Market Clarity: You Suck, But You Can Improve!

Scott-Maxwell-500 by

Market Clarity is your top opportunity, whether you know it or not. The better your market clarity, the greater your ability to cut through the noise and gain awareness, word of mouth, and, ultimately, more customers in your target market segment.

Market Clarity is your number one business growth strategy. It is that simple!

Why Your Market Clarity Sucks

Most companies have very low market clarity (take the assessment here) and every company can create better market clarity, so what stops them? My experience leads me to four factors. First, it is overwhelming to look at the list of items that you need to get right to achieve a really high level of market clarity. Second, it takes some level of coordination across several departments to really nail your market clarity. Third, when people start working on their market clarity, they feel overwhelmed and confused before they really tune into their target market segment and gain true clarity. Finally, it takes discipline and tenacity, and a continuous improvement mindset to get true market clarity over time. These four factors add up to many companies undergoing half-hearted and unsuccessful market clarity efforts.

How to Improve Your Market Clarity

How do you overcome the impediments to greater market clarity? The answer is that this is a difficult goal to accomplish and you need a strong, long-term effort at the senior management level to make it happen. There are four management practices that will significantly raise your probability of success: prioritization, collaboration, iteration, and rigorous quarterly reviews at the senior management level:

Prioritization– First, you MUST prioritize market clarity as an important goal to obtain at the senior management level. Your could use the overall market clarity score as your S.M.A.R.T. goal, or you could choose one or more of the component parts that you believe are particularly good opportunities for improvement.

Collaboration– Second, you must assemble the right team to attack the issues and be accountable for the goal, particularly given that there are several functions that need to work well together if you are going to be successful. My favored approach is to have a standing weekly market clarity agenda item in your “Market Touch Point Council*” (a group that helps drive whole product and go-to-market priorities that includes key representatives from product management, product development, marketing, sales, customer service, and professional services). The Market Touch Point Council is responsible for achieving the S.M.A.R.T. goal and works to understand the core issues and opportunities, to agree on the action steps that will help to achieve the goal, and to review the results and activities from progress to date.

Iteration– You will never, ever get complete market clarity, and you can only get part-way there on your first try (unless you are extremely lucky). Market clarity is an iterative process, whereby each level you get to in each component of market clarity gives you insights into improving all of the other components. Don’t think in terms of reaching perfection with each iteration. Think in terms of making measurable improvements to one or more components of market clarity and using those results to inform your next iteration.

Rigorous Reviews– Every quarter, the team working on Market Clarity needs to check its progress, reflect on the work and results to date, and determine what the best prioritized actions are to improve market clarity the following quarter. This work then should be reviewed and discussed at the senior management level, and the final prioritized plans should be agreed to and committed on at the senior management level (along with updated S.M.A.R.T. Goals!).

Most Companies suck at market clarity, but you can improve!

*Some best practice companies have a Product Council and some have a Go-To-Market Council that helps to drive product and go-to-market strategy and execution decisions. My view is that both of these are extremely valuable to making the right decisions and driving the organization’s “touch points” with the market in an organized manner, but the groups also need to come together periodically and make sure that they stay aligned. I am calling this the “Touch Point Council” in this post.