Archive for the ‘Market Intelligence’ Category
Small companies, namely those employing fewer than 50 people, account for over 99% of all businesses in any country. They are run by people who know their trade. Most of them have been in existence for more than 10 years compared to the job hoppers in large companies who switch positions like musical chairs. The owners of small businesses have seen the good times and bad times and they know how to deal with them.
Small businesses are chameleons and able to adjust quickly to change. By their very nature they are optimistic although typically not risk takers. Once their business is up and running, the proprietor will look after it like a baby.
Small businesses rent properties, buy utilities, spend their money at local wholesalers, and require the services of lawyers and accountants. People selling to a small business do not need a purchase order number. The decision-maker who writes the check is very often the person that picks up the phone. Things happen quickly and easily in small businesses compared to larger organizations.
Small businesses tend to drive innovation. Big companies innovate processes rather than products. In a swathing generalization: Large companies can be both slow at adapting and very defensive of their strong positions, whereas small businesses have a greater ability to be nimble and have, in effect, almost nothing to lose by trying out new ideas.
Governments and large corporates do not understand small businesses. Their culture is completely different. Big businesses speak and sell to big customers and do not comprehend the culture and language of small businesses. They are missing a huge opportunity.
Understanding small businesses is the starting point of doing business with them. It is not enough to think about their trade and activity. Knowing whether a company supplies accounting services or makes X-ray machines is not particularly helpful. It is more useful to know if the company has plans for growth or cash flow problems, or if it is traditional or modern in its business methods. This type of segmentation will ensure that communications aimed at small businesses resonate.
To do business with small companies, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of them in terms of their attitudes and what drives them, how they behave and most crucially what their needs are. Small companies are the Cinderellas of the business world; finding a glass slipper to fit them would make them excellent partners.
Contact Caroline Harrison: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia Cupman this week discusses how to drive excellence in companies.
I am always intrigued by what people think drives excellence in companies. The common thread in everything that we are asked to do in our search for market intelligence is to find the nuggets and insights that show how companies can improve – how they can beat the competition.
The search for excellence has attracted many authors and ex-McKinsey consultant, Tom Peters, has written widely on the subject. In his book "In Search Of Excellence" (1982), Peters nominated GM (among others) as a model of distinction. A lot has happened since then and as we know, foreign competition and a lack of focus, perhaps tinged with some arrogance, have seen many of the paradigms of excellence fall from grace.
In his original work, Peters suggested eight themes result in excellence:
Like all good business gurus, Peters has developed his thinking, and authored an article recently in the Financial Times (29th August 2011), adding four further "obsessions" which he believes drive excellence.
Understanding what drives excellence in business is the Holy Grail. Market research is not carried out to provide an elegant description of markets. Rather it is the strategic listening that Peters refers to. It is about understanding and spotting meanings; in particular, the opportunities that can provide a comparative advantage or help avoid a disaster.
I would like to add a fifth theme that will drive excellence: an obsession with intelligence – knowing more than the competition and using this knowledge more effectively than the competition.
B2B International is pleased to announce the dates of its upcoming training courses in Shanghai: On Thursday, 22 September 2011, we will be running a Market With Intelligence course, and on Friday, 23 September 2011, we will host a course on Value-Based Marketing.
As with all our courses, these full-day, hands-on training workshops will enable attendees to not only learn the theory of marketing, but – crucially – to apply the learnings to their own businesses. A brief summary of the course schedules is shown below, but more information can be found here “Shanghai Marketing Training Courses”.
Market with Intelligence – Thursday, September 22, 2011
This course introduces you to the key principles of market research and how research tools can be used to grow your business. Topics covered include:
• Introduction to market research
Value-Based Marketing – Friday, September 23, 2011
Our value-based marketing workshop explores the key marketing principles and how you can make them work for you, including:
• Market intelligence and value-based marketing
STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLEGROUND
STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLEGROUND
Desk research can be very fruitful. However, it has its limits and it may only provide part of the information sought in a project. Where a mix of desk and primary research is used it therefore means that more expensive primary research techniques are used only where essential.
The next step is to clearly state what your key objective is for your business plan and the actions you will take as a result of gathering the market intelligence. In figure 1 below you can see the different types of information that can be gathered to deliver different types of market insight:
Figure 1 – Examples Of Market Intelligence Studies
Information can be gathered from speaking with many different respondents including:
The means of gathering market information varies according to the objectives of the intelligence – are you looking for insight and understanding or are you looking for robust quantification of market size and segments, brand shares or purchase frequencies? Also, the type of methodology depends on who your target audience is. For example, it is easier to use e-surveys when speaking to customers due to the already existing relationship you have with your customers and therefore the response rates of completion are greater but also the fact that you have at your disposal an accurate e-mail list. However, even from customers, the depth that is gathered through e-surveys is often not as detailed as an administered interview over the telephone or face to face. Focus groups (both online and face to face) are still used in abundance in business to business research to capture qualitative insight but other methodologies are also utilized that call on different skills such as observational skills in ethnographic research.
