Market Intelligence – Inspiration from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

The Art of War - M-Brain

About 2,500 years ago military strategist Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, a book of systematic military strategies for generals to wage war successfully. What can company ‘generals’ learn from the book today in order to win their ‘business wars’ against their competitors?

Before starting up your business…

Imagine you have a great business idea – you are very confident about your business and you can’t wait to launch your products… But wait a minute! Let’s see what Sun Tzu says in the very first sentence of the book:

‘War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.’ *

Starting up a business brings you to the ‘business wars’ – competing with other companies in a market. The outcome can affect your business tremendously, either by succeeding with great profit or suffering a loss. Therefore, your market should be studied thoroughly before jumping to battle.  With sufficient market intelligence, you will be well-prepared to plan the best business strategy and take the right action.

What you need to know – Your market intelligence

What should be included in your market intelligence in order to ensure success in business? Sun Tzu said,

‘Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then be total.’ *

So, in the same order, you need to know your competitors, your company, your market and your business environment. To do this, your company can use certain tools, for instance, competitor analysis and competitor profiling for assessing your current and potential competitors; SWOT analysis for finding your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; market research for gaining market insight; and PEST analysis for understanding the macro environment around your company.

How much market intelligence is enough?

In Chapter 13 Employment of Secret Agents, Sun Tzu gave advice about how much information should be gathered in order to increase your success rate:

‘Generally in case of armies you wish to strike, cities you wish to attack, and people you wish to assassinate, you must know the name of the garrison commander, the staff officers, the ushers, gate keepers, and the bodyguards. You must instruct your agents to inquire into these matters in minute details.’ *

He meant every detail of your opponents and environment. For example, what kind of customers do you have? Is your product or service really what your customers need? Who are your direct and indirect competitors? What are they doing or planning to do?

Nowadays, ‘secret agents’ for business are mystery shoppers and market research companies that can gather first-hand information physically. On the Internet, there are millions of editorial and media sources containing useful information about you, your competitors and your customers. It would be very time-consuming and exhausting to search for the right information.

Let us be your ‘secret agent’

M-Brain’s market research & analysis services are based on both primary and secondary data. In addition, M-Brain has powerful technology like the media monitoring tool M-Adaptive and real-time media listening tool M-Live to automatically extract relevant online data from all over the world, plus human intellect to filter the information making sure you get only optimal amount of relevant information.

If you want a comprehensive platform where you can do the market research, access your competitive intelligence anytime and anywhere from your mobile or even share the information throughout your workforce, M-Brain’s Intelligence Plaza® is an efficient and less costly option. Most importantly, it has an automated alert system so you can swiftly respond to your market trends and competitors’ actions.

To update your market intelligence in the era of digitalization, we encourage you to join our Intelligence Masterclass in Helsinki on 9 November 2018 and learn about the digitalization trends and Smart Market Intelligence. If you are not in Helsinki, contact us and let’s discuss how we can improve your market intelligence or try our Smart MI solution!

*Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Translated by Samuel B. Griffith (2011). The New Illustrated Edition. Watkins Publishing, United Kingdom, pp. 91, 205 and 237.

Subscribe M-Brain newsletter!

If you liked this blog post, you might be interested in subscribing to our Global Newsletter

By subscribing you will be the first one to hear about the growing number of ways to benefit from market intelligence.

Follow us also on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!


Login to clientzone


So, you are interested in our monitoring services?

So, you are interested in our intelligence services?

So, you are interested in our advisory services?

Please, leave your contact information and we will get back to you shortly!



Your message has been sent!