitor intelligence is like placing a finger on the pulse – getting a feel for what makes the industry beat faster.

Understanding your competitors’ strengths and their shortcomings allows you to evaluate how your product should position itself in the market as well as attract consumers’ attention. Constant monitoring what the competition is doing puts you at a competitive advantage and enables you to grab market opportunities before someone else recognizes them.

On the other side of the spectrum, closely following your competitors also helps you gain insight into what didn’t work for them, thus avoiding repeating something that wouldn’t be the best move for your business.

2. Product intelligence

Now that you’ve scoped out the competition, it’s time to take a look at how your product fares. There’s no point trying to make and sell lemonade when your lemons aren’t even ripe.

With product intelligence, you can get a better understanding about the way your product performs or how efficient your services are. Zeroing in on problems that your target audience is looking to solve allows your business to enhance your product line to include those crucial features. Think of it as using data to constantly build better products for your customers.

It’s a great way to validate your product and to see if your product roadmap is heading in the right direction. It's also a great opportunity to see if you need to undergo a new product exercise. Getting insight on which features are the most popular among your customer base, how the latest feature release has performed, and how your customers actually use the product can help make your product go from good to great.

Product intelligence can also help your business glean insights on what your competitors with similar products are doing and how your product compares. Analyzing what your competitors are missing with their product allows your brand to take advantage of the gaps in the industry before anyone else figures them out.

3. Customer understanding

Customer understanding and product intelligence go hand-in-hand. A better product implies a better customer experience. Understanding the customer becomes key to understanding what kind of user experience they are looking for from your product.

The goal for any business is to retain their customers. While closing deals with new customers is always welcome, customer retention should be a business priority. It seems like something so obvious but unfortunately, businesses lose out on $1.6 trillion from losing customers to a competitor.

The perception a customer may have with your product can vary considerably from time-to-time. This stresses upon the need for comprehensive artificial intelligence that not only retrieves specific customer data, but to display it in a way that’s easy to understand and gives you quick insights on what your customers need, what they’re looking for, and what they’re not getting from your business.

It’s also a great way to monitor how your competitors’ customers feel. Any time your competitor has missed the mark with its customer service, your marketing team can immediately move in to make a quick steal with the help of targeted campaigns.

4. Market understanding

There’s nothing worse than realizing that significant features in your product have become obsolete after months of research and development (R&D) just because the rules of the game changed.

In an ideal world, your business is the only one solving a specific problem. In reality, there are probably a dozen or so solutions in the market that are catering to the same niche as you. This is where market understanding comes into the picture.

Understanding consumer demands and their needs can help a business significantly increase their market share and revenue, as well as see any new areas of growth potential within the existing market. It could also hint at new geographies that haven’t been tapped yet and are worth exploring.

Assessing the market can help you understand:

  • Where your product fits into the equation
  • What industry problem you are looking at tackling
  • If there’s still a need for a solution for that kind of problem
  • If there any other regions that are facing a similar problem

How to turn data into action

Now that you’ve gathered all the data from all the possible sources of information, what do you do with it? How do you turn this data into something executable?

Data can be a big window into what everyone is doing. Naturally, picking up what works great and quickly dropping activities that don’t see much impact is the way to go. Observing what tools and techniques your well-performing competitors are adopting is a great cheat sheet of sorts to cut through most of the fluff.

Again, different data can point to different goals and targets. Deriving utility out of market intelligence depends on what area you want to tackle first.

This could be:

  • Using keywords that haven’t been on your radar in your copywriting or content
  • Targeting audiences in a region that you haven’t set foot in yet
  • Turbocharging your marketing campaigns for maximum reach using the right channels at the right times
  • Exploring hashtags and themes that help put your content at the top of everyone’s social media feeds
  • Tweaking sales decks that communicate your product offerings better
  • Understanding why your leads failed to convert
  • Finding influencers that you should reach out to
  • Discovering affiliates you should be partnering with

This is just a small set of use cases in a broad range of possibilities that market intelligence can open up with its data. While fresh data can give rise to new changes periodically, it certainly helps create strategies and assets ahead of time in anticipation of these changes.

Evaluating and setting your market intelligence goals

Data is only as good as the questions you ask. As much as we like instant gratification, market intelligence cannot promise ready-made solutions unless your business starts asking specific questions.

Before you start gathering market intelligence data, establishing specific objectives in advance can serve to strengthen your marketing intelligence efforts and its reach. Furthermore, it is easier to map the correct data across various marketing channels by specifically defining the function that needs information. Measuring the effectiveness of market intelligence is only possible when you take the time to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business – both qualitative and quantitative.

While goals vary from organization to organization, most businesses, at their core, look at achieving a few fundamental targets:

  1. If your sales team is looking at a higher quantity and quality of leads, your market intelligence goals should answer questions like:
    • “What is the target audience we should be engaging with?”
    • “What new markets have we not explored yet?”
    • “What are our competitors doing to engage with potential customers?”
  2. If your marketing team is looking at creating targeted marketing campaigns that are effective, you should gather market intelligence data that answers questions like:
    • “What are the kind of campaigns that our competitors are launching?”
    • “How is our competitor’s SEO strategy? What kind of keywords are they targeting?”
    • “What kind of campaigns resonate well with our target demographic?”
  3. If your product team is looking at improving user experience and increasing the product life cycle, you should set your market intelligence goals to answer questions such as:
    • “Who are our product champions? What do they like most about our product?”
    • “Did our product upgrade cause the desired change in behavior amongst our users?”
    • “What features do our users like the least?”

Market intelligence checklist

Goals not only vary from organization to organization – they even vary within an organization.

While everyone may be on the same page about where the business should go, different levels will focus on different things to get there. If your business is looking to invest in market intelligence tools, it helps to have a checklist specific to each level.

market intelligence levels

At a team level

It’s no surprise that sales and marketing teams would be the primary users for market intelligence tools. With both teams requiring copious amounts of data to execute their respective strategies, it becomes crucial to find a system that can provide real-time insights at the click of a button.

Identifying high-quality leads and determining the most effective channels to engage with them can cut down the time required to research leads and focus more on pushing prospects down the funnel.

At an organization level

Key stakeholders in the organization may be more concerned with what their direct and indirect competitors are up to, what they’re saying to potential customers, how their product is reviewed in the market, and how they’re acquiring the right talent for crucial roles. Market intelligence tools provide a window to all that and more so that any organization can determine what positioning and messaging seems relevant in the industry today.

At an industry level

Perhaps the most dynamic use of market intelligence can be seen across an industry level. Sometimes there is a goldmine of opportunities that haven’t been explored but could be staring you right in your face. Market intelligence helps answer some of the broader questions, like what the industry as a whole can offer, what it needs right now, and how you can leverage gaps within it.

Tip: Figuring out how to cater to any of these levels? Download this checklist to evaluate the right market intelligence tool.

Good data gives you insights; great data gives you impact

Market intelligence doesn’t promise to be an automatic solution for all of your business problems. It does, however, promise to make your work easier, more efficient, and more accurate than it could ever be without a data-driven strategy.

Interested in incorporating market intelligence for your business? Make sure you have already conducted a competitor analysis before you lay down the ground for a market intelligence strategy.

Make marketing more intelligent

Launch data-driven marketing strategies that help grow your business.

Make marketing more intelligent

Launch data-driven marketing strategies that help grow your business.

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