There are some companies that believe that you only need to analyse information relating to the company and the business environment once a year, and that is when they are compiling their business or marketing plan. I would like to suggest that you put systems in place that allow you to look at key trends and indicators throughout the year. This will allow for intelligent business decisions and give you more confidence in the choices that have been made. The more you have to `guess’, the more risky the decision, ie. you increase the chances that the activity will Not achieve the desired result.
When compiling or updating your information, make sure that you spend time on all the key areas:
- An Environmental Update. The current business environment is complex, dynamic and competitive. Ensure you keep track of political, economic, sociological and technological changes that could have an impact on your business. The internet, social media, economic reports, syndicated research documents and specialist publications may be relevant sources. But remember that they will not be customising the article for you so you will have to take the time to `read between the lines’ in some instances to draw the relevant conclusions.
- A Competitive Update. Remember that not all competitors are created equal and it is a mistake to assume that competitors do not change or that customers will never consider moving their business. Annual reports, marketing material, press coverage, new product launches, social media streams and websites can provide great insights into your competitors’ mindsets, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
- The Performance of the Brand/Product/Service/Company. As your current strength and position in the market will impact on the effectiveness of your strategies and the resource you have available, it is important that you monitor performance indicators on a regular basis. Management accounts, sales trends by customer, sales trends by customer type, analyses of repeat business from customers, competitive pricing exercises, debtor analyses, reports from shows/events can all be used to obtain a better understanding of your performance relative to the market place.
- The Markets. Strong businesses never forget to focus on the market and the customers. Don’t be duped into focusing on the competitors at the expense of your clients. You need to choose your markets and clients with care and then establish ways to build relationships with them. You also need to have systems in place to check that you are delivering the product/service according to your customer’s expectations. Customer satisfaction questionnaires/get togethers, sales trends and debtor analyses will provide some insight. But remember to be vigilant to new opportunities. Prospective customers/markets need to be identified and researched.
What leading marketers do, is to look for the elusive, to work through the information looking for “that something” that will make the difference to their marketing effort. “That something” that will differentiate them and continue to strengthen their performance. So often the temptation is to dive straight into the marketing activity or to fit some activities in when things are quiet. Strategic marketing is information-based and is the most effective.
By: Karren Hodgkins
Managing Director / Brand Strategist