Small and Medium Sized Businesses – Developing Your Market Intelligence

Nearly every industry is signifcantly more competitive today that it was only a few years ago. Many companies focus on doing their thing a little bit faster or better than they did last year. But in today’s hyper-competitive environment that may not always be enough. We believe that there are three pillars of Business Intelligence that are given short shrift by many companies, and by ignoring these options, they put their company’s future in peril. The three pillars of Market Intelligence are Competitive Intelligence, Secondary Market Intelligence (syndicated or research that can be found or purchased on an given industry) and Primary Market Research – which is conducting research that is specifically designed to answer the questions that your business is grappling with – and that your competitors should never see (because it’s proprietary information).

COMPETITOR ASSESSMENT

It’s important to do a basic SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) on each of your key competitors to understand their positions in the market relative to that of your own company (financial position, apparent growth directions, likely profit margins and the threats that their business is facing). There are companies that specialize in gathering competitive information, and it’s pretty common to spend a couple of months and several thousand dollars to get a report on a number of key competitors. However, because the number of competitors is often very small, it’s often possible to do some gumshoeing on your own. When does your competitor open for business, when do they close, how many customers do they get in the morning, afternoon an evening, and how much does it look like they’re buying? Go in and ask them about their best selling product, buy one and see what they’ve got. You can also do a lot of this research via the web, or by the phone. Look at the city records to see who owns the land, have a realtor friend estimate what the rent would be like on that size building in that part of town. Look at the equipment they have, and the stock that that they carry, count the number of employees. You can probably do a pretty good job of estimating their revenue and even projecting their profit. It’s a good businessperson who has an idea of how their business stacks up.

SECONDARY MARKET RESEARCH

These are the companies that make their money by keeping tabs on the industry overall and try to understand which major competitors are doing well and which are in bad shape. Many can approximate market shares by talking to companies that provide raw goods or by talking to the channels that these companies sell through. Some of these analysts will estimate whether the overall business is growing or shrinking and are brave enough to project these numbers out for several years. The types of companies that track these industries include International Data Corporation, Dataquest, and don’t forget industry groups. Many of these reports are combined at one wonderful website that can help you quickly find reports on every industry under the sun – Market Research. This is probably the fastest place to find quality information on your industry overall, although it’s not free, unfortunately.

PRIMARY MARKET RESARCH

Once you know about your industry, you may decide that you’d like to know more about the specific products or services that you’re developing. Or maybe you just want to find out what kinds of customers are purchasing your products, how happy they are with them, or what their likelihood is of buying another product from you in the future. That’s where Primary Market Research comes in. Primary research entails a couple of dozen different methods of getting customers feedback, depending on what access they have to technology, where they are located in the world, the sensitivity of the topic and whether you think that group synergy would get you a better answer than you would by speaking to a customer one at a time. There are also a few unique methods to probe on other areas, for example there is “lost customer” research, which finds customers that purchased another company’s products and then probing on why they didn’t go with your products.

Anyway there are a number of ways to get at most any type of business issue that you have. Together these techniques can help a savvy business manager to ensure that they keep a finger on the puse of the market in which they operate – and thereby keeping their positiion in that market safer!

Why a Lifetime Membership Will Benefit Your Business Development for a Lifetime

Maximizing on lifetime membership is the most sustainable method to drive growth value for any business. The total amount of value derived from customer’s engagement to a business is really enormous. Maximizing this lifetime value is possible if only one can measure it. Through measuring, it is possible to track advancements over time. Customer value should therefore be measurable to realize business growth. Some of the advantages of customers’ lifetime membership include the following:

1. Drums up support for strategic acquisition.
Lifetime customers create channels under which many other customers are obtained. A business thus acquires a larger market as compared to one which has no lifetime membership. A larger market sustains a business over rough times, this is because customer influx is maintained throughout the year. Lifetime membership forms a web of consumers who ensure that profits are made. Acquisition cost will always rise in the global economy. It is thereby cost effective for one to retain current consumers rather acquisition of newer ones

2. Customer relationship management.
Growing customer loyalty and reducing churn. This is as important aspect as it ensures tailored marketing, promotion and communication to customers. Optimization of consumer loyalty and value. The business is forced to take a lasting approach for creation of value rather than promotions which maximize revenue for single shopping trip. Promotion of all products rather than being choosy is that it maintains a consumer base. Eroding a brand value can cost a business at the expense of customers.

