By Jeff Bowman
As a second generation business owner, I tend to put a great deal of stock in tried and true methods of business development and enhancement. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use the technology of today to improve my business processes, I would be naive if I didn’t.
A company should always have its finger on the pulse of the marketplace, including the economy, new and emerging opportunities and technology that may provide cost savings internally and growth or product opportunities externally, and most importantly, the competition. 40 years ago we called this “the big picture”, today it is known as market intelligence
Market Intelligence (today’s business guru’s give everything that should have importance short- forms like MI) is defined as the information relevant to a market, which is gathered, studied and documented to enable more confident decision making. This information can be accumulated from external sources and internal sources, or by other nefarious methods such as corporate espionage. The internet has made this easy. At the click of a mouse you have access to information that might otherwise have taken years to collect.
Today we can analyze market trends, consumer attitudes, investment risks, and competitive activities through news releases, publications and annual reports. Corporate websites sometimes provide us with more detail than we really need to know. Online searches can provide the rest – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Compare this to the Willy Wonka style of corporate spying that still goes on today. Bribes to competitive employees for the inside scoop, some even have gone as far as paying contractors to bring the garbage of a large competitor to their office to be sorted and filed. It seems businesses will go a long way to gain market intelligence.
Market intelligence also includes our own internal data. We can segment our customer information, order history, products purchased and internal surveys to determine opportunities for new products, service improvements and up sale potential. Our own websites, if optimized can give us details about who views what, pages that are of interest and what people might be looking for. Customer service departments and your sales force can provide first line information direct from the client that can be used in a variety of ways. And Social Media can provide us with the tools to have a dialogue with our customers.
Knowing the marketplace that you choose to do business in is a critical activity that must be part of your strategic planning. With all the tools available today, it takes most of the guesswork out of business planning.