Change means new opportunities and threats are emerging all of the time. Yet few organisations focus on these things or do them well. Most consumer goods companies use some form of research, but it is less evident in, for example, professional services. Competitive advantage can be gained by those who know most, and know what’s going on first. Some call it foresight.
Marketers can and should play a key role in being the eyes, ears and knowledge bank of the organisation. This fits perfectly with helping the organisation understand and focus on customers. However, your role should go beyond this, to embrace all other dynamics that impact on current and future demand, such as competitors’ dynamics and political, sociological, economic and technological (PEST) factors.
Knowledge is power
Those organisations that hold the most facts, insight and understanding about customers and environment in which they compete should be able to make better decisions and have the greatest advantage over their competitors. Within the organisation, there should also be benefits for the marketing department in terms of respect and profile. The marketing director and his/her team potentially have a very significant role to help ensure colleagues are familiar with the market place and customers. There will be almost unlimited opportunities to communicate and influence through board updates and briefings, presentations, exhibitions, open days and so on.
Monitoring and staying abreast of changing external forces is also important to enable you to remain alert to threats and spot emerging opportunities. In these current recessionary times there will rarely be a better opportunity for the smart research or marketing department to prove their worth and provide a more robust foundation for future planning.
Focus groups are the most common research technique used by business – partly because they are cheaper. But if every business uses the same technique, no one will have a competitive advantage! Traditional research also has limitations because customers inevitably respond from their own mindsets or frames of reference. By definition these have a tendency to be backward rather than forward looking. In fast moving markets or markets with fleet-a-foot competitors this can also be a genuine problem. But what sets successful marketers apart is how consumer research is undertaken and how ethos of getting close to customers pervades the organisation as a whole. They tend to use a range of more innovative techniques and they try anticipating the future all of the time.
Take a holistic and systematic approach to information collection
Empower everyone in your business to help monitor your competitors, collect data. For example, your sales force and customer service department. Also look at your internal data too as this may also yield more insights than simple sales figures; such as complaints or requests for a specific widget.
Are you struggling to see the wood for the trees? Do you need help to understand what’s working or to plan for the future. If so get in touch. With our powerful combination of research, data collection and analysis skills, and experience developing new processes and strategies, we can help set you apart.
Read successful marketing part 4 – management and marketing metrics.