by August 8, 2013 0 comments

The cost of a wrong product / market decision can be very high, and crippling. It goes without saying that timely and actionable market intelligence is very important for organizations to enable sound business decision-making.
Larger enterprises have the luxury of dedicated market intelligence departments and budgets for market intelligence. However, this is not the case with a majority of the SMB’s, where there is neither a dedicated team /person in charge of market intelligence, nor the necessary budget to spend on large research studies and procuring syndicated market intelligence. This is much more evident in emerging markets such as India.
However, there are clear strategies that SMB’s can adopt to be “smart” about how they go about gathering and using market intelligence. Here are the key ones:
1. Better leverage of published information resources and existing information in the company
Today there is a significant amount of information available from publicly available resources, especially from the internet. However, many organizations are unable to leverage these resources primarily because they are unaware about them, and do not have the people who are trained to do this “information synthesis”.
[image_library_tag 769/82769, alt=”stage-gate-approach” ,default]2. Build in customer feedback mechanisms into the sales and the service Lifecycle of product and
service offerings
This involves feedback forms embedded with the offering, mandatory feedback surveys post customer service cycles, etc. This is nothing new, and many organizations, especially in the services sector already do this. However, most of these feedback systems are not treated seriously or administered properly. By ensuring that this is a “must do” practice, and designing these systems to be effective and efficient, valuable customer feedback can be gathered quickly and at a fraction of the cost of doing “customer surveys”. A fairly simple tactical step such as capturing the full details of consumers (for those industries where it is practical to do so; it may not be relevant for FMCG products for instance) while they are “acquired” can prove to be invaluable when it comes to gathering customer feedback in future.
3. Leverage sales and supply chain to gather customer, market and competitive intelligence
The organization’s own sales and service staff as well as channels are close to the end customers, with frequent interactions. They can be very effective in gathering customer feedback, looking out for key areas of dissatisfaction, or spotting potential opportunities. This is perhaps the most underutilized resource for market intelligence. SMBs should build market intelligence gathering into performance measures of the sales and service staff and channels, and incentivize those who deliver on this parameter. Therefore, institutionalizing market intelligence is the key.
4. Leverage social media as a key channel for customer and market intelligence in real time
Analyzing social media conversations can help organizations not only understand the buzz around their products and services, but also provide deeper insights into emerging customer needs. Social media monitoring, one of the services provided by blueocean market intelligence, can also be very valuable to address customer concerns more proactively. With the right tools and partners, social media analysis can be of huge strategic value to SMBs.
5. Use “free” / “DIY” tools and software packages – rather than invest in complex survey tools and solutions
If the SMB has their audiences online, then there are very cost effective ways of gathering customer feedback by leveraging and using free “DIY”online survey tools (DIY – Do It Yourself). Even for doing data analysis there are packages available today which are “free”. In fact for most of the basic survey analysis, spreadsheet software products would do the job. Here again the key is to build up the organizational systems and capabilities to enable this, or identify and partner with market intelligence vendors / consultants who can help in making this happen.
The key is for SMBs to adopt an integrated “stage gate” approach towards market intelligence, leveraging multiple information resources to enable a true 360 degree view of their market and customer. When any intelligence need arises, it is prudent to first look at existing information in the public domain, and within the organization. We define this as “stage gate 1”. If this does not address the intelligence needs, then look at the organization’s own customer and partner-facing staff, and the channels. This is “stage gate 2” where relevant social media intelligence can be the other valuable resource at this stage. If these two stages do not yield desired results, data will need to be collated from the market, if possible, using the organization’s own networks, else leveraging “free survey tools” (where relevant audiences are online, and online surveying will be represented). This is “stage gate 3”.
Only if all these stages are found insufficient, a new market intelligence project will need to be commissioned (Stage gate 4). Even if this phase is reached, by the virtue of having gone through the three stages, a certain level of information would already have been gathered. This would make the proposed market intelligence project significantly less expensive or time consuming. Moreover, the collated information about the other stages would enable the proposed project to be better designed, and the final results reflect the multiple information sources, ensuring that a complete 360 view of the customer and market is achieved.

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