Reduce the uncertainty of the future through research and forecasting.

Of course there is no crystal ball to tell us about everything that will happen, but you can reduce the uncertainty of the future through research and forecasting.

Taking forecasting first, there are a few industry forecasts which are published on a regular basis and reported in the press. See our useful links page for some suggestions, or sign-up to our enewsletter to get a regular monthly overview on the market. These industry forecasts give an idea of the industry’s future, but need further dissection to help understand the implications for your business. This is where working with a forecasting specialist can help make the information specific to your business mix, so keeping you informed and able to react to changes in the marketplace. This exercise is relatively low-cost and can help you defend against any potential threats and indeed be well placed for new business opportunities. If you wish to find out more about this then please contact us.

Market research is also an important tool and can provide a valuable insight. Market research provides an understanding of your customers; their needs, issues, opinions about your company and your competitors. It is the road map for business strategy and as the landscape is always changing, especially in times of recession, it is important to undertake regular research, keeping your road map current.

By regularly conducting market research you can chart progress in the implementation of your business strategy and your communications plan, regularly making modifications to tactics to keep it on target. It is also an important exercise to conduct before developing a communications plan. Consider it an invesment.

Spend time thinking about your objectives and what you are trying to achieve?

Set aside some time to review your objectives for 2013. Book out the time in the diary and ensure you are free of any distractions such as email and phone.  Then armed with the information from your forecasting and research, together with your businesses past performance you will know your starting point and so be able to consider your new objectives.

Once you know your starting point it is then important to think about your end goal, to focus on outcomes rather than the type of activity or output from your marketing team. Only when you know your starting point and what your end goal is can you draft a strategy, a road-map to success.

In writing your strategy remember to always ask questions, for example the five ‘w’s: who, what, why, where and when. Also think about setting realistic objectives, ones that can be measured and are timely, this is where the SMART acronym comes in handy: Specific, Measurable, Achievable Realistic and Timely.

Our recent research into Marketing Activity & Spend indicates that in 2013 many companies with be focussing on measuring enquiries received, sales growth and new prospects, to gauge their ROI. This also supports the research by the Fournaise Marketing Group, in which the results presented in a blog by Maine Associates suggest CEO’s want marketers to report on demand-related indicators, such as lead generation, rather than performance metrics. Surely a result of the tough economic times, meaning that marketing must show tangible benefit to the business.

Know how to communicate with your key audience

The construction industry is made up of a series of relationships; with architects, designers, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors all working together to meet the needs of the client. There are also a number of drivers influencing product selection, not just performance and appearance but external drivers, some of the more obvious are Planning, Building Regulations and Sustainability.

This poses a marketing challenge. How do you make sense of the construction industry?

A good starting point for understanding the industry is our training course Construction Industry Overview. Why not join us on online? See our training page for more details. Or consider our other training course Marketing in Construction?

As with forecasting there are some free industry reports that may provide useful generic industry information. Or for a small cost you can purchase an off the shelf research, such as our Construction Media Index. The reports provide comprehensive and independent research into the communication channels used by the key decision makers in the industry, which journals and product directories they use, how they participate in social media and what information they are searching for online.

Once you know the communication channels that are key to your customers then you need to consider how to provide your product information. Making your product information easily accessible in a number of formats is important. Something demonstrated in our research Designing with Sustainable Products and summarised in our guest blog:What Architects want when seeking sustainable product information.

Finally, it almost goes without saying, but it is also important to always listen to your customers’ questions and concerns and be timely in responding to them.  This is where a presence on social media can help, allowing you to always have an ear to the ground.

Review and evaluate

With regular forecasting and research, and well thought out objectives you will be in a good position to measure your progress towards your end goal.

It is important to regularly review your objectives, to have a mechanism in place to chart you ROI and any other measurements you have set yourself. This way, if you are off-course, you can change your approach, perhaps trying different marketing activities to still meet your end goal? Or indeed react accordingly to changes in the marketplace.

Taking time to refer to your strategy will help you stay focused, provide any relevant training to the team and also deliver your business objectives.

Conclusions

Now is a good time to evaluate your achievements for 2012 and to make the necessary improvements for 2013.

In short it is important to know where you are starting from, to set realistic objectives and put in place a strategy. And don’t put your strategy in a draw only to be looked at in a year’s time! Remember to review and evaluate on a regular basis and to measure your results.

Competitive Advantage Consultancy

If you would like help with tailored forecasting and research, or indeed in developing and implementing a winning strategy for 2013 then please contact us for a no-obligation quote.

Competitive Advantage specialises in providing marketing and sales services for the construction sector. We aim to provide high quality information at an affordable cost.

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