5 reasons your market intelligence isn’t working (and what to do about it)

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    Market intelligence encompasses a broad set of responsibilities and informs strategy and execution for both downstream stakeholders and upstream decision-makers. Go-to-market teams rely on the data, insights, and competitive information that MI teams share. Corporate strategists rely on market intelligence outputs to guide the organization to new opportunities and define growth paths.

    So when your market intelligence isn’t working, it’s a very big deal.

    Considering the challenges market intelligence teams face, it should impress us when it does work. Combining information from primary sources – like customer interviews, focus groups, and surveys – with secondary research on competitors and your industry is a tall order. Add to that the requirement that MI analysts also make sense of what they find and contextualize it for other teams and stakeholders. Additionally, they must constantly horizon scan for threats and opportunities that might crop up from within and outside your market space. 

    Given the work’s importance and the load accompanying it, it’s natural to be concerned when your market intelligence isn’t working. There could be many reasons why that is the case, including problems with sample sizes and audiences, incomplete or incorrect information, and a lack of time and resources. Below, you’ll find five common reasons why market intelligence doesn’t work for many businesses and how to course-correct to get them in line with your intelligence needs.

    You’re treating market information as if it were market intelligence

    You’ve pulled together data, quotes, and snippets from articles across trade journals, blogs, and mainstream media. You’ve also collected internal presentations, interviews with existing customers, and win/loss information from sales teams. Despite having all of this, it seems as if you can’t move the needle.

    That’s because there is a difference between market information and market intelligence. All the information listed above and much more is crucial to informing your business. However, good, practical market intelligence isn’t about collecting data points – it’s about using what you’ve collected to answer critical questions for the business. 

    The solution? The information you find must be mined for insights, combined to create a bigger picture, and contextualised with your experience and the organisation’s vision. Collecting information is only part of the equation. Schedule time to extract, review, compare, and process the market information you find. Better yet, create repositories and story arcs of the market and competitive information you find and share it with colleagues to collaboratively develop insights that will lead to market intelligence.

    You’re only using a small set of secondary sources

    Market intelligence extraction and harvesting are time-consuming in our modern world. Millions of pieces of content are created every day. Using traditional methods, it’s simply impossible to search out and find every piece of information that is relevant to your company’s market and goals. 

    The solution for many businesses is to turn to reliable mainstream media sources or a small stable of industry content providers. Each of these strategies is problematic in its own way. 

    In the case of mainstream media, you’re seeing information at the tail end of its news cycle – it’s already been discussed on blogs, on Twitter and LinkedIn, and in industry publications. Once it reaches mainstream media, you can no longer proactively address the information.

    A small stable of content providers may put you a little closer to the source of information. However, it’s likely that you’re choosing sites and publications that align with your existing thinking, creating an environment ripe for confirmation bias.

    The solution? Create a source strategy for secondary research that encompasses a wide range of different types of content to give you a fuller picture of topics and your market. Mainstream media and your standard content providers have their place, but seek out smaller blogs from topic experts and those that present a contrary or provocative viewpoint from the one you typically would follow.

    You aren’t enabling your teams to collaborate and use the information you find

    Information gleaned even from a wide range of sources isn’t helpful if you aren’t able to mine it for insights and develop intelligence from it. It’s not always possible for a single resource to effectively accomplish that. 

    Differing viewpoints within the organisation can offer valuable input on the information nuggets uncovered during both primary and secondary research. Plus, other individuals within the organisation will have different experiences and information that can be leveraged for sense-making. 

    The solution? Provide teams with the space to view, comment, collaborate, and annotate the information discovered from both primary and secondary resources. This collaboration space should be central and easy to access and use. Many teams use documents or a file folder structure that ends up being a black hole of information. Seek out tools that encourage discussion and insight extraction, not hinder it.

    Your intelligence research doesn’t look at adjacent markets for threats and opportunities.

    Have you been blindsided by a competitive disruption? It’s a common thing to have happened, and it’s just caused by organisational thinking stuck in the past, like Eastman Kodak. No, disruptions and disruptive innovations typically come not from within your market but from adjacent markets. Companies like Robinhood, Chime, and Stripe brought fresh thinking to the financial industry. Patreon created a disruptive platform that empowered other disruptive ideas. 

    If you are only looking at your competitors and in your immediate market circle, there is a high probability that you’ll miss the signs of a coming disruption. Equally important, you’ll also miss the signals for opportunities – chances to expand your organisation’s offerings into markets that you didn’t intend to be your audience but who could benefit from your products or services.

    The solution? Be sure that your market intelligence strategy includes horizon scanning in adjacent markets and that you’re able to listen for early rumblings about potential competitors that haven’t fully materialised yet. Keeping an eye on what your customers and experts in your space are saying can surface both threats and opportunities long before you need to react, buying you time to put plans in place to address a coming storm – or windfall.

    You don’t have a systematic means of sharing market intelligence with your stakeholders.

    The information you uncover and the insights you extract are essentially meaningless if you can get them to the stakeholders who need them. Just as troublesome is getting that information in front of those stakeholders in a way that they will consume it.

    Your stakeholders are busy people – market intelligence feeds into their decision-making, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all of what they do. If you provide insights and intelligence, but it requires additional steps to access or takes stakeholders out of their way, it may never be incorporated into their process. Red flags that this is happening is that you see decisions made or messaging created or shared that is counter to the intelligence you provided, or you get repeated requests for information you’ve already sourced.

    The solution? Stakeholders are unlikely to log into or search through a system that is convenient for you but foreign to them. Sharing intelligence within detailed newsletters delivered to their inboxes is one solution. Another is integrating communication systems – like Slack and Microsoft Teams – into your process so that receiving the information is within the stakeholder’s daily flow of work. 

    Market intelligence is vital across an organisation, regardless of size, revenue, or budget. Getting the most out of your market intelligence means leveraging broad but targeted research from content producers close to the platform while keeping an eye on the horizon for what’s coming next. It also means including your team – your whole team – in the process, facilitating collaboration and making it easy to access and use the intelligence developed. Doing so can accelerate your business’s success and growth.