Why you should care about market intelligence...
“We’ve never had to do marketing before. All our work came from word of mouth…” Sound familiar?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve met scores of business owners who say, “…we’ve never had to do marketing before. All our work came from word of mouth.” Then they look at me as though I’m some kind of evil marketing witch who is going to try and steal all their money. (Which of course I am… cue, evil witchy-style laugh).
There’s a sort of baffled look in their eyes. Consumer tastes and behaviours are changing at a much faster pace, and many businesses still have their heads stuck in the sand and refusing to ‘get with the programme'.
What is market intelligence?
Most people do a bit of competitor sleuthing, and maybe a bit market research. Market intelligence includes things like:
- Looking at trends in your market sector
- Thinking about how legislative or political changes can impact your revenue
- Changes in consumer tastes
- Looking at where your customers can get a similar result that's maybe cheaper or easier
- Technology changes or technology usage that could impact your revenue - think of Kodak who were too slow to acknowledge digital cameras and the fact that people like taking pictures with their phones
Essentially if you don’t keep an eye on this kind of stuff, you can press on merrily doing what you do, while your customer waves ‘cheerio’ and moves off in another direction. And when you figure out what’s happening, it’s too late.
Sometimes that could be a failure to adapt to technology, think of Blockbuster Video in a world where people wanted to stream entertainment, and then Netflix entered the market. Other times it can be because the company has just ignored its core customer. Think of Marks & Spencer clothing, they’ve somehow lost touch with their customer, and their profits have plummeted.
So what does this all mean?
It boils down to this. If you don’t keep up, read, engage and find out about your own market, it becomes more difficult to be competitive and offer the best products or services to your customers. If consumer tastes or needs are changing, you need time to adapt.
The poster boy for keeping up with industry trends is my husband, Darren. He has a sports injuries and Rolfing practice and permanently has a waiting list of people desperate to get an appointment with him.
The reason for this is because he reads all the journals, blogs and websites related to the ‘bodywork’ world. When we were on holiday in Colorado, he made email contact with ‘Rolfing gurus’ in Boulder and made an effort to see them. He’s offered himself as a free assistant to a renowned teacher who was teaching a series of masterclasses in Edinburgh just so he could observe and learn more. The thing is, it pays off.
As for me, If I hadn’t made a conscious effort to keep up with my industry and continually renew and my own skills, my business would be in the toilet.
Top tips for simple market intelligence gathering
This is not hard. It takes a bit of time and effort, but it’s worth it. Market intelligence should be an important part of your marketing strategy.
Here are some simple things you can do to help you keep on top of your game.
- Visit the major trade shows, conferences or seminars at least a couple of times a year.
- Find the movers and shakers in the blog world: follow them and read their stuff. Also, subscribe to the main trade papers and magazines.
- Follow key influencers and thought leaders in your sector on Twitter. Read, engage, and follow other people who are involved in the conversation.
- Network; attend networking events, talk to people.
- Survey your customers; find out what they want from you. Where’s the pain? It will help you continually tweak and upgrade your offering.
- Talk to your own supplier network and your friends in the same industry; you can pick up a lot from each other.
- For a big picture view of your industry, I always find that FT.com is a great place to start, and it provides me with clues on where else I need to look.
Essentially, if you keep up with your market, you’ll keep your customers.
Until next week,