Understanding Competition: Research

In my last post, we saw the four key elements (Industry Size & Growth, Market Segments, Key Competitors & Opportunities) we must focus on, to understand competition better in order to position our business more strategically. To collect and evaluate this data requires research. Besides the usual “Googling,” there are numerous publications from the Government and Industry Trade Associations that provide relevant data.

Market leaders also provide a treasure trove of data with financial reports and analyst presentations. White Papers can often be good sources of information as well. Consulting, venture capital and branding firms often release consumer and industry reports. Many companies also sell data and reports for this very purpose.

You will not suffer from lack of data; rather you’ll be inundated by it. Your challenge is to take that vast amount of data and distill it into key, actionable insights. Charts and graphs often tell a better story than pages and pages of statistics and analysis.

A research plan, using the above template, can help you remain organized and focused. Research is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The more pieces you fit together, the clearer the picture becomes. Use common sense and make assumptions where necessary. Try to verify the information from more than one source.

AN EXPERIMENT

I decided to use this approach to look at two industries I wanted to understand better:

1. Global Media. What were the major channels, who was gaining market share, what was declining, where was the heart of the action and who was winning?

2. The U.S. Restaurant Business. Which segments were gaining ground, what were the key trends and where would future growth most likely come from?

For each industry I spent about 60 minutes collecting data from a variety of sources on the Internet and analyzing it. A composite picture of this analysis is included in my book. The purpose of this exercise was to see how much I could learn in a short time. The answer: A lot. I suspect you will be able to do even better.

Verinder, Author: Discover The Entrepreneur Within

Written by Verinder Syal
Verinder is the Principal at Thoughtful Simplicity, an award-winning teacher at Northwestern University, and the author of Discover The Entrepreneur Within.