Over the past six months, I have been working for CTRS and dipping my feet into the world of market intelligence. My background is in Public Relations and Marketing, so when I landed with CTRS, I was entering into a new, dynamic industry. Every conversation I had with the experts at CTRS was fascinating and my knowledge on the topic of market intelligence and market research continues to expand. Throughout my time working with my colleagues, I have learned lessons that have been valuable to my understanding of the world of market intelligence. 

Whenever I have a conversation about the nature of CTRS, I always get asked “what is market intelligence?”. It’s usually followed by the person giving their own interpretation of how market intelligence is research. While the short answer is “research” I have come to learn that the research we conduct is more than what is usually associated with conducting research. It’s more than a quick scan of the environment and coming up with a list of ten things someone should be aware of. It applies to every industry and can be customized to fit whatever needs a client has. I have also learned that with our company, we have different approaches that make our work accessible for different scenarios: a short timeline, a restricted budget, or a team who isn’t sure where to start. Market intelligence is flexible in nature and can be applied to various circumstances and industries. There is no “one size fits all” approach to the work we do, and that is what makes each new project an exciting adventure. When I reflect on these past months, I have learned some lessons that have given me a new understanding and perspective into market intelligence and why those who use it have a secret weapon to success. 

#1 People Often Underestimate Their Current State

When analyzing the current state of the company, people often think they know the business environment and are aware of any negative potential impacts to their operation. However, sometimes people on the same team have different views on which impacts are relevant and the severity of trends or changes in the industry in relation to the company. Is everyone really on the same page, have the same goal, and understand what needs to be considered and prioritized for success? Any confusion on defining what the challenge or opportunity is, will alter the goal and how it is achieved. Getting consensus, especially for teams, is critical to the path towards achieving the set goals. When there are existing gaps and different expectations, focus can be derailed and underestimating the current state of your business will set you back before you’ve even begun your next steps. 

#2 Look Externally and Match that Internally

No matter how well you know your own company, that is truly only half the story. And often, its the part of the story that you know yourself; it doesn’t have any surprises or cause you to gasp because you know what’s happened and what will happen that you have control over. But what about what you have no control over?  The industry you operate in changes rapidly and sometimes shifts will happen that you don’t discover until it’s already taken effect. In order to have the big picture, you need data that shows you what’s happening in the external environment. Potential industry trends, economic changes, legal implications, what your competitors are doing – the surprises and bumps in the road that will alter your course. Without the information about what’s going on in the market, your internal analysis and insights won’t be aligned or informed with the external impacts. By collecting information and data within the external environment, you will be able to better predict the steps required to achieve stated goals, through data driven decisions. 

#3 The Power of Primary Research

Primary research is a powerful tool for market intelligence. There is no better way to get an answer for a question than talking directly to the source. The concept of primary research allows you to speak with your customers and hear exactly what their feelings and perceptions are. You can discover pain points and learn about their feelings and reactions through what they say in response to your defined questions. When you understand your customers, you can better utilize marketing tactics to reach your audience and craft messages that target them specifically. For instance, if you needed to know if a new target market is going to be interested in purchasing your product or service when they’ve never tried it before, how would you know their reactions or behaviours? You would need to conduct some form of primary research to ask them. Using this tool results in unbiased, clear information directly from the source.

#4 Importance of Utilizing Various MI Tactics

When we conduct a market assessment, we use a variety of market intelligence tools that give us the data needed to address the scope of a client project.The importance of utilizing several market intelligence tactics is that it gives us a broader understanding of the market, so we can translate our findings into a report that includes the relevant information to address client needs. Some of the tools we use at CTRS are open source intelligence (OSINT), primary research, PESTLE, and competitive analysis. The more ways to collect the data that exists out there in the market, the better we can fill in gaps for our clients and discover threats and opportunities that businesses in various industries need to be aware of. The more diverse the findings, the clearer picture we can create for our clients and the better we will be able to understand impacts and guide strategy. 

#5 It’s All About ROI

Is there a direct relationship between market intelligence and return on investment? The answer is simple: Yes. In-depth, rich research can seem like a big investment but the value it provides, could save a lot more than your investment in the future making it a worthwhile ROI. 

How little ROI would you earn if you have no idea who your customers are but need to find out before the launch? What happens when you spend thousands of dollars targeting an uninterested audience? Or what if you have this innovative product but are unsure of which segment will be the most receptive and thus most profitable? Let’s imagine you know who your customers are and what segment to enter, but have no idea about customer price judgement? You launch your product only to discover customers won’t pay the price you’ve used throughout all of your marketing efforts and sales initiatives and are projected to earn significantly less revenue to cover costs. 

These real-life examples are only a few of the countless possibilities that can occur when you don’t have all the answers you need. Investing in market intelligence research can save you money and avoid a wasted investment. It provides you with a clear target and the direction you need to follow in order to achieve your goals and avoid sunk costs. 

Final Thoughts 

Market intelligence can be complex but in reality the key to understanding it is simple: 

  • It gives you the insights you were looking for, as well as the answers to questions you hadn’t thought of yet. 
  • It provides a strategic path forward and allows you to stay ahead of the competition, understand your customers in a more direct way, and reduce sunk costs and wasted investment. 
  • It gives you the confidence to make strategic decisions, driven by the data that answers all your questions and gives you new areas of information you didn’t have before, 
  • It makes you adaptable. You have the data to guide your strategy, whether that is the original path or a required pivot, you have the competitive edge for success. 

Market intelligence bridges the gap between traditional market research, business intelligence and strategy. If you want the ability to predict the outcomes of your strategy with greater accuracy and ensure you have all the intel you need to make the best decisions, market intelligence is the next step.