A Day in the Life of a Market Intelligence Champion
Market intelligence (MI) is one of today’s fastest growing business functions. It has joined sales operations, growth, and customer success as business functions that have gone from “new” to “must-have” in a few short years. This post examines just how the MI “rubber meets the road” –highlighting how MI units are typically structured, how they interact with other business units, and the day-to-day activities of MI team champion.
Market Intelligence Empowers Better, “Implicitly-Aligned” Decisions
The market intelligence function aims to disseminate a single, comprehensive, data-driven understanding of the marketplace throughout the organization. Actionable and accessible information obviously empowers executives to make specific decisions more effectively. But beyond individual decisions, there are macro-benefits as well – when an organization aligns around a single understanding of the marketplace, decisions throughout the organization become more effectively aligned with each other, even when there isn’t explicit collaboration across the organization. That’s the goal: data-driven decisions, all driven in the same direction because they are driven from the same quantitative understanding of the market.
The MI function typically resides within the marketing department, with the MI champion (typically a VP or Director) reporting to the Chief Marketing Officer. MI activities start there – in the marketing department – supporting decisions throughout the hierarchy, from the most strategic to the most tactical. But MI also informs decisions horizontally across the organization, extending beyond marketing to include R&D, strategy, growth, M&A, and more.
Access or Insights? Assessing Who Needs What
The MI champion is obviously charged with disseminating MI solutions and facilitating better decision-making throughout the organization. That dissemination – vertically up to the top, and horizontally across departments – is crucial to enhancing decision-making. In fact, a McKinsey study showed that organizations that perform strongly in their data and analytic capabilities tend to have both senior management involvement/buy-in, as well as broad dissemination throughout the organization.
Different people with different roles have different MI needs, and a key element of the champion’s job is assessing and meeting the needs of various constituents. Depending on those needs, she might…
- create user-friendly dashboards for high-level executives to monitor
- provide access and training for those who will regularly analyze data themselves
- oversee custom analyses and recommendations by her team
Dashboards: Summary KPI Overviews for Executives
Most senior executives don’t have the time or need to personally analyze MI data themselves. Instead, the champion interviews each member of the C-suite to better understand their individual business objectives, and then builds customized dashboards to meet their specific needs. Aligning metrics and KPIs with business objectives requires thought and collaboration; having done that, customized dashboards are easy to create with drag-and-drop widgets, and easy to share across the organization.
A dashboard for a Chief Digital Officer, for example, might focus on website traffic and engagement, along with detail about top referring sites and social media activity. A dashboard for the Chief Marketing Officer would likely include a higher-level look at traffic and engagement metrics, along with detail about lead generation, conversion rates (from visitors to leads to sales), and metrics of branded search (as a proxy for brand strength). For organizations explicitly organized around sections of the funnel, separate dashboards might be created for owners of the top, middle and lower funnel.
Many metrics in dashboards are typically shown trended over time, to help guide attribution of changes in KPIs to specific marketing initiatives, and to show results in the context of seasonal trends. Market intelligence as a field places great emphasis on comprehensive data, including data on competitors, so many MI dashboards include competitor performance on key metrics, the brand’s rank versus competitors, and so on. As needed, metrics would also be broken out by key geographic markets, by device/platform (desktop vs. mobile web vs. apps), and so on.
MI Training & Access: Empowering Tactical Decisions & Implementation
Moving downward from the C-suite, toward more tactical and executional parts of the organization, employees are more likely to need direct access to MI solutions. Here the MI champion’s role focuses on ensuring access and providing training to those who need to regularly “get their hands dirty” with customized analyses, particularly those who need to track performance iteratively over time. For example…
- Teams devoted to search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (such as pay-per-click advertising, or PPC) typically have several members who analyze MI data every day via a SaaS (software as a service) interface. They have internal data (such as Google Analytics) for their own site’s performance, but MI is crucial for competitive context – identifying top competitors, identifying the best performing keywords for each player, discovering who is winning on any keyword (or group of keywords), and monitoring traffic share of any keyword (or group of keywords) over time.
- Content marketing teams have internal data quantifying performance of their own content, but MI provides data on content (including specific web pages) performing well on competing sites, highlighting weaknesses and opportunities.
- Affiliate managers (and growth teams more generally) routinely analyze market intelligence data to evaluate the quality and relevance of visitors coming from current (and potential) affiliates. Again, the ability to look deeply into other sites is the key to success. Growth via affiliates and referrals requires an ongoing examination of visitor engagement on the affiliate’s site, the affiliate’s sources of traffic (strong direct and organic search traffic are usually a good sign), the brands the affiliate works with (by examining ads and outgoing links), etc.
Digging Deeper: Custom Analysis and Consulting
Sometimes the MI team is charged with answering specific and highly strategic business questions that require deeper analysis and insights from the analysts and data scientists on the MI team itself.
Sometimes these requests require data that aren’t available in MI SaaS platforms. Consider that clickstream information for millions of people quickly translates to petabytes of data (or more), so SaaS solutions by necessity often include only a sub-set of the full data. Digging deeper into the data might be required, either by pulling detailed MI data into internal systems via an Application Programming Interface (API), or customized analysis of the raw data itself. Information about sales and conversion rates, for example, often require custom analysis, as does “overlap” analysis (e.g., what percent of visitors shopped for your product on your site and on Amazon? Which site did they go to first?).
Often MI teams provide guidance on business decisions that are highly specific and highly strategic – issues such as strategic investments, partnerships, and potential mergers/acquisitions. Decisions such as “should we enter the market for X?” begin with data on market sizing, growth and competitive positioning. Assuming the go/no go strategic decision becomes a “go,” then MI data inform tactical decisions about implementation. Should we buy the market leader, or the new upstart, or become a new entrant? The hot market-leading pre-IPO startup that everyone is talking about has seen big subscriber growth, but is it sustainable, and do the new subscribers convert like the early adopters did?
Data for Better Decisions: The Market Intelligence Champion in Today’s Organizations
Today’s MI champions combine data savvy with consulting skills, and the ability to customize solutions for different constituents: summary dashboards for executives, training for implementation teams, and custom analysis to support specific decisions. They are charged with disseminating MI throughout the organization, but their ultimate goal is empowering better and more aligned decisions throughout the organization.