is impossible for ideas to compete in the marketplace if no forum for
Articles from The Business Forum Journal
you trust your gut? Play it by ear? Follow your nose? In short, do you make
major marketing decisions by relying solely on your personal knowledge of your
industry, competitors and customers?
so, get ready for a slap in the face. Time and time again, expensive,
embarrassing mistakes are built on internal thinking, guesstimates and sacred
cows. Companies burn substantial resources on bad decisions and often have a
difficult time bouncing back.
large organizations can survive fiascos like the XFL, New Coke
and the Yugo, a smaller company may not be able to repair its
reputation or regain the confidence of customers, investors and the sales
force. Do you have the financial
cushion to survive costly mistakes?
wait for a major blunder to shake up your management team? Companies of all
sizes are using business intelligence to save money and time by making smarter
strategic decisions. (At Sharp Market Intelligence, 90% of our clients make
significant changes in direction based on our investigations.)
is business intelligence?
intelligence is a future-focused, strategic perspective based on the skilled
collection and expert analysis of current, comprehensive information. Itâ€™s
not spying or simple market research. It is
the best available insurance against making the wrong decision or missing
instance, have you ever been blindsided by an unknown or substitute
competitor? Has a competitor introduced something that you didn't know had
demand? Succeeded with a totally new distribution channel? Or captured a new
or niche customer? Or by using an unusual marketing approach?
you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, your organization is not
alone. Even in this, the Information Age, most companies are data rich and
information poor. They mine facts and generate reams of raw data, but produce
little or no intelligence.
are knowledgeable about the past, and confident about the information they
used to attain their present level of success. However, the rate and
complexity of change in the marketplace rapidly decreases the value of
historical information and conventional wisdom. When was the last time you
questioned your companyâ€™s or client's “facts?”
vs. information vs. intelligence
at the data!” old-school managers have been known to bluster. But data is
simply numbers or facts in a vacuum. It's discrete, scattered, and has no
larger meaning. Data is the first step in a process.
this: Revenues from XYZ Company were
$4.7 billion in 2000. This data is true, but not of much use. Step two,
putting data in a larger context, uncovers important information and greater
understanding: XYZ Company's revenues
increased 45% between 1999 and 2000, compared to the industry average of 20%.
Now the facts are a little more revealing.
to step three. Intelligence results when sufficient information is analyzed to
reveal critical insight and implications that lead to actions, strategies, or
decisions. For example: XYZ Company's revenues increased primarily due to acquisitions. That
intelligence provides a very different understanding than if the increase were
due to new products, or alternative uses, or development of a new customer
reading tomorrowâ€™s headlines, business intelligence delivers an advantage.
The process investigates, reveals and explores the entire
competitive environment in which your company operates. Itâ€™s the strategic
use of current, comprehensive, targeted intelligence that will help your
company succeed by making better decisions.
intelligence is a powerful tool that can be used immediately…or held until
additional supporting evidence makes even the most cautious manager more
comfortable. Either way, why not know now
what your competitors will discover later?
is the information?
information needed to develop business intelligence is usually not
online. While the Internet is a great resource, online and traditional sources
account for just 25% of available business information.
enormous amount of valuable business information is available, but not easily
located, and not online. This includes non-electronic trade and business
publications, newsletters, surveys and studies, reports and association
collections. And it goes deeper to include information from companies,
suppliers, distributors and major customers.
more and more about less and less
perusing a traditional printed newspaper exposed readers to everything from
world news to sports scores to comic strips. Thanks to technology, people now
track only the topics that interest them, and skip information with less
irony of the Information Age is that the public now has a narrower, not
broader, focus on their world. As a society, we know more and more about less
and less, and are more likely to be surprised by developments that slipped
under our radar.
former CEO, Robert Flynn, said that business intelligence is “is worth up to
$50 million per year to our company…in actions taken or mistakes
avoided." Even for smaller companies, an investment in business
intelligence can deliver big returns.
intelligence can uncover marketplace knowledge that is unknown or
underestimated by the rest of your industry. Subtle changes and shifts in the
market is how new competitors “muscle in” on your business.
