Gaining ‘insight’ about the markets you operate in is an essential part of your strategic planning process. You need to understand the trends that are obvious and those that are emerging in your market and what you can or can’t do to influence those trends.
Gathering external information is essential but this process is not about amassing masses of data which can often lead to paralysed thinking – but about developing useful insights that your business can use to transform your distinctive capability.
So through external research and analysis what are we are seeking to discover? The answer is a true picture of the market now and most importantly the discernable trends. For example:
- Trends toward consolidation or fragmentation on either the demand or supply side –and the consequent impacts.
- Competitor review: who is ascending, who is declining and why, are there new innovative business models?
- Pricing: – rising, falling, new pricing models?
- Service delivery – what is now accepted as ‘standard’ and what is ‘premium’ service?
- Product development opportunities?
- Potential sources of innovation: channels to market – an obvious recent example is the growth in e-commerce.
- Socio-demographic changes – the impact on your target market’s propensity and ability to purchase
- Changes in technology:
- Regulatory environment changes:
- Global trends: – what is happening in your industry overseas?
- New substitutes: – look to complementary markets to stay aware of possible substitutes to your product or service.
Sources of Information
A lot of information can of course be found be found online today. In addition, look to the following sources:
- Industry Associations often supply research data
- Government reports – local, state and federal may indicate inbound and outbound investment analysis
- International and domestic trade shows are a great way to gather information and to meet competitors, customers and prospects
- Professional market research companies
The most important source of information are your existing customers and prospects. You can of course engage with your customers at any time but taking the time formally to survey clients will yield vastly better results.
Our recommendation is to outsource this research as, at the very least, the data collected is more likely to have depth, be unbiased and truthful. The key is to do this research on a periodic basis – at least annually. Using questions you can ask time and again is an invaluable tool that will drive insight and understanding over the long term.
For example the Net Promoter Score question along the lines of “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend XYZ Co to friends, family or colleagues” is now used by large and small businesses alike to provide a consistent measure of customer satisfaction.
The key to securing valuable feedback is to make the process is meaningful and easy for customers to complete.
Insights from customer feedback
Occasionally your regular customer feedback will be the source of innovative ideas and opportunities, but that is infrequent. You can however be certain of discovering a rating of your overall service provision; what is really important to your customers, what keeps them awake at night, what other suppliers they access and why, how they evaluate other suppliers and of course how they think you can improve. You will also no doubt find out…that your business would grow if only you reduced prices…. 🙂 The net result is there are likely to be some easy wins that you can implement quickly as well as providing insight to inform your longer term strategic planning..
The next step..
So now you have amassed some data and most importantly garnered some key insight into trends. The next step is to look inward to identify how your organisations current products, services, structure, skills and resources are aligned to the emerging trends.