Clearly scoping out who you are looking to target very much dictates what methodology is chosen. However, there are few real methodological differences when it comes to obtaining market intelligence in different countries. When it comes to data collection, it is true that Asian markets, for both cultural and logistical reasons, often require more face-to-face data collection than Western markets. It is also true that market intelligence can be more difficult to obtain in developing countries. A key reason for this is that economic records tend to be less well-established. However, a market intelligence provider with well-educated employees and a multilingual capability should be capable of obtaining intelligence across different markets. Indeed, this skill is increasingly essential as the requirement for multi-country intelligence increases.
STEP 3: DON’T STOP DIGGING
One of the most important things to remember is that the gathering of market intelligence is delivering insight into a market at that specific moment in time. Many of the issues that affect a customers buying decision today will most likely evolve in the future. Also, in this global marketplace in which we all play change is constant and so not only will needs change but suppliers, prices and products will also change. Therefore, it is important that intelligence is acted upon when it is collected but that also a constant review (or feedback loop) is put in place so that a continuous review of market intelligence is at the centre of all business decisions made.
For many companies, the first place to look for more sales and therefore growth is amongst existing customers. Current customers have already made the ultimate gesture of approval and paid money to buy your products. A bit more persuasion and they may buy more. Also, existing customers know and trust the company sufficiently well to do business. So much so, they may give serious consideration to buying a new product or service from the company. However, every company has a product that can travel. New markets wherever they are – new countries or new segments – carry risk and the gathering of accurate market intelligence is a must in making all these decisions.
In this first part of Nick Hague’s latest dive in to a world of knowledge, he comes to the surface with three steps towards powerful market intelligence.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Take a minute to think what it would be like if you had just a handful of customers and you intimately knew everything there was to know about them from their names and personal background through to their differing business needs. Just like a market trader who has a continuous finger on the pulse of customer preference, direct contact with customers allows a business owner to quickly evaluate what he is doing right or where he is going wrong. Such informal feedback is valuable in any company but hard to formalise and control in anything much larger than a corner shop.
However, it is also just as important to have information on your competitors and potential customers as it is to have information on your customers. As Sun Tzu stated in the Art of War:
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.”
Having intelligence on your enemy is a key to winning military battles and so it is in business. Having the competitive edge can be the difference between winning and losing. No matter what the size of your business, there are two key questions that unlock the door for any strategic plan independent of whether you are delivering a product, service or what industry sector you work in. The two important questions are:
The only option for businesses is to grow because staying still is not an option as others will pass you by, while decline is a sure movement towards extinction. Knowledge is power but only through the collection of accurate market intelligence will any business be able to move forward with confidence in the decisions they make.
Market intelligence can be used to assist with more or less every decision faced by a company (whether they are operating on a local, regional, national or international level). The overriding purpose of most market intelligence is to help the company grow – to increase revenue, profit, or market share. Good market intelligence can therefore have a huge return on investment; just £20,000 – £100,000 spent on intelligence can generate or save many times that amount in extra customer revenue or the avoidance of a bad investment decision.
The problem is that with the advent of the internet and so much information at our fingertips, sometimes the difficulty is knowing where to start. The purposes of this paper are to hopefully make your life easier in knowing how to go about gathering market intelligence and what types of market intelligence will deliver useful insight.
STEP 1: DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
STEP 1: DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
There is no point reinventing the wheel if the information we are after is already under our noses. However, the problem normally is that very often people either don’t know the information exists or they don’t know how to locate the information in the particular format they are looking for.
The best starting point for any project is to get key personnel from different backgrounds of the business to take part in a workshop type format (from board level down encompassing marketing, sales, operations, HR, technical, logistics – the whole business). This type of meeting can be very rewarding to assemble knowledge on customers, potential customers and competitors that otherwise would be held in individuals heads. Using this workshop format also helps clarify what external information has been collected previously and therefore obviates the need to spend money on collecting the information again (gone are the days of Market Research Managers within large corporates who used to know what primary research had been commissioned in the past). A huge amount of learnings can be gathered using workshops, especially if guided by a skilled external moderator.
Following this workshop output there will no doubt still be gaps in intelligence but there is no need to spend vast amounts of money on primary research. The expert desk researcher can quickly and inexpensively dig out data from a wide variety of sources to answer many of the questions that have already been asked. With the recent explosion of social networking, this too has resulted in a lot of information that can be quickly gathered inexpensively. This is not to say that it will definitely be correct, but information that is in the public domain has at least been subjected to the test of public scrutiny and it can be then challenged internally to help judge its accuracy.
Part 2 will be published Wednesday 29th September.