3. Increased profit margins.
For any particular business, customers will always account for the largest share of profits, even if they are few. Majority of profits will be raked from customers while other sources of income come second. This means that a business has to brand constant customer loyal. This cannot be similar to those who only shop around.

4. Emphasized customer loyalty.
Lifetime membership should have a long term loyalty. This intangible asset has been consistently proven to advance a business. Successful enterprises monetize on this asset over long periods in order to have a market. Loyalty can be rewarded through discounting and offers.

5. Bigger value creation opportunities.
Lifetime membership point towards creation of powerful opportunities, like expansion of market or acquisition of other complimentary services instead of smaller opportunities. This is since the higher limit of the value one can generate from a single consumer will be greater than the higher limit of a basket full of goods.

6. Advertisement and promotion
Lifetime members can promote a business to a higher level. Some businesses have lifetime membership to media houses. The media house has the responsibility to extend its favors through advertisement and promotion of their product. In so doing, the business is widely recognized and appreciated. These elements act as the marketing strategies that ensures the business stays in line.

All in all, lifetime membership should be recommended due to their due advantages over timely memberships. Other benefits include discounted publication, free conferences, corporate benefit subscription, Insurance, Financial services and technology offers.

Home Business Development – Having Your Own Website

In my first article, where I talked about having a auto responder system, I stated that building a business online is like a Jet climbing to it ideal cruising altitude. In a jet you plan the route, in business you develop a plan, a jet takes off, a business launches or opens, a jet climbs, and a business is developed.

I also stated the companies you can join as a home business should be tools within your business. They are the product tool. Then I talked about the importance of communicating effectively with your customers, and discussed auto responders as another needed tool.

In this article I am discussing the importance of having your own online business presence. The way this is done is by having your own website. This is not the free website you may get when joining a business opportunity program, but your own website with its own hosting service and domain name.

Your own site allows you the control to adjust your marketing pitch, develop contact lists, and market more than one item if you want.

Having your own site also makes your product or service more visible or unique to a customer. Let’s say you are working with a MLM or Network marketing business and they provide you a website to get others to sign up on. Everyone in the program has the same site, this is not unique, and you cannot customize it. But if you had your own site you can create a new way to tie the product or service to a customer’s needs. Another way you can work the site is to list benefit of the product or service without actually mentioning it, then ask them to provide contact information if they want more details. When they provide the information send them to the programs website to finish the sell. If they do not purchase the item you have the contact information so you can remarket the product or another product to them. Many times it will take several exposures to a product before the customer will act on the offer.

It is not recommended that you use a free service when hosting a business website. These services are good for personal websites but should be avoided for a business. The number one reason I have for not using these types of services is they usually require or place their own ads on your sites. You do not want to promote some one else’s products on your site unless you are getting some type of payment in return.

When choosing a hosting site look at the following :

Reliability
Customer support
Hosting space allowed
Bandwidth limits,
Options Available
Payment methods.

There are a number of good services out there. The service I have had the best performance with is from Godaddy. It has many options and plans you can work with and you can start out with the minimum and upgrade later as your needs change.

Choosing the correct hosting service for your website is probably just as important as your product or service. If your site hosting is not reliable your site will not been seen, and therefore you will not get the sales conversions.

Business Development Strategy – Next Years Planning

I’m amazed at how each year slips by just a little more quickly.

Only a few weeks ago I was running the San Juan River in Utah – blazing sunshine and ninety degrees in the shade. Now it’s Fall already. And hey, I live in Southern California – in some places it’s almost winter. Friends of mine back East are talking about 30 degree temperatures – or colder. Even snow flurries.

Blink – and it will be November, then Thanksgiving, and right its heels – New Year’s. All of which is great if you love to ski, or snowshoe…

Which brings me to every businessperson’s favorite indoor sport – planning.

