business-analysisMaking decisions about product and service offerings can make or break your success as a business. Business owners, executives and product managers need good information and data to make the most informed product decisions.

This critical information about markets, customers, competitors and technology is called market intelligence. Market intelligence combined with analysis provides market insight and allows better decision making.

Here are seven tips for better market intelligence:

1. Develop a process: Your ability to harness, manage and analyze good data is vital to your success. Assure you develop a process for gathering, storing and utilizing market intelligence. Take the time to train your team and invest in a robust market intelligence process. It's an investment with an excellent return.

2. Gather data when you lose: Often when a company loses an order we ask the salesperson what happened and they offer an opinion. It's important to drill down and really understand why you lost an important order. I recall a situation years ago where a salesperson's opinion was very different from what ultimately was the actual reason we lost this large order. Understanding the real reason for the loss assures you are far more likely to choose correct strategies to win the order in the future. Trust, but verify.

3. Attend trade shows: You should attend trade shows and use them as a fact-finding mission. Trade shows are like one-stop shopping for market intelligence. There are industry analysts, suppliers, customers and industry media all in one location. Use your time wisely to engage with as many people as possible and utilize your listening skills. It's always best to plan ahead for trade shows, to make the best use of your limited time there. Make sure you stay at the hotel suggested by the show organizers. The "show hotel" may cost a little more than other hotels in the area, but you will have far more opportunities to gather information. You can also consider hiring someone, who does not work for your company, to gather information at trade shows, or speak with an industry analyst. This "stealth mode" of gathering market intelligence can provide added benefits.

4. Take a customer to lunch: Understanding your customers, their challenges and their perception is one of the best ways to gain market insight. Ultimately it is your customer's perceptions that determine your brand positioning. Spending time with your customers, listening to them and acting on these insights, can provide you with an amazing competitive advantage.

5. Build a database: Data can be hard to find as time moves forward and people leave an organization. It's worthwhile to build a central database of your market intelligence. By indexing this data it becomes easy for your product managers and executives to have access to the best information when making decisions.

6. Assure you have good data: It takes good, accurate data for the best results; never forget this point. Good data means better decisions. Accuracy can be improved by using multiple sources and considering how any specific source may be biased. Bad information leads to poor decisions. Ensure you are gathering good data.

7. Train your team: You cannot gather good data that provides market intelligence unless you have a team of professionals that understands how to gain the best market insights. Assure you have a team that is trained not only on how to gather market intelligence, but how to analyze and use the data for better decision making. As an example we offer a product management boot camp that covers this subject in detail, among others.

Developing market intelligence takes work as well as a robust methodology. It's not a one-time event, but a continuous process. The absence of good data leads to suboptimal decisions. Good data leads to better decision-making and success for your organization.

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