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Ten Tips for Developing a Meaningful Market Analysis

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It’s critical that you develop a clear view of how the world at large – including your competition – affects your business and its profitability. But the depth of detail in your market analysis will depend on how you intend to use it.

If you’re looking for investors, you need to demonstrate that you understand your industry while avoiding extraneous information. If you’re creating an internal plan that will guide your strategic direction, you may require much more detail. Here are ten ways to gather the information you need to make informed decisions on your strategic direction.

1. Segment Your Market: Divide the market into workable segments for which you are collecting data. Ways of segmenting the market might include age, income, product type, geography, buying patterns, customer needs, lifestyle, psychographics or other classifications.

For example, when a local computer store defines its customer segments as “high-end home office” and “high-technology small business,” its segmentation says a lot about its customers. In developing segments, consider what factors make a difference in the purchasing, media and value patterns of your target groups. Does age matter in choice of restaurants, or are style and food preference more important? Is income level a key factor?
2. Prioritize Market Segments: You should also understand and explain market growth in each segment. Discuss why your business is focusing on these specific target market groups. What makes them more interesting than groups you’ve ruled out? Why are the characteristics you specify important?

This is more crucial for some businesses than others. A clothing boutique, for example, might focus on one set of upper-income customers instead of another for strategic reasons. An office equipment store might focus on certain business people whose needs match the firm’s expertise. Some fast-food restaurants focus on families with children under driving age.
3. Collect and Organize Internal Data: Critical to understanding your competition is understanding your company’s numbers. Develop a process for tracking and reporting all relevant sales trends.
4. Gather Available Information on Your External Environment: You can glean a lot about competitors and industry trends by doing your homework. Check:
  • Annual reports and 10 K reports on public companies
  • Internet search engines by competitors' names or key words
  • Trade associations and publications
  • Business and general press as well as press releases
  • Government agencies
  • Private research firms, including online computer databases

Click here to view the resource guide for more information.

5. Shop the Competition: If you’re in the restaurant business, patronize your competition once a month, rotating through different establishments. If you own a shoe store, shop your competition monthly and visit different stores. Park across the street and count the customers who go in. Note how long they stay inside, and how many come out with purchases. Browse the store and look at prices. If you can’t shop the competition, ask your customers and suppliers about them.
6.  Conduct Your Own Research: When you need specific information that doesn't exist about your customers and prospects, conduct your own primary research. There are two types of research: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research is used to understand why customers behave as they or to develop hypotheses about that behavior. Personal interviews and focus groups (a group of 8-12 carefully selected people held in a neutral location) are two examples of this semi-structured type of survey. Quantitative research is a very structured form that attempts to answer how much. Numbers can be projected to the universe that the sample represents. Telephone, online and mail surveys are examples of this type of research.
7. Explain Market Needs, Growth, and Trends: All marketing should be based on underlying needs. For each market segment, explain those needs that lead this group into buying your service. Did the need exist before the business? Are there other products, services or stores that offer different ways to satisfy this same need? Do you have market research related to this market need? It’s always a good idea to try to define your retail offering in terms of target market needs, so you focus on the buyer needs you satisfy  rather than what you have to sell. Are there really underlying needs – such as style and prestige for fashion footwear, padding for runners, or jumping for basketball players – that relate to selling shoes?

Understand and explain market trends. What factors seem to be changing your business or your market? What developing trends could make a difference? Depending on what business you’re in, market trends could be caused by changes in demographics, customer needs, fashion styles or something else entirely.
8.

Develop Metrics to Compare Your Company to the Competition: Compile a list of factors that are important in your industry. Criteria may include:

  • Marketing: sales growth, market share, distribution methods, size of sales force, effectiveness of sales force, sales training, selling expenses, prices, advertising effectiveness, advertising budget, inventory levels, delivery time, distribution expenses, gross margins, product quality, customer retention rates

  • Production: plant capacity, plant locations, age of plant(s), age of equipment, ability to expand capacity, skill of labor force, labor turnover, union relations, quality control, supplier retention, raw material sources

  • Financial: profitability, cash flow, retained earnings, current assets, current liabilities, long-term debt ratio, inventory turnover, return on sales, credit line, debt/equity ratio, per share book value, stock price, return on investment, net margins

  • Administrative: employee turnover, administrative expenses, age of facilities

  • Management: experience, depth and turnover of top, middle and supervisory managers, effectiveness of communication systems, access to information, cohesiveness of top management ranks, compensation plan; decision making speed, strategic planning ability

  • Technology/Research & Development: age of R&D facilities, age of production technology, production patterns, basic innovation, engineering abilities, experience of R&D team, R&D budget, R&D project timelines

9. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Rate your company on your developed list of metrics in comparison to your competitors. Look for clusters of strength that may give you a competitive advantage
10. Apply the Information: Analyze the intelligence you’ve collected, draw conclusions and make recommendations based on it. Develop a plan for seeking out opportunities to demonstrate your company’s strengths. If weaknesses are critical drawbacks to your company’s success, develop a plan for overcoming them.
Prepared by:

Geri Stengel, president of Stengel Solutions, a business strategist.  She can be reached at 212-362-3088 or E-mail

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Contact Geri Stengel at
  212.362.3088 or E-mail

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