By Ed Crowley June 28, 2004 -- In past articles we have discussed how Market Intelligence is an invaluable tool in making business decisions. But just having information is not enough. You need to know who to think about it, and more importantly, how to apply it to your business. Market Intelligence provides the forward looking view necessary to maximize your pricing, product or service positioning, and promotional activities. Market Intelligence extends beyond the traditional areas of marketing research and competitive intelligence to providing a complete view of the market and incorporating the analysis and assessments to turn this information into meaningful decision-making. The diagrams at right provide a visual representation of Marketing Intelligence. These can also be configured as a three-sided pyramid to represent the three aspects of Marketing Intelligence (information, people and processes, and communication). Why is Market Intelligence important? Market Intelligence is critical to the decision-making process since it provides the forward looking view necessary to maximize your pricing, product or service positioning, and promotional activities. For example, if you don’t know your competitor’s promotional plans or pricing strategies around variable data printing, you might drop your prices too low (sacrificing margin) to make sure you ‘get the business’ when price isn’t necessarily the deciding factor. Market Intelligence might instead show that your ability to manage data is much more important to your customer than mere price because they have more sophisticated projects planned in the near future following acquistion of another company. In today's global economy your competition is no longer limited to your local market or even your state. Even for a Fortune 500 firm, building a Marketing Intelligence capability is a daunting challenge. So, how can a mid-sized digital printing business ever invest the time and resources necessary to build a Marketing Intelligence organization? While it is a challenge, it is possible to build a Market Intelligence organization on a budget. While there are many approaches, these are a few tips and techniques to consider: Utilize a third party vendor to ‘outsource’ your basic information gathering and distribution. For example, you could hire a competitive analyst to gather competitive intelligence, track competitors' pricing, and provide a daily summary of key events. Or, for a much lower cost, you could contract with a Market Intelligence vendor to provide a ‘portal’ for your company which provides customized daily summaries of key competitive information (pricing, promotional activities, etc..) which is fine tuned for your needs. Another key source of marketing intelligence information is marketing research clearing houses. These are companies that do not conduct actual research themselves, but rather, they provide access to research provided by many different research houses. An example of this is Mindbranch. Often times, you can find research specific to your industry at a much lower cost than commissioning the research yourself. If your company is large enough to afford it, there is no substitute for having a full time market analyst on staff. However, for smaller companies, the next best alternative is to identify a Market Intelligence vendor that you have a high level of confidence in and then outsource your market intelligence work to that vendor. As with any outsourcing relationship, clearly identifying the ‘rules of engagement’ are critical. However, this can be very affordable relative to the cost of hiring in-house Market Intelligence staff. Whichever form your Market Intelligence gathering strategies take, remember that in today's global economy your competition is no longer limited to your local market or even your state. Your strongest competitor for digital printing, especially variable data work, may well be in another time zone and is using their own Market Intelligence to monitor everything you are doing--and adjusting their strategy accordingly. These are just a few of the ways you can obtain the Market Intelligence your business requires on an affordable budget. For more ideas, examine our web page at Additionally, we offer a newsletter, the Intelligence Briefing, which provides many tips and techniques for developing world-class Market Intelligence capabilities. Finally, these are a few web site links that may be helpful in developing your Market Intelligence capabilities. Additional Resources: TrendWatch Graphic Arts provides Marketing Intelligence services for the graphics arts industry. Mindbranch provides a ‘clearing house’ for Marketing Research services. Caslon & Company provides customized Marketing Research for the digital printing industry. InfoTrends/CAP Ventures provides a customized and generally available market research for several sectors of the printing industry.