Saturday, October 18, 2008

Increasing importance of competitive intelligence in bear markets

In tough economic times, many companies are forced to downsize, trim budgets and preserve profit margins, while expecting a leaner, meaner organisation to survive the tempest. The reality is that the changes leave fewer people to accomplish the same amount of work on less marketing dollars; productivity becomes the new name of the game.

This is where good companies get smarter and focus on cost effective ways of making their budgets go further. One of the biggest challenges with pure market research, for example, is that results are often regional, forcing clients to consider a broad selection of target markets in which to base future directions on. Cutting the scope (i.e. reducing the number of sites) risks missing key data and generalising on more limited patterns.

Enter competitive intelligence, a much broader, more strategic way of gathering general trend data that can help make sense of the market. It is also a good way of keeping tabs on your competitors, because the stronger ones will survive the downturns better.

There are a host of clever tools and secondary data sources out there that can be mined effectively and a big picture of the target market described without the need for repetitive and expensive traditional market research interviewing people or holding focus groups. This is a much more 'think outside of the box' approach that rewards creative, enterprising marketers who want to get ahead of their competition.

The lean and mean approach starting with competitive intelligence first means that you can now find the needles in the haystack to point you in the right direction first, then test the specifics rather than relentless and expensive iterations of field testing. After all, those market research honorariums soon start to add up when the budget is tight. As an analogy, if you think about an archer - how can you hit the target if you can't even see it?

What can companies gain from competitive intelligence prior to market research?

Essentially, because of it's highly strategic nature, competitive intelligence bridges the gap between management and customers. On the one hand clear, simple elucidation of the risks involved enable management to grasp the big picture quickly and easily, while also offering identifiable actions to the customer that can be executed. Suddenly, this simplification of the data to the salient points enables all levels of the organisation to unite and focus rather than get bogged down in masses of conflicting data.

Using this approach, well designed competitive intelligence and market research questions become complementary and provide a more robust solution of strategic oversight and deep dives into more targeted areas.

Sometimes less really is more.

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Panic Attacks said...

Market research is an vital tool. Many companies greatly benefit from the data gathered. I agree with this statement, "provide a more robust solution of strategic oversight and deep dives into more targeted areas."

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