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Unless you operate a pretty swanky athletic facility built to withstand the elements, your business doesn’t exist in a bubble. 

Instead, it’s just one part of a diverse ecosystem of direct competitors, indirect competitors, and noncompetitive-but-nevertheless-adjacent offerings. And guess what? You’re competing against all of them for mindshare and your prospects’ hard-fought budgets.

As such, it is utterly imperative that you understand your market, which is to say, your

  • Customer (and their problems)
  • Competitors (primary, secondary, and tertiary)
  • Product (and its place in the broader market)
  • Market (current share and growth opportunities)

In other words, you need to engage in some good old fashioned market intelligence

In this post, we’ll cover:

Let’s get into it.

What is market intelligence?

When it comes to understanding and acting on what’s happening with competitors, customers, and partners - many companies are underinvested. In fact, most operate in an informational vacuum.

How are competitors shifting messaging and positioning? What are the most meaningful product and pricing changes in your market? Are companies in your space shifting marketing investment to new platforms? What’s their hiring plan? What’s their partner strategy? Are they winning or losing customers at an accelerated rate? What content strategies are working for them? 

Most companies can’t answer these fundamental questions. They operate as if they’re alone in the market. That being said… the best companies in the world invest in capabilities to bridge this internal-external information gap.

By. Leveraging. Market. Intelligence.

Market intelligence encompasses any and all information that is pertinent to your industry, including your competitors, customers, prospects, partners, suppliers, distributors, and regulators. Generally speaking, companies invest in market intelligence with the intent of mitigating risk, simplifying decision-making, accelerating revenue, and increasing longevity.

What are the types of market intelligence?

As mentioned above, market intelligence can be broken into four distinct categories: customer, competitor, product, and market.

Type of market intelligence #1: Customer Understanding

What is it? A nuanced understanding of who you’re selling to. 

Why does it matter? Customer intelligence allows you to build deeper, longer-lasting customer relationships. Customer intelligence helps you answer key questions about your buyer personas; after all, you can’t craft a resonant b2b value proposition without knowing your customer and, perhaps more importantly, what keeps them up at night.

Type of market intelligence #2: Competitive Intelligence

What is it? Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process of capturing, analyzing, and activating information related to your competitive landscape.

Why does it matter? Done right, CI empowers everyone at your organization to make decisions more confidently and execute responsibilities more effectively.

CI empowers:

  • Product managers to more efficiently set and execute roadmap priorities
  • Product marketers to develop differentiated positioning statements and messaging
  • Brand marketers to develop differentiated narratives, campaigns, experiences, etc.
  • Sellers to navigate the high-pressure moments that make/break net new opportunities
  • Account managers to navigate the high-pressure moments that make/break renewals
  • Corporate strategists to identify opportunities for partnerships, acquisitions, etc.
  • HR managers to attract and retain top talent
  • Executive leaders to more efficiently allocate resources

As such, it’s an essential component of your overall market intelligence strategy.

Type of market intelligence #3: Product Intelligence

What is it? Product intelligence is the process of aggregating and analyzing user data in order to develop and deploy solutions that improve the customer experience. 

Why does it matter? You know your customer. You know what the competitive landscape looks like. In order to maintain and grow market share, your product needs to deliver on its initial promises and continue to improve--through net-new functionality or streamlining existing functionality. Tools like Mixpanel, for example, allow you to see how customers engage with your product, allowing you to quickly identify flaws and uncover data-backed evidence to support feature development, both of which can improve UX and, ultimately, bolster retention.

Type of market intelligence #4: Market Understanding

What is it? Defining the ceiling.

Why does it matter? As your market gets more competitive, you might consider geographic expansion. Perhaps instead you’ll go upstream, focusing on the enterprise instead of SMBs. Developing a comprehensive understanding of the opportunity that exists (TAM // SAM // SOM in fundraising parlance) will allow you to determine where to start and/or pivot to when the competitive landscape heats up.

Using market intelligence to gain a strategic advantage

You know what marketing intelligence is and the components from which it is built: Now let's dive into its practical application.

Market intelligence is a three-part process: aggregation, analysis, and activation.

In the aggregation phase, you’re gathering competitive intelligence. This is inarguably the most tedious component of market intelligence (unless, of course, you automate it with Crayon) as it involves gathering primary and secondary data from myriad sources. Customer interviews. Product usage metrics. SWOTs. Each of the buckets of market intelligence need filling before any (comprehensive) work can be done.

Once you’ve gathered your market intelligence, you need to “connect the dots.”

