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Blog: The five enigmas of market analysis

posted Washington Business Journal, 6 Sep 2013


By Ray Bjorklund, President, BirchGrove Consulting


Of the many components in a company's back-office infrastructure, one of the hardest talents to quantify is market analysis. Measuring the value and contribution of market analysis (or business development strategy or research support or competitive intelligence) to a company's performance leads us into the dark forest of intangibles.


Certainly, there are many talents that must be brought to bear to successfully pursue government business. Front-line operations talent that delivers services and products to customers. Sales and marketing talent that connects the operations talent with government organizations who need it. Management that orchestrates all corporate talent in fulfilling the vision. Leadership that provides the vision and represents the company in the marketplace.


Measures of income, cost of sales, and margin readily illustrate the contributions of these talents to the top line and bottom line of a company.


But what about all that back office talent?


As an intangible, market analysis talent can help a company focus and apply its sales and operational talent effectively. Picking the right business targets, where the chances of success are attractive and the risks are palatable, pares down corporate time and effort. Learning how to organize corporate assets and partner assets to pursue an opportunity improves the win rate. Competitive intelligence that benchmarks the company's marketplace position reduces the cost of competition. Developing new target opportunities in underserved or emerging markets points to paths an early mover can pursue and dominate.


In over a decade of experience working directly with market analysis talent and decades more in benefitting from market analysis talent, I've been exposed to a wide range of companies. Small and large companies that intuitively know they need some sort of independent assessment to take growth to the next level. Small and large companies that truly believe that success stems from just plain hard work on the front line and not market analysis.


Some companies can rationalize the investment in market analysis. Some can't. I've worked with some small, growing companies who are eager to identify and pursue those next unseen steps that will have a high payoff. And I've worked with some large companies with a record of success who are now struggling in the market, but are unwilling to spend relatively little money to understand their hurdles and how to leapfrog those hurdles to again embrace success.


From these experiences, I've derived five enigmas of market analysis:


ENIGMA 1: responsive, accurate market analysis is transparent to the decision makers it serves.


ENIGMA 2: market analysis can be so precise and comprehensive that users have no perception of the effort and skill required to deliver it.


ENIGMA 3: the greatest weakness of objective and independent market analysis—not being integrated with daily performance—is its greatest strength.


ENIGMA 4: market analysis can be so rich in correlated, deep content that it becomes instinctively less useful to users.


ENIGMA 5: the competitive deterrent value of market analysis can be so high that it can't be quantified.


In other words, when the market analysis service is strong, it's invisible. When it's weak, it is at risk in becoming the scapegoat for lack of corporate success.


Think honestly about your view of the market: is it strategic or is it tactical? Would you spend $1 to double your chances of winning $10,000? Or are you content to spend $5 for a 20 percent chance to win $50?


©2013 Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.