Each year around this time I urge clients to dust off last year’s business plan and compare it to what is really going on. Because many people – believe it or not – forget what they committed to for the year. Oh – they know their sales and profit projections – but most people don’t pay close enough attention to the other issues. Things like market development, new customer growth, distributor relationships, customer services improvements, even new products: all the things that make it possible for a businesses to grow and prosper year after year.

If you haven’t done so recently, now is a great time to review this year’s results, and plan for the coming year. Take a look at how you are doing compared to how you hoped you would do. It doesn’t matter what month you are in – just compare your results to date to this month last year. And if you’ve already built next year’s plan, you may want to consider it in a new light.

The typical approach to planning goes like this:

Start by setting a goal for next year’s sales growth.

This figure is often arrived at by multiplying last year’s results by some acceptable factor. In business school they taught us to use 10% if we didn’t have a better idea. This ten percent shows up again and again – I think it has something to do with having ten fingers. Standards vary from industry to industry – ranging from 5% to 25%. But in today’s economy, many people will consider it a win if they just remain even with where they were last year.

Next, add solutions to a few key problems you’ve been meaning to address. Follow this by some enhancements to your product line – and there you have it – instant plan!

Those of you who’ve read my book know that I encourage people to think differently.

Here’s a process I’ve used with all kinds of clients; it has led to some truly inspiring – and profitable – results:

Step 1

What do you – in your heart of hearts – want to accomplish this coming year? The key words here are “want to do.” Not what do you think will happen, not what will the market let you do, but what do you want to do.

When you answer this question, it does help to think about things like money – revenue, profits, cash-flow (as if anyone wouldn’t) – but also consider other non-monetary details as well.

Think about what new products or services you’d like to introduce, what markets you’d like to branch into, how you’d like to improve your relations with customers, how many new distributors you’d like to add, how you will make thing better for your employees, partners, even your community, and of course, what lifestyle and “work- style” changes you’d like for yourself.

For each of the targets and goals you are about to set – why do you want to set these targets. Make sure your reasons strongly support you.

Step 2

Learn what you can from whatever has happened over this past year. This is something many of us simply don’t do.

For example, make this year the year you act on the knowledge that it takes three months to train a new distributor, not the four weeks you generally plan for. You’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs repeat variations on the same mistakes over and over again.

Deliberately capturing the lessons of the past year, and thinking about how to use that new knowledge can provide major opportunities to boost profits.

Step 3

Set targets which will inspire you and your team and get out of bed every morning (even when it’s snowing.)

Instead of using that 10% multiplier – or 25% or whatever – come up with growth numbers that you believe in and which will make it all worthwhile. Say you are committed to 35% growth. But you’ve never had more than 15%. Well how are you going to do that? What would it take? Is it possible? If you believe it is, but you don’t know how yet, don’t worry. You’ll tackle that in a minute.

Step 4

Now is the time to review changes in your market.

Are there new factors – changes in customer buying behavior, shifts in the demographics, new issues in your industry and fresh competitor activity? Consider how these changes will make it easier or harder to achieve your bold targets.

Do any of these changes cause you to rethink the targets you’ve set? If so, go back and make adjustments you feel are necessary.

If you’d like a list of the kinds of questions I ask businesses, send an email to [email protected].

Step 5

Figure out how to reach the targets in Step 3.

How can you achieve the targets you just set? Do you know how? Will that plan work? You may have to work backwards using the Merlin Method. (For those of you who don’t know, Merlin was a wizard who was born old and lived his life getting younger. What he called seeing the future was really just looking into his own past.) So use this idea to create action plans.

This is the method I use successfully with my consulting clients to transform their businesses. I’ll give you a quick overview:

Visualize those bold targets as already met. Looking back from the future to the present, ask what was the final step or milestone you achieved before completing the goal? And what was the step before that? And before that? All the way to the present day. Check for reasonableness.

That’s your action plan.

Believe me, this works! Do this for each of your targets and goals, then execute that plan, and you can almost guarantee a breakthrough year.

In a future article, I’ll write more about the critical success factors you need to review.

Best regards,