How to Demonstrate Market Intelligence’s Impact on Commercial Units

September 15, 2014. According to M-Brain (formerly GIA)’s Market Intelligence Trends 2020 survey, 64% of respondents agreed that market intelligence will be integrated into other organizational functions by the year 2020, with 63% saying it will evolve into a management consultancy position. Jens Thieme, Global Head of Marketing Pharma and Biotech at Lonza, a multinational, chemicals and biotechnology company headquartered in Basel, couldn’t agree more.

He says that “market intelligence is not a desk job anymore” and that the market intelligence manager needs to be a friend to many internal stakeholders. In this interview with Thieme, he answers questions on how market intelligence managers should befriend commercial managers in order for intelligence functions to impact their businesses for the better.


How can we identify commercial processes that require market intelligence expertise?

“Pretty much all the commercial areas, where business decisions are made, should base their decisions on clear views of market insights, the voice of the customer and competitive dynamics. As the world moves faster and produces information and data in staggering speed and amounts, it is becoming more transparent “¦. but not more predictable! It overwhelms commercial decision makers in all areas. They need help!

In order to identify internal commercial processes that require market intelligence expertise, you can take any commercial unit that does not enjoy maximum market intelligence support and look at well-known and supported business excellence theories. Learn how the commercial managers tend to visualize business activities and processes. Then start to identify where market intelligence is currently not involved in but should be. Next, run a workshop with the leaders from such functions, to establish the much needed transparency of process gaps and to directly offer market intelligence deliverables where missing.

Concentrate on one or two quick wins and a small number of improvements with big, tangible value.

Or take this other example. You can identify how internal or external market research is being conducted, if competitive threats are properly analyzed, if loss-bid analysis is conducted, how the voice of the customer feeds into the value propositions that the sales function uses etc. Find out what are the processes, where does content flow and above all, what can market intelligence offer to improve all of that. Remember, data without action is nothing more than overhead cost.

Here again, find someone who agrees with the improvement potential, run a “pilot with a friend” who can help “sell” the improvement internally.

Consequently, you should demand that the process owners include the identified missing market insights and re-communicate the process into the teams.”

What keeps commercial managers from seeking market intelligence expertise?

“Many commercial activities and functional areas evolve over time; mostly in themselves and oftentimes not in concert with functions like market intelligence. Commercial managers have to cope with tough key performance indicators (KPIs) and pressure to deliver business results. This does not leave much room and readiness to second-guess what might be missing in the decision making process.

Moreover, less complex businesses with good market insights and a direct line to the “customer’s voice” might not feel the need for more in-depth research and analysis.

I would also mention another human element: business leaders don’t like to admit that they need help when they believe they already have the best insights. Such commercial leaders tend to be strong players who want to demonstrate that they own their turf ““ without much support from others. Unlike the CEO or executive committee member that might fully understand the value of market intelligence and lend top level support to the intelligence function, it is often the middle management who are very close to the market that will react this way, even though they are likely to have the most to gain.

As business grows and the environment becomes more complex, commercial managers do not always have the skills and processes in place to produce the answers to questions from decision makers.

In some circles, it can be observed that strategic thinking and planning cycles suffer from a lack of acceptance. Like any cultural change, this requires significant effort to overcome. Why? Because it requires us to challenge a belief system and convince very busy people to become even busier in order to find out what they could gain when some gaps are closed. Doesn’t this sound familiar to all of us?”

What can we do to overcome such soft factors?

“Here is what you can do. I call this “Piloting with a Friend”. Basically, you need to find “friends” of the idea that decision makers need market intelligence expertise, and then expand this discussion to a point where enough voices carry a cry for help.

The first step is to identify one example where market intelligence could have helped to support a better decision with the initial “friend”. This is an important point. The higher your “friend” is in the hierarchy, the more promising the impact. Have this “friend” communicate the before-and-after effects of market intelligence, along with a proposal for internal change, including the process, skills and whatever else it takes, and create new believers along the way. Bring the new believers on board with the idea and run similar pilots.”

Can you please provide an example of “Piloting with a Friend”?

“Your company’s marketing expenditure includes a significant investment in trade shows and conferences. The marketing department helps to erect a booth and fill the booth with traffic via pre-show campaigning. Sales executives meet, greet, dine with and negotiate with prospective customers from the event, and hopefully they also close deals, improve market reputation and extend reach.

Back in the home office, some managers argue that the marketing budget is too high. The call for evidence of return on investment is not answered. At the same time, the same managers scratch their heads over capacity increase in one section of the business and wonder how customers, suppliers and competitors might react to it. How much is rumor, and will it change the company’s competitive dynamics?

This is where market intelligence can build a very valuable bridge and trial out “Piloting with a Friend”! First, design a trade show intelligence tool kit using a war room concept. This means you prepare a SharePoint location, templates and simple tools to gather content prior to the show and develop that content at the show in a virtual or actual war room during the event.

Have a “friend” in need (ie. one of the head-scratching managers) to sponsor the market intelligence function to run the process at the next trade show. Lead the pre-show preparation of Key Intelligence Topics (KIT’s) and instruct sales on the process, and educate on ethical interviewing techniques. Have the sponsor run the war room at the show with market intelligence support once a day, as a wrap-up meeting or extra exercise during a working lunch or in a breakfast setting to assign new tasks, until the KIT’s are sufficiently answered. The goal is for your sponsor-friend to return to the headquarters and present a report with a business plan to top management, pointing out the role your market intelligence team played in coming to these insights and conclusions. Ensure the business plan includes hard numbers from which you can clearly derive market intelligence’s impact. In this way, the marketing department can demonstrate the value of the trade show expense and the manager can shine with a solution that might very well be a strong competitive differentiator.

Now it simply takes line management to throw their support and appreciation behind this example and ask other groups in the organization to apply this as a new business practice. Homerun!”

Any other suggestions?

“Yes. Become a master of dialogue and base the dialogue on these two questions. First, what does the data do? Second, how will my work help your decision?

Market Intelligence is not a desk job anymore – it is evolving to one of internal consultancy. So get involved, understand business processes up to the decision making point and champion any market insight improvement along the way. If you stick to these and similar concepts, someday the market intelligence manager will be called the “friend” by many.”


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