Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marketing 101: Developing Marketing Information


Next in our discussion of Marketing Information Systems, we're going to explore Developing Marketing Information.  Marketing Information Systems rely on multiple types of marketing data.  As a Marketing Manager, you need to stay on top of creating and maintaining these data sources that are vital to your ability to make strategic marketing decisions.  You can obtain the data you need from internal databases, marketing intelligence, and marketing research.

Internal Data Sources
Internal Data is usually your first stop when doing marketing research.  Internal data consists of your collections of electronic data.  This data contains consumer and marketing information, and it is usually created from existing data sources inside your own business.  This data comes from numerous sources.  Your accounting department keeps records of sales, costs and cash flows.  Your operations department will have data on production schedules, logistics, and staffing.  Your own marketing department will have information on your customers, their transactions, their demographics, psychographics, and buying behaviors.  Your customer service representatives will have data on customer satisfaction, and any service issues that they deal with.  (Side note: if you do not have anyone devoted to customer service in your business, seriously think about hiring someone)  Your sales department has tons of valuable information. They will have reports on your resellers, activity of your competitors, and your channel partners will have data on point-of-sale transactions.  All of this data can be found inside of your Marketing Micro-environment.

Internal data is usually faster to get ahold of, and much cheaper to use, but there are potential issues to be aware of.  First, your own internal data may be incomplete, and it might not contain the data you really need.  Second, often that data is not in the right form you need to use it.  For example, sales data usually will need to be converted from existing financial reports into a format that can be used for evaluating your customer segments, your sales force, or your channel performance.  Third, data ages quickly.  In fact, it ages immediately.  It is always old.  Data is only as fresh as that date it was collected.  Keeping data current takes a lot of man power and time to update.  There must be a staff person dedicated to this task at all times.  Fourth, managing your data requires data backup, higher end PC's for transforming data, and more advance reporting techniques depending on how you want to look at your data.

External Data Sources
Eventually you will run out of usable data inside your own walls. Inevitably you will have to do some additional research, depending on the data requirements you have, and the reports you are looking to create.  It's time to do some Marketing Intelligence.  Marketing Intelligence is the systematic collection and analysis of publically available information about your competitors and other developments in the marketplace.  Marketing Intelligence aims to improve your strategic decision making, helps you assess and track your competitors actions, and can give you an early alert of new opportunities and potential threats coming from outside your own walls.

The practice of, and the "art" of Marketing Intelligence, has grown exponentially as more businesses are "spying" on their competitors.  Common Marketing Intelligence practice has grown to include interviewing competitors staff, benchmarking competitor's products, doing research online, attending trade shows, and even some occassional dumpster diving.  There is also a wealth of publically available information online.  You can monitor publically published information - such as product reviews, SEC filings, pubically available financial records, annual reports, business publications (corporate magazines that go to partners), press releases, advertisements, and competitor's websites.  It is also possible to acquire information from competitor's suppliers, your own resellers, and competitor's major customers.  All of this information provides a wealth of information about your competitor's strategies, markets, new products, and other company happenings.

In my next post I will cover a number of free and paid database services that you can use in your marketing intelligence endevors.

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