Whether your organization has a team dedicated to gathering, analyzing and sharing competitive and market intelligence (C&MI) or not, the reality is that a wide range of decision-makers and doers across the organization are conducting research to inform and defend their actions.
In most organizations that we’ve worked with, there is some degree of routine information flow across functions, but both the process and the methods of communicating insights make activating intelligence a challenge. More common than not, we find those needing intelligence relying on profoundly noisy Google Alerts or periodically conducting manual internet searches and copying and pasting key nuggets of information (insights) into documents or presentations. These insights later get shared or saved to a shared drive only to vanish from visibility in a short time.
Our observations are not unique. In preparation for their first market guide on competitive and market intelligence, analysts at Gartner spoke to hundreds of functional leaders that depend on market intelligence to do their jobs. Their key findings were:
- Competitive and market intelligence are corporate-wide requirements, but different buyers want different types of insights and at different times in the product lifecycle. There tends to be little coordination across the functions in finding and leveraging insights.
- Functional teams often leverage tools designed for their function that lightly support C&MI, but were not built specifically for it. As a result, multiple tools are often in use. Tools in use within a function do not integrate with one another, so even within small teams assembling insights is a burdensome copy/paste challenge.
One analyst shared with us that while interviewing key executive stakeholders in a Fortune 200 company, he asked each leader who they define as their top ten primary competitors, only to get three very different lists back. Importantly, across all three lists, only four competitors were common. The key question that raises is… how can the customer experience across the customer lifecycle deliver a clear and compelling experience when different functions – each charged with delivering that experience – lack a shared mindset.
The Market Intelligence Flow
Early on in our development as a market monitoring solution, we mapped the key stakeholders that were seeking out our solution and who they defined as their key stakeholders – those groups they were sharing insights with routinely. That led to us defining the market intelligence flow, a key activity map we use to influence our product roadmap and customer success. It’s not a complex map or even an extensively thorough one. What it does clearly do, though, is demonstrate the significant scale and overlap of market research-centric activities in an organization.
C-level leadership and those in corporate and business development rely on insights that are part of the same flow as those in sales enablement and customer success. The former relies on insights that inform high-level investment decisions, while the latter uses the information for customer education and garner greater product adoption. The Market Intelligence Flow acknowledges that cross-functional need.
The key stakeholders we defined are those that we commonly associate with going-to-market including:
- The C-Suite
- Corporate & Business Development
- Product Managers and Marketers
- Corporate Marketers
- Sales Leaders and Representatives
- Customer Success Leaders and Representatives
Again, our map isn’t exhaustive, our sales team learns about new stakeholders both inside and outside the customer organizations we serve on a regular basis. The digital transformation of organizations, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, is rewriting who and how stakeholders are involved in go-to-market almost daily.
Five things you can do to improve your organization’s use of market and competitive intelligence (without redesigning the organization)
1. Acknowledge M&CI is a shared responsibility
We admit that it sounds like we lifted this guidance from a classic 12-step program, but hey it works! If you want your organization to become more adept at leveraging market and competitive intelligence, the first thing you need to do is acknowledge that it is a shared responsibility and likely always will be, even if you have a dedicated M&CI team.
The sources of insights may be the same, but the context different stakeholders need drives demand that would be very challenging for a centralized team to own. The CEO may want the headlines, but the sales rep may need full pieces of third-party content to share in prospect communications.
A centralized team shouldn’t be functionally siloed. Look at it more as a joint operating team, similar to those law enforcement agencies set up, to leverage distributed monitoring capabilities and allocate response more quickly and effectively in dynamic environments.
2. Agree to collaborate across the customer lifecycle
Once you acknowledge that M&CI is a shared responsibility, the next step is to figure out what the top-level domains are that should be common across your organization’s market intelligence flow.
Figure out where you need to develop a shared mindset in order to improve how you respond to customers across the customer lifecycle, and where functional needs may be less common. Remember, the goal of collaboration isn’t to increase people’s workload, but instead to reduce it by eliminating duplicate effort.
M&CI insights can and should be seen just like building blocks. Some stakeholders may need a wall or a bridge, i.e. a theme or a value proposition, while others may need the individual bricks used to produce that wall or bridge. Seeing information in blocks that can be aggregated to meet different needs at various stages of the lifecycle is essential to reducing duplicate effort.
3. Map insight needs and potential sources
With a strong idea of what broad blocks of intelligence your organization needs to drive a better shared understanding of the market, the next step is to identify what insights are needed to drive action within each stakeholder role.
Scenario planning can really help here, but so can job mandates in a pinch. While job descriptions have become a lot more fluid in the past few decades, the key responsibilities of stakeholders involved in the go-to-market apparatus of an organization are generally consistent and pretty well known. What context does a stakeholder need information in and at what scope to inform routine decisions? More importantly, what information would they require that signals a need to DISRUPT their routine decisions?
4. Enable dialogue across the lifecycle
Earlier we referred to the joint operating team as a valuable construct for organizing stakeholders involved in M&CI. One of the key reasons that construct really works is distributed listening or monitoring capability.
M&CI stakeholders in your organization are listening to different sources much like different law enforcement agencies do through informants and field agents deployed in different capacities. That distributed infrastructure allows you to see a situation from a variety of perspectives, giving you a more thorough picture.
The market and competitive intelligence flow SHOULD NOT be a unidirectional flow. While it might seem counterproductive to have your sales representatives dialoguing directly with your CEO on a market insight, it can actually produce a profoundly empowering environment. CEOs communicate vision, it’s their job to inspire and motivate others to drive that vision. Sales representatives touch hundreds of potential prospects a month, they get real-time feedback not only of product fit but on future vision as well. Creating a shared environment where various stakeholders can discuss insights across functions is key to building a culture of M&CI activation.
5. Share insights when and where needed
Not everyone that needs intelligence to do their job is skilled at research. For that reason, it can and should be OK for people to play different roles in your distributed M&CI flow. Some people may be super adept at teasing out insights from unstructured content, others may be good at tying insights together into a story arc and others may be best at contextualizing insights to your organization.
To involve the full set of stakeholders you will likely need to share insights across a variety of channels to keep people notified and provide an easy way for them to contribute back to a centralized environment only when relevant. Inviting stakeholders that only periodically use intelligence into an environment where others are active daily can overwhelm them, a condition that often limits adoption.
Building your market & competitive intelligence hub
Our founders, Vishal and Nicolas, started Cronycle because they encountered the challenges of managing teams dependent on external market and functional intelligence in an era where information is omnipresent. Discovering and monitoring ever-evolving information sources, filtering out noise, aggregating across channels and extracting actionable insights is time-consuming and overwhelming. They architected our solution as a hub, a place for stakeholder teams to come together to collaborate on sense-making and insight extraction, and to share out across channels insights of value to others.
We have built on that hub using artificial intelligence that lets you leverage millions of domain experts to find the content driving the most influence online across millions of domains. That can be a tall order, and we hope that the above information helps make your M&CI tasks easier.
Because Cronycle was purpose-built to address these challenges, we believe it’s the best tool on the market to streamline M&CI across the organization, saving time and widening the vision of everyone involved in M&CI. We’d love to show you how Cronycle can enable an M&CI flow that can bring together horizon scanning, insight gathering, and collaboration into a single digital workspace. If you’d like to learn more, please do not hesitate to schedule a chat with us.