Market Insight: The Key To Sustainable Competitive Advantage

At enlight, we’ve always promoted the importance of market insight – about customers, competitors and the industry – to drive strategy.   Here’s the way we break down the insights typically used by companies to manage their businesses:

1.  Native Insight:  the institutionalized views that drive financial and operational metrics; Native Insight reveals what the company believes is important and how they manage to achieve their goals; Native Insight can be informed by Collective and/or Market Insight or it can simply be ‘how we’ve always done things’

2.  Collective Insight:  the latent knowledge held by individuals in the company – if you were to aggregate this knowledge and coalesce it, you would reveal new opportunities and challenges that are typically not captured in Native Insight

3.  Market Insight:  new insight about customers, competitors and the industry, obtained from listening to, observing and learning from customers, thought leaders, suppliers and other information sources

4.  Unique Insight:  bringing together the best of the Native, Collective & Market Insights to establish an understanding of the market and opportunity that is based on the company’s unique capabilities and the market’s unique opportunities

All companies operate with Native Insight… the question is simply:  how good is it?  Some companies harness Collective Insight, which is an important exercise; but the majority of the companies that harness it stop there.  Harnessing Collective Insight can be informative and cathartic, but it is rarely accurate or transformational.  When companies acquire true Market Insight, they hold powerful information that can transform themselves and (often) the industry.  Unfortunately, even when companies obtain Market Insight, they typically view it as a periodic transaction or event, instead of an ongoing quest for insight.

The ultimate opportunity is when companies leverage Unique Insight to establish a sustainable and defendable competitive advantage… don’t get us wrong, this isn’t easy, but it pays off in profitability, stability and growth.  A word of caution, most companies need to progress along the Insight journey… it is very difficult to skip steps and sustain momentum.

In the HBR Blog post, “Diagnose Your Customer Culture“, Linda and Chris Brown point to seven components of a customer culture that are closely related to achieving Unique Insight. Their post hits the highlights of some of the challenges companies face when trying to achieve Unique Insight.

Strategic Alignment is one aspect of Native Insight – how do you run your company today?

Peripheral Vision and Cross-Functional Collaboration are two aspects of Collective Insight – how well do you cultivate and harness it today?

Customer & Competitor Insight and Foresight – are all aspects of Market Insight – how do you capture it today?

Where is your company on its Insight journey?  Are you ready to take the next step?


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