The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, the McKinsey Report, Sales and Marketing Management, and the Financial Times are good to read to learn about general business trends. All discuss current trends, regulations, and consumer issues relevant for organizations doing business in the domestic and global marketplace. All of the publications are online, although you might have to pay a subscription fee to look at some of the content. Some of these publications have Asian, European, and Middle Eastern editions.
Other publications provide information about marketplace trends and activities in specific industries. Consumer Goods and Technology provides information consumer packaged-goods firms want to know. Likewise, Progressive Grocer provides information on issues important to grocery stores. Information Week provides information relevant to people and businesses working in the area of technology. World Trade provides information about issues relevant to organizations shipping and receiving goods from other countries. Innovation: America’s Journal of Technology Commercialization provides information about innovative products that are about to hit the marketplace.
Trade shows are another way companies learn about what competitors are doing. (If you are a marketing professional working a trade show for your company, visit your competitors’ booths and see what they have to offer relative to what you have to offer.) And, every field has a trade association that collects and disseminates information about trends, breakthroughs, new technology, new processes, and challenges in that particular industry. The American Marketing Association, Food Marketing Institute, Outdoor Industry Association, Semiconductor Industry Association, Trade Promotion Management Association, and Travel Industry Association provide their member companies with a wealth of information and often deliver them daily updates via email.
Salespeople provide a vital source of market intelligence. Suppose one of your products is selling poorly. Will you look to newspapers and magazines to figure out why? Will you consult a trade association? Probably not. You will talk to your firm’s salespeople.
Perhaps more than anyone else, salespeople know how products are faring in the marketplace, what the competition is doing, and what customers are seeking.
A system for recording this information is crucial, which explains why so many companies have invested in customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Some companies circulate lists so their employees have a better idea of the market intelligence they might be seeking. Textbook publishers are an example. They let their sales representatives know the types of books they want to publish and encourage their representatives to look for authors among the professors to whom they sell.