Kevin Mulcahy, one of advisors in Summer Venture Program, recently held a lunch and learn session talked about market intelligence (also known as business intelligence and competitive intelligence). His profession at Fuld & Company the last few years helped him become a market intelligence expert. According to Mulcahy, market intelligence is information that can affect business decision, based on what you “hear” rather than what data analysis projects. Mulcahy explained the difference between market research and market intelligence: market research primarily focuses on why buyers buy whereas market intelligence focuses on how sellers sell. The purpose of the session was to address how to legally and ethically capture valuable and relevant insights on a market, the strategies of competitors, as well as structuring intelligence needs.

Kevin Mulcahy during lunch and learn

Market Intelligence

Mulcahy sharedtips and techniques on how to gather business information. The most important tip and technique in market intelligence is that there is no need to lie. He recalls conversation with an entrepreneur who called a competitor to ask about the industry. The entrepreneur disguised himself with fake name, email, and phone number. It turned out that the competitor was rather friendly to the entrepreneur about answering questions. Since the entrepreneur lied about his identity, he burnt the potential valuable relationship.

The takeaway from Mulcahy’s story is people in fact love sharing. The industry is like a club where many people come into the place and interact with each other. Companies care about their industry practices more than anything else. Trade shows are an example of how companies share information. If you make a list of questions and ask people around about those specific questions, people are willing to help. That is an important strategic step for gathering information that most sophisticated businesses do.

There are two common mistakes that people often commit during the process of gathering information. People do not filter which information is true and which is not. One should be careful about what people are saying is true or not since market intelligence is based on people. “If you are not asking right question to right people, you are not going to get right information,” says Mulcahy. People tend to reach out and ask questions to those who are the easiest to reach, not the right people. Second, entrepreneurs often like to talk about themselves when reaching out to the right people, not asking questions. If one does not ask questions, he or she is not gathering information. Mulcahy advises that one should decide purpose of meeting beforehand so that he or she can gather actual information by focusing on the purpose of meeting.

Market intelligence is an information gathering tool that can foster businesses. If one thoroughly understands how to gather right information from right people, he or she can grow a company along with other competitors. Collect information smartly asking the right question to the right people.