By Ed Crowley February 9, 2004 -- Do you know in advance when one of your competitors is introducing a new service or product offering? What about price moves, do you know in advance when your competitor will be reducing prices? What about your competitor's promotional activities? How much do you know about your customers? Do you have a firm understanding of the customer preferences and behaviors? Do you know which of these behaviors have the potential to change the very nature of the market and your firm's future sales and profit potential? All of these questions are answerable if you have a strong Market Intelligence capability. What is Market Intelligence? Market Intelligence consists of four basic components: Competitor Intelligence: Understanding competitor promotional activities, culture, and strategies. Product Intelligence: Knowing how your products stack up against the competition, including a strong understanding of what products competitors will be announcing. Market Understanding: Understanding of the underlying market dynamics including what the current market size is, what each vendors market share position is, the market segments, and the market forecast including how each segment is growing or declining. Customer Understanding: What are key customer "care-abouts," how loyal are they to you, what is their commitment level to your company (or your competitors), and how is their behavior changing over time? The Market Intelligence Pyramid The real power of Market Intelligence comes from an ability to pull together information from each of these areas into a comprehensive understanding of the market and market dynamics. This requires good intelligence gathering processes; strong partnerships with market data providers; solid analytical skills and techniques; and, a skilled and focused Market Intelligence staff. So how important is Market Intelligence? Today's business battles are won or lost based on the creation of insightful Market Intelligence and managements willingness to act on this intelligence. In today's highly competitive business environment, a strong Market Intelligence quotient can make the difference between anticipating competitors actions and taking the initiative, and reacting to competitors actions after the fact (after your firm has lost momentum). Market Intelligence is a key weapon in today's business arsenal. For the next several months, the Monthly Hot Roll will focus on how to build a world-class Market Intelligence organization including how to turn your entire organization into a competitive gathering machine, tips and techniques for best of breed market analysis and reporting, and how to make Market Intelligence a basic part of the decision making process within your firm.