What’s the power of an industry analysis? If someone asked you what was your take on your industry, would you know what they were talking about?
There’s something called “industry analysis” which is an important component to any business plan. And basically, it should be the reason why you are in business… or are working for a company who feels it is competitive within your industry.
In other words, you shouldn’t be in business based on what you – and perhaps nobody else – thinks is a great idea.
Have you ever heard anyone in your company talking about the latest industry trends? Hint: the marketing and sales departments, aka “business development folks”, might be a great place to find this type of information. And if you are in the engineering, IT or other technical departments, wouldn’t you like to know that you are pointed in the “right” direction? So yes, even you need to read this stuff.
Oh, you are just a two person firm (or less)? Surviving on outsourced contracts from your former employer or perhaps your local network? I hope you don’t think this is a valid excuse for not knowing the trends and issues for your industry’s marketplace.
Understanding what makes your industry “tick” is critical to your professional development as well as establishing your value to your company and your clients. It’s up to you to find out these issues. No one’s going to hand this information to you on a silver platter.
What astounds me is the number of small to mid-sized businesses with whom I work that really don’t have their hands on the type of information an industry analysis provides.
These companies have been “successful” by anyone’s definition: they’ve survived the recession and have a stable customer base who sustain them from year to year within usually single digit, occasionally low double-digit, growth.
Think about what a little insight into industry dynamics courtesy of an industry analysis might mean to your company’s bottom line.
This information may be just what it takes to move your company into double digit growth as the new status quo. If you are thinking about resting on your laurels, your competition isn’t. And your competition may be on another continent.
OK. I’ve made my point. You need to understand the market overview and your particular niche market’s size. Otherwise, how do you know which types of customers to target? Without this type of information, business development may feel like Ready-Fire-Aim each year. Wishin-and-a-hopin’ will not cut it if you are targeting double digit growth, let alone survival.
Now where to find this information. For starters:
- Professional associations will have annual reports about the state of the industry in which they operate and behavioral, technological and professional patterns within their membership. Start asking your local and national associations about this information.
- Your local, and national, government offers reporting on industry trends.
- Industry magazines often hire third party entities to conduct research and issue various reports on a number of subjects which provide historical, as well as current, trending.
- Google what you are looking for. There are a number of reports – for purchase – issued by various data banks which offer an extremely granular analysis of data for your industry. Some of these reports run over $3000. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Some of these reports are more modestly priced and offer a lot of relevant information without becoming info overkill. Depending on what your goals are, these reports may be worth the investment.
- Participate in webinars and seminars on these subjects to get your ear on the rail and determine what is going on in your industry. These venues offer books, resources, references and individuals who walk the talk and are approachable and quite willing to point you in the right direction.
- Ask your LinkedIn network for information, references and resources. That’s what your Network is there for. It’s not just about networking for a job search.
Even if you are working for an established firm (aka “we’ve always done business this way and everyone knows who we are”), maintaining the status quo is not an option if you are targeting stability and growth.
Determining a) what makes your industry tick; b) what the marketplace looks like in terms of overall dollars generated per year and various market segment opportunities; and c) what the relevant size of the marketplace is for your company provides insight on where to place your time, efforts and resources for business and talent development.
Your company may be trying to be all things to all people. In fact, your company may be capable of offering all things to all people. And if you are a small firm, you may be desperate to drum up business, any type of business.
Take a step back and a deep breath and put some method into this madness. Focused talent, resource and business development initiatives require discipline and a knowledge of your industry.
Think about it. Think industry analysis. This doesn’t have to be a crap shoot at all.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013-2016. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools and is available on Amazon.