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Breaking Out of Your Analysis Rut: Take a Fresh Approach to Reach “Aha!” Insights

Liam Fahey

7 Big Problems Blog Series: The Insight Discipline

Most marketing departments assess their market position based on a standard set of their “greatest hits” reports, routinely tracking the same metrics such as market share, profit margin, and competitive position. But by focusing on a limited set of market indicators, you will certainly miss new opportunities and threats that could dramatically impact your business overnight.

Here are three ways to get out of your “analysis rut” by taking a fresh perspective that can lead you to breakthrough insights about your marketplace:

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1. Scrutinize nontraditional competitors

Most analyses of competitors tend to focus primarily on the big players—that is, the current dominant market-share rivals.  But try taking a closer look at your other competition, namely:

  • small rivals,
  • emerging competitors,
  • substitute-product providers, and
  • new alliances. 

Some of the innovations from these players will likely become game-changers in your market. Can you identify what those innovations are and how you could respond?

2. Get a different kind of customer feedback

Market research that focuses mainly on the needs and opinions of your current customers leaves out a big part of the market picture. If you invest more time getting feedback from lost customers, you will likely learn far more about what it takes to excel in the market—and how and where your competitors are beating you. Remember, your satisfaction surveys with current customers tell you nothing about how the customers who have left you experienced your products’ flaws, feel about your service levels, or want you to change the way your sales force engages with them.

3. Consider the wider impact of changing consumer preferences

Take a broader look at evolving attitudes of your target customers that could affect your market position. For example, if you were in the automotive industry focusing exclusively on car-buying preferences – such as the relative appeal of electric vs. hybrid vehicles – you would have been blindsided by the market impact of many millennials’ preference for using ride-sharing services such as Uber rather than owning a car. Seek out research on consumer and demographic trends that could have a profound impact on your target market.

Similarly, take a broader perspective in analyzing the strengths and vulnerabilities of your company and your competitors—not just in the finished products but also in factors such as raw materials, labor supply, equipment, and capital.  For example, the market leadership of the tech and industrial product manufacturers that rely on rare-earth minerals in China was recently thrown into jeopardy as China threatened to block U.S. access to those minerals. Try to identify your company’s vulnerabilities and strategies for protecting your position as well as how to capitalize on a competitor’s loss of a strategic advantage.

These are just a few of the techniques in my book The Insight Discipline: Crafting New Marketplace Understanding that Makes a Difference. I  also encourage you to read and comment on my other blogs.

Liam Fahey is co-founder and partner of Leadership Forum LLC and the creator and leader of its Intelligence Leadership Forum. He has been a faculty member at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Boston University, and he now serves as Professor of Management Practice at Babson College.