The Three Steps To Powerful Market Intelligence Part 1

In this first part of Nick Hague’s latest dive in to a world of knowledge, he comes to the surface with three steps towards powerful market intelligence.


Take a minute to think what it would be like if you had just a handful of customers and you intimately knew everything there was to know about them from their names and personal background through to their differing business needs. Just like a market trader who has a continuous finger on the pulse of customer preference, direct contact with customers allows a business owner to quickly evaluate what he is doing right or where he is going wrong. Such informal feedback is valuable in any company but hard to formalise and control in anything much larger than a corner shop.

However, it is also just as important to have information on your competitors and potential customers as it is to have information on your customers. As Sun Tzu stated in the Art of War:

“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.”

Having intelligence on your enemy is a key to winning military battles and so it is in business. Having the competitive edge can be the difference between winning and losing. No matter what the size of your business, there are two key questions that unlock the door for any strategic plan independent of whether you are delivering a product, service or what industry sector you work in. The two important questions are:

  • Where are we going?
  • How are we going to get there?

The only option for businesses is to grow because staying still is not an option as others will pass you by, while decline is a sure movement towards extinction. Knowledge is power but only through the collection of accurate market intelligence will any business be able to move forward with confidence in the decisions they make.

Market intelligence can be used to assist with more or less every decision faced by a company (whether they are operating on a local, regional, national or international level). The overriding purpose of most market intelligence is to help the company grow – to increase revenue, profit, or market share. Good market intelligence can therefore have a huge return on investment; just £20,000 – £100,000 spent on intelligence can generate or save many times that amount in extra customer revenue or the avoidance of a bad investment decision.

The problem is that with the advent of the internet and so much information at our fingertips, sometimes the difficulty is knowing where to start. The purposes of this paper are to hopefully make your life easier in knowing how to go about gathering market intelligence and what types of market intelligence will deliver useful insight.


There is no point reinventing the wheel if the information we are after is already under our noses. However, the problem normally is that very often people either don’t know the information exists or they don’t know how to locate the information in the particular format they are looking for.

The best starting point for any project is to get key personnel from different backgrounds of the business to take part in a workshop type format (from board level down encompassing marketing, sales, operations, HR, technical, logistics – the whole business). This type of meeting can be very rewarding to assemble knowledge on customers, potential customers and competitors that otherwise would be held in individuals heads. Using this workshop format also helps clarify what external information has been collected previously and therefore obviates the need to spend money on collecting the information again (gone are the days of Market Research Managers within large corporates who used to know what primary research had been commissioned in the past). A huge amount of learnings can be gathered using workshops, especially if guided by a skilled external moderator.

Following this workshop output there will no doubt still be gaps in intelligence but there is no need to spend vast amounts of money on primary research. The expert desk researcher can quickly and inexpensively dig out data from a wide variety of sources to answer many of the questions that have already been asked. With the recent explosion of social networking, this too has resulted in a lot of information that can be quickly gathered inexpensively. This is not to say that it will definitely be correct, but information that is in the public domain has at least been subjected to the test of public scrutiny and it can be then challenged internally to help judge its accuracy.

Part 2 will be published Wednesday 29th September.

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