Making the most of market intelligence

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Market intelligence is often thought of as a product that you can buy. In reality, it is an ongoing process that requires a mix of internal expertise and external vendors working together to provide high-quality data and analysis, which can allow executives to make better and faster decisions if used in the right way.

Here are four tips on how to use market intelligence to improve your business:

1) Keep your sales force in the know.

In today's competitive sales environment, information is your strongest weapon. The sales force that can most effectively stay on top of the daily changes in the market will be seen to have more credibility and expertise by prospects and customers. If a competitor's new product gets a bad review or if changing preferences in the market make your product more desirable, market intelligence can help you locate that information quickly, package it with other relevant information and distribute it automatically to the sales force when they need it most-now.

2) Measure marketing ROI.

With growing scrutiny on budgets and a broadening media landscape, marketers are being forced to provide increased measurement of their marketing ROI. With the move towards "buzz" campaigns (e.g., Carl's Jr.'s Paris Hilton ad), measuring the impact of an ad or campaign can involve a lot of variables. By employing market intelligence solutions, marketers are able to measure the reach, tone and ad equivalency of their unpaid media in real time. Standardized measurements allow marketers to move one step closer to integrating PR and advertising into a coherent strategy.

3) Integrate competitive intelligence into your marketing mix.

Are you missing an opportunity to capitalize on your competitors' shortcomings and your own successes by being inwardly focused when developing campaigns? According to a recent CMO Council survey, only one-third of American companies have a formal competitive intelligence process in place. Unpaid media is one of the richest resources for understanding your competitors' marketing moves, messages and weaknesses. Integrating competitive intelligence into your marketing cycle, from planning to measurement, will improve results and increase the value of marketing to other business segments.

4) Objectively manage corporate reputation.

Try telling your CEO that the company's reputation as a leader has become vulnerable based on recent changes in the marketplace. "Prove it" is what you'll hear. Corporate reputation initiatives will not receive appropriate levels of internal support until marketers bring the quantitative rigor to the practice that today's executives expect from every division of the company. With the right market intelligence strategy and solution, you'll have real-time analytics to show executives where the opportunities are and the data to prove it when mistakes are being made. You'll also have the insight to suggest new strategies to defend and build reputations, and protect product brands.

Deborah Eastman is chief marketing officer of Biz360, San Mateo, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected]

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