As an example, let’s say your goal is to help your sellers win more deals—specifically by differentiating your email marketing tool from that of Competitor X. In the research phase, you:

  • Interviewed your own customers
  • Collected reviews of Competitor X’s tool from G2
  • Reviewed win/loss notes from your CRM
  • Pulled product usage data from Mixpanel

You notice a pattern: The most common cause of frustration across this competitor’s customer base is the inability to create multi-touch campaigns. And sure enough, your win/loss data reveals that, when your sellers do beat this competitor, it’s often because of this functionality.

Finally, the most crucial step: turning your findings into actions. 

There are several ways you could activate the findings from our example. You could:

  • Update your Competitor X battlecard to include your newly discovered differentiator
  • Train your sellers to lean on this differentiator in discovery calls and demos
  • Partner with your content team to create new materials related to multi-touch campaigns

In this brief example, you deployed market intelligence (primarily customer, competitor, and product) to gain a strategic advantage over a primary competitor.

Market intelligence vs competitive intelligence

As discussed in more detail above, market intelligence refers to the gathering and analysis of customer, competitor, product, and market data. Competitive intelligence, on the other hand, is a subset of market intelligence that deals exclusively with, you guessed it, competitors. 

Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process of capturing, analyzing, and activating information related to your rivals. As of 2021, nearly two-thirds of businesses say they've yielded positive returns on their investments in CI. It’s an extremely powerful thing! (We would know). 

When it comes to the development of positioning and messaging, CI is perhaps the most important discipline beneath the market intelligence umbrella, as it allows you to develop an understanding of how similar solutions are sold to your target customer, which is essential in ensuring some semblance of differentiation.

How do you gather market intelligence data?

In a world shaped by COVID-19, market intelligence is arguably more critical than ever before. 

As a result of the pandemic, businesses have had no choice but to learn how to pivot—and pivot quickly. The organizations around you are making changes—to their product strategies, their go-to-market strategies, their tech stacks, etc.—at dizzying rates, and if you don't stay on your toes, you're at risk of losing out to competitors that do.

Here are the top 5 tools we recommend:

Market intelligence tool #1: Your CRM

Focus: Customer

What is it? Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the place where prospect and customer relationships are managed--everything from what you know about someone to how you’ve engaged with them. Salesforce and HubSpot are the most common CRM solutions.

Why should you be using it for market intelligence? Your CRM is a goldmine of customer insights. It’s the single source of truth for engagement. It’s the perfect place to kick off customer-centric market intelligence gathering.

Market intelligence tool #2: Crunchbase

Focus: Competitor + Market

What is it? Crunchbase is a platform with multiple user personas, but for our purposes, it’s a tool that affords access to market trends and competitive intelligence data. 

Why should you be using it for market intelligence? It allows you to monitor and identify industry trends as they happen, keep tabs on companies in your industry that are raising, and more.

Market intelligence tool #3: G2

Focus: Competitor + Market + Customer

What is it? G2 is the world’s largest and most trusted tech marketplace where people can discover and review software.

Why should you be using it for market intelligence? Because it’s a fantastic place to understand your competitive landscape, the various markets (categories) in which your business “competes,” and read honest customer reviews of both your product and your competitors’. There’s no better (free) way to contextualize your place in the market.

Market intelligence tool #4: Mixpanel

Focus: Product + Customer

What is it? A powerful, self-serve product analytics to help you convert, engage, and retain more users.

Why should you be using it for market intelligence? Mixpanel helps you get to know their users and understand their pain points once they’ve become paying customers. It helps you uncover which features are popular, who your power users are, and the behaviors tied to long-term retention. Mixpanel also provides unparalleled insights by allowing you to build funnels, see top user flows, create cohorts, and more with just a few clicks (no more SQL).

Market intelligence tool #5: Crayon

Focus: Competitor

What is it? The best competitive intelligence solution on the market.

Why should you be using it for market intelligence? Crayon’s award-winning competitive intelligence software platform helps your organization see and seize opportunities so you can create a sustainable business advantage. automatically captures and categorizes insights, tapping into millions of sources across the internet, freeing up your schedule for the analysis and activation that form the foundation of your competitive advantage.

Unlock actionable market intelligence with Crayon

Enterprise value isn’t created by market intelligence, it’s created by the decisions, actions, and strategic insights that result from market intelligence.

You don’t just need market intelligence (read: raw data), you need a prescription for action. A playbook that helps figure out how to use intel to drive action, which is why we’ve woven it into our platform, methodology and training process. 

What are you waiting for? Request a demo of Crayon today!