How to use market intelligence to stay ahead of the competition

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Is your company seeking to sharpen its competitive edge, maybe gain a bit of information or insight that will enable you to improve your strategies and get a larger share of the market? Winning in business isn’t simply about reaching the finish line first (does one even exist?)—it’s about gaining and maintaining your lead, being confident you won’t be suddenly overtaken by a competitor or displaced by market trends and innovations you failed to keep your eye on. For these reasons and more, market intelligence is essential to your success.

What is market intelligence?

First, let’s establish what we mean by “market intelligence.”

 Gartner defines market intelligence as “the information, processes and tools used to gather and analyze data to determine market opportunities, market penetration strategy and market development metrics.”

Put another way, market intelligence refers to the collection and analysis of all the relevant market insights that can help inform decision-making within your organization. It includes market research (data about your consumers, products, industry, etc.), business intelligence (customer, finance and other data owned by your organization), and competitive intelligence (data related to your competitors’ businesses). 

A strategic approach that considers the broader landscape

The reality is that markets constantly change, and your organization needs a strategic approach that helps provide a fuller perspective. To achieve this, you must track the competition, understand the broader landscape, assess new developments and emerging trends, and monitor opportunities and threats in order to anticipate what’s coming. The aim is to stay ahead of the curve, collecting and using data proactively rather than reactively. Not surprisingly, a recent Deloitte report confirms that CEOs who make data-driven decisions are 77% more likely to reach their goals than those who don’t.

So how can you continuously acquire, develop and share the insights you need to inform a winning strategy? One of the primary means is by way of technology. 

Technology and planning are key

Twenty years ago, a conversation about market intelligence would have sounded much different than it does today. The sheer volume of data produced and shared online today is overwhelming to keep up with, and this volume multiplies dramatically each and every year. Thankfully, as the volume and velocity of information has increased, our access and ability to process that information has likewise improved due to advances in technology including machine learning and artificial intelligence. But the best tools in the world can’t help you if you don’t begin with a plan or know how you intend to use the data gathered. 

Creating or expanding your market intelligence program doesn’t have to be overwhelming

If you’ve never had a structured market intelligence program before but you want to create one, you may find the whole prospect formidable. And, if you start by thinking about all the content you CAN collect, it’s frankly too much and quite paralyzing. It’s sort of a double-edged sword really: on one hand there’s a massive universe of data from which to glean insight, but on the other hand, it’s fair to say that 98% of that data isn’t significant to you. That is why employing the right technology is essential for not only filtering out the noise, but for helping you organize and make sense of the 2% of trusted, relevant data you need to build upon. It’s no wonder most companies turn to smart technology tools to help them sort through the mountains of data. In fact, in 2020 the market for intelligence (including tools and services) was estimated at $23.1 billion, and it’s projected to reach $33.3 billion by 2025.

Start with the end in mind

A far better approach to planning your market intelligence program is by first defining the organizational goals that can be supported by data. For starters, consider focusing your initial research efforts on gaining a competitive advantage and positioning yourself advantageously within your industry. Countless other internal decisions are impacted by your position in the market, so starting with consumer trends and competitive insights just makes sense. The body of data you collect here can help your company better focus resources and position your brand and products in a way that supports the ability to gain market share, enter new markets and launch new products. 

Market intelligence takes you beyond SWOT

Remember traditional SWOT analysis tables and sales playbooks? These help to map out each competitor’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and lead to a better understanding of how you can win against the competition. You’ve likely already begun analyzing your primary competitors, and have probably collected a good amount of information for your teams to leverage including your competitors’ product features, services and add-ons, pricing, partnerships and integrations, messaging and positioning, and so on.  As your competition and market evolves, monitoring and updating this information is important.

An artificial intelligence powered, all-in-one market intelligence platform like Cronycle works for you 24/7/365 to scour available sources including more than 30 million pieces of content created and shared by top experts and influencers in the field each day. You’ll have the ability to aggregate content from the most trusted, relevant sources online and combine them with other information you’ve gathered to continually update and evolve your team’s understanding; giving you the clearest and most current picture of the market.

Get a 360-degree perspective

Understanding that you’re not on a race track but in a dynamic, and sometimes complex arena, you’ll want to structure your market intelligence program so it does more for you.  What you’ll need is a 360-degree view including the latest developments and emerging trends.

Consider this short list of categories to monitor:

  • Direct competitors, brands, and products and their marketing, social media posts and videos, blogs and podcasts, newsletters press releases, product launches, partnerships, and so on
  • Indirect competitors who serve an overlapping or adjacent customer and prospect base and their marketing, news, and so on
  • Current customers and their marketing, news, etc.
  • Targeted prospects and their marketing, news, etc.
  • Partners, distributors, agents, providers, suppliers and similar players upstream and downstream of your current and prospective target markets
  • Trends and developments as reported by industry experts, consultants, journalists, industry associations, and other influencers in your
    • Primary market
    • Adjacent markets that could impact your primary market
    • Prospective markets with potential growth and expansion opportunities
    • Broader potential impact markets, both local and global (think medicine, science, engineering, politics, etc.)

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it offers a starting point for your market intelligence and research efforts. There’s truly no limit to the scope of insights you can produce.

Keep the big picture in mind when choosing your toolset

As you begin to aggregate content, make sure you have a good system for organizing, making sense of and sharing the insights you surface. An single platform for discovery, harvesting and sharing information can save your team massive time and headaches (while helping to prevent knowledge silos across your organization). Since distributing and publishing insights is often the point of collection, it’s essential that the platform is fully integrated into the internal systems used by other departments within your organization.  Establishing these integrations ahead of time will allow your insights teams to quickly and easily distribute intelligence across the various internal channels for use in decisions regarding corporate strategy, content marketing, sales enablement, product innovation and more. 

With a thoughtful plan and the right technology, you’ll create a market intelligence program for your company that will garner valuable insights that can be leveraged by teams across your organization and you’ll help your organization make decisions from a place of deep insight, enhancing its ability to succeed in the marketplace.

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