Virgin Group. Richard Branson has started more than 200 companies in
industries in which he has no expertise. How? He exploited the fact that the
major players in those industries were not serving their customers well. Is
Branson, or someone like him, eyeing your field?
case(s) for business intelligence
CEO Harold Geneen noted, "Ninety-nine percent of all surprises in
business are negative.” In these brief case studies, each of our clients was
surprised at what they learned, but was able to improve or change their
decision before taking action.
A client's new division was preparing its marketing plan and deciding which
industries to target. They selected three industries they believed would be
most interested in their services, but sought verification before investing in
expensive marketing materials.
Industry #1 was a good candidate, but the client had underestimated the size
of the total market. Not only was the prospect pool larger, but many of these
businesses would need continuing services, and could prove quite important in
PR value. This finding helped the client to realize that they would have to
hire and train far more staff and, with the demands of this industry, they
might not have the resources to service the other two industries.
in Industry #2 were not interested at first, but stated that they would be
interested at a later date in the development of the service, once their staff
had experimented on their own. Industry #3 was very promising, but the client
had focused on the wrong segment of the industry. The correct target group was
both larger and more interested than the client assumed.
After additional study and confirmation, our client rewrote their marketing
plan, saving time, money, and pre-empting the competition.
2: Financial services
A successful Fortune 500 company had already invested millions of dollars in
anticipation of attracting new, young consumers who would be their customers
for life. However, they were unable to attract customers in the supposedly
"hot" arena. The company needed to find out what they didnâ€™t know
about the marketplace.
different industries each had several firms competing for the same new
business segment. Plus, certain players had longstanding alliances. The client
base was vastly different from what the company usually served, and
successfully influencing its vastly different culture would be nearly
Based on our extensive fact-finding and interviews, our client recognized that
the road to profitability for this new market would be high risk, and they
chose to cut their losses early. We didnâ€™t need to point out that had some
of the early funds been invested in business intelligence, later funds might
not have been wasted.
Client manufactured an ophthalmic product and wanted to compare their market
position with their competitors as part of their new strategy plan.
We investigated the top eight competitors as well as investigating their
suppliers and customers. In addition to the specific data that the client
requested, we captured and organized other valuable information into reports
on how each of the competitors and customers perceived themselves and each
other. Our client was shocked to find - industry perspective notwithstanding -
that customers viewed the product as a commodity and had little interest in
what the client thought was important (and using in their advertising
The client became more objective about their strengths and weaknesses and
realized their perspective was too insular. As a result, they undertook more
extensive research and successfully changed their marketing strategy to
reflect the realities of the market.
kick in the pants
matter now many publications you read, how many conferences you attend, how
much networking you do, your understanding of the marketplace is outdated.
Think you're the exception to the rule?
Sharp Market Intelligence, the vast majority of our otherwise savvy clients
had an incomplete, incorrect or obsolete view of the competition, distribution
channels, customer demographics, uses, substitutes, materials or other facets
of their business.
than 20 years of experience has shown us that companies in search of business
intelligence are knowledgeable about their industry—but want to be more so.
Simply put, they want to avoid surprises, make the best decisions, and be
first to profit from changes in the marketplace. Donâ€™t you?
a business intelligence mindset means leaving your comfort zone and navigating
the volatility of the marketplace. It means being alert to constant market
shifts and adjusting your plans accordingly.
example, the Experience Economy, “blurring,” and second-mover advantage
came into focus more than a decade ago. If you understand these concepts, how
have you incorporated them into your strategy? If you are unfamiliar with
these terms, how can you apply them to your business?
trends, triggered by aging Baby Boomers, the last presidential election,
heightened social responsibility, and other catalysts, are emerging and
growing in significance.
If youâ€™ve never been blindsided by unexpected change (the aforementioned slap in the face), itâ€™s just a matter of time. Consider this article a kick in the pants.
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