Every Company Needs a Market Intelligence Function

Leadership
Stephen Kraus
July 8, 2018

Every Company Needs a Market Intelligence Function

 

Q: What do Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Clorox, Google and L’Oreal all have in common?

A: Besides being world-class brands, all have people dedicated market intelligence, one of today’s fastest growing business functions.

 

Companies increasingly realize that the boxes of yesterday’s organizational charts no longer map well to today’s business challenges.  New business functions are emerging to tackle new challenges and leverage new technologies. One of the hottest new functions? Market intelligence.

Market intelligence (MI) aims to create a comprehensive view of the entire business environment.  At SimilarWeb, for example, we focus on digital market intelligence, and aim to create a complete understanding of the digital world.  Every website. Every app. Across every device. In every country. Detailing every aspect of digital behavior, from traffic to engagement to the digital customer journey to conversion and beyond.  There are other flavors of market intelligence as well – social intelligence, location intelligence, app intelligence, technology intelligence, and more.

Comprehensiveness sets MI apart from more traditional foundations for making data-driven decisions.  Market research generally explores one specific slice of consumer life or marketplace behavior, and as a result market research functions are increasingly being subsumed within market intelligence divisions.  Business intelligence (and “big data” in general) too often focus on a company’s internal data, and lack the competitive context, benchmarking, and an understanding of broader trends that market intelligence provides.

 

Market Intelligence Isn’t the Only New Kid on the Block

Market intelligence is not alone as a “new” business function.  Spurred by the capabilities and complexity of technology, today’s org charts routinely include business functions that were relatively unknown just a few years ago…

  • Sales Operations as a business unit has gone from unheard of to ubiquitous, with Salesforce earning the success that comes to companies that define and own new categories.
  • Growth is relatively new as a standalone business function, but today Harvard Business Review tells us “Every Company Needs a Growth Manager.”  Silicon Valley has added its own hip spin, with “Growth Hacker” now a trending title in tech circles (it’s even been called the “new VP of Marketing”).

 

The Emergence of Market Intelligence: Reshaping Org Charts and Job Markets

The emergence of market intelligence as the new must-have business function is reflected throughout organizations, from the titles of individuals to the names of business units.  Leading companies across categories are devoting teams or entire divisions to MI, including (as mentioned above) leading brands such as Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Clorox, Google and L’Oreal.

A LinkedIn search for “market intelligence” returns over 230,000 results, and offers a roadmap of sorts to the field’s emergence.  Some organizations have a group dedicated to MI, with titles running up the hierarchy from the entry level to senior management:

  • Market Intelligence Research Associate
  • Market Intelligence Analyst
  • Market Intelligence Manager
  • Market Intelligence Senior Manager
  • Market Intelligence Associate Director
  • Market Intelligence Director
  • Market Intelligence Vice President

 

Other organizations feature hybrid titles that combine market intelligence with insights, research and/or analytics – the raw materials from which market intelligence is built.

  • Market Insights and Intelligence Manager
  • Consumer Insights, Market Intelligence and Trends Manager
  • Market Intelligence and Analytics Manager
  • Director, Market Research and Market Intelligence
  • Director, Global Market Intelligence, Insights and Analytics

 

Still other organizations have titles that blend market intelligence with customer or competitor intelligence, reinforcing the importance of information beyond a company’s internal metrics

  • Head of Competitive and Market Intelligence
  • Customer and Market Intelligence Manager
  • Competitive and Market Intelligence Manager
  • Market/Competitive Intelligence Director

 

Many organizations frame market intelligence roles as an element of strategy and business planning, reinforcing the crucial and strategic nature of the role.

  • Director of Market Strategy and Intelligence
  • Director of Strategy Insights and Intelligence
  • Business Planning and Market Intelligence Head

 

Expect more teams and titles related to MI, as job growth in the field remains strong.  In recent years, many market researchers have rebranded themselves as “insights” professionals, but an April 2017 study of the job market suggested this rebranding is missing the real growth market of intelligence, concluding: Intelligence is hot.  There are many job openings requiring skills related to business or market intelligence.  Indeed, the debate many people have had about “research” versus “insights” seems rather trivial when we consider the enormous employer demand for “intelligence.”

 

Market Intelligence as a Unifying Information Platform for the Entire Organization

As businesses strive to make more data-driven decisions, it is crucial for organizations – from top to bottom – to align around a single comprehensive understanding of the marketplace.  A recent McKinsey study reinforced this point. Among companies that perform highly in data and analytics, the top two success factors were senior management involvement in data/analytics, and an infrastructure for disseminating information throughout the organization.  Among low performing companies, the top challenges were the converse – a lack of internal champions, and the lack of an organizational structure to support data/analytics. In fact, high performing companies were twice as a likely to report that “data are accessible throughout the organization” and that employees had access to a “self-serve analytics capability” for custom analyses.

With a common and comprehensive source of information for the entire organization, companies take more integrated actions across functions.  Companies rallying around a MI function are seeing silos fall, and achieving breakthrough growth as a result.

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About the Author  |  Stephen Kraus

Stephen Kraus is Editor-in-Chief of Market-Intelligence.io, and is widely recognized as an expert on consumer insights and digital trends. He is author of three books, has delivered a TEDx talk, and appeared on television many times. Steve also serves as Chief of Insights for SimilarWeb, a market intelligence firm that aims to track usage of every website and app in the world. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University, where he twice won Harvard's award for teaching excellence.