I recently read through dozens of impressive business award submissions and was surprised to discover how many SMEs don’t ensure they regularly undertake market intelligence activities.
If you don’t know your competitors back to front, and you don’t know where your customers are coming from and how they feel about your service, then how can you make informed improvements to become more competitive?
New businesses most likely enter and exit your market on an ongoing basis, and those in the market most likely regularly make changes to improve their offering. With that in mind, is checking out your competitors once or twice a year going to give you all the information you need to make important decisions on your margins, promotions, staffing, range of products and services, and more?
Further, is it enough to just understand their range and pricing, or do you also need to be across their unique selling points, suppliers, customer service timeframes and channels, marketing activities, customer demographics, and more?
‘Better the devil you know’ is a cliché for a reason!
As for ensuring you have the right intelligence when it comes to your customers, the big question is: do you understand how each has arrived on your business doorstep? If you don’t understand what proportion of customers originates from a particular business channel, and why, then are you optimising your potential? Ditto when it comes to the type of customers that have found you through each channel, ie. database segmentation. You could easily be missing a terrific opportunity that’s open to you simply due to a lack of understanding of your business at the user’s end.
Then, there’s gathering intelligence around how customers feel about doing business with you. If you can survey most or all of your customers with just two questions – ‘How satisfied are you with my service?’ and ’How likely are you to refer me to family and friends?’ – and convert those responses into concrete data, you will be a long way down the path of understanding the business’s strengths and weaknesses. This, of course, enables you to tweak what’s needed to become more competitive.
It may take time to work on your business in this way but the benefits are obvious and if you can automate much of these processes then the market intelligence data that comes through to you will most likely be cost/time-effective.
The results will be invaluable.