In Part I of this blog, I addressed what to look for before engaging with a 3rd-party firm to discuss their offerings. Part II today covers the broad range of tools and services our team uses to add value, efficiency, or effectiveness. And I’ll mention again, neither my team nor I receive remuneration from any 3rd-party firm, whether mentioned in this blog or not. The exception is that I am a council member with expert networks where I speak on the process of building market intelligence teams.
Right off the bat, I have to say: I love working with 3rd-party firms. To that end, our team has a broad range of MI, CI, IT research, content, technology, and outsourcing firms that we use ad-hoc or under subscription today. Further, we constantly vet the list of existing vendors, test new vendor offerings, and search for vendors who provide a unique value-add service.
As MI practitioners, we know the process of creating intelligence is fairly straightforward:
- Scope the project effort, data sources, and deliverables
- Collect secondary & primary data
- Analyze the collected raw data
- Summarize and contextualize the findings
- Socialize the study and make recommendations
Steps #1, #4, and #5 are high in criticality, and we never outsource them to 3rd-party firms. Clearly, one can have the best raw data in the world, but if your team doesn’t know how to synthesize it, contextualize it for your company’s needs, and make recommendations from it, you’re not adding a lot of value.
For step #2, we frequently leverage 3rd-party information to complement our data collection efforts.
Types of Firms and Tools We Use
One of my favorite lines to the team is: “We better find a way to become more efficient and outsource parts of our work, or the company will do it for us.” To that end, we have the following tools in our toolbox:
Desk Research – One of our success stories is outsourcing secondary research, i.e., Desk Research, which really boosts our efficiency. For major studies, we aim for two-thirds of raw data coming from primary sources, such as interviews and custom surveys. But we readily rely on outsourced Desk Research to complement this primary research and for smaller, Quick-Turn projects. Our outsourcing partner is based in India, and we have been working with them for several years. They do excellent work, provide a good value, and at this point, understand our needs without needing a lot of communications back and forth.
CI Research / Market Research – we have a list of ~ten potential firms that we can use, depending on the timeframe of the project, technical requirements, and budget. These run from bespoke firms to consumer survey panels.
- Expert Networks – Expensive but good insights when you are pressed for time. Examples include GLG and Guidepoint.
- 3rd-party IT and Industry Research – Examples include SBD Automotive, Gartner, Forrester, IHS Markit, Counterpoint Research
Industry and Company Intelligence – We regularly read content from multiple sites:
- Free sites that cover Automotive, Transportation, and Logistics; technology influencers like Radio Free Mobile
- Paid business content – Including The Information, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s
- Digital content capture – One fascinating tool is Crayon’s ability to take a screenshot of a website, then a second screenshot days or months later that identifies any text, picture or links that changed. We’ve used this to:
- Identify a new Call-to-Action titled "Get Started for Free” and pricing structure indicating a competitor was targeting a different customer segment
- Track changes in a Fact Sheet where a competitor claimed they had "over 300 employees" and two months later it was "over 500"
- Learn that a partner’s name was removed from a company website (and the name removed)
- Company Research – D&B Credit, D&B Hoovers, Pitchbook, and Wall Street analyst reports are examples. D&B, in particular, can be quite valuable for certain unique data elements, but you definitely have to spend the time to understand what data is available and how you can access it.
Company Technology Detection – Interesting offerings that we have had decent success with. They scrape data from websites, documenting APIs used by the website, and where the site is hosted.
Specialized Insights – One start-up we have worked with provides data on human capital intelligence, i.e., a digital fingerprint of the skill set of the employees of a company. They are not quite there yet in terms of their offering, but we provide guidance from time to time to help them along and crystalize their offering for enterprises.
The Class of Firms We Never Touch
One class of firms we do not touch are market research supermarkets. You will know if you are dealing with a ‘supermarket’ if their reports cover everything from Soybean Crops, to Construction Concrete, to Global Geospatial Analytics & Artificial Intelligence. The coverage is always broad. Much too broad for the firm to specialize in any one topic.
I have not had good experiences with these firms – the market sizing numbers are suspect and they almost always miss critical components of the market. And this is true across the past three industries in which I have worked.
Who Do You Use?
Hopefully, this blog has been helpful. Would be interested to hear your thoughts in the Comments on useful 3rd-party providers.
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