Research is an essential part of business. It is an important tool which can help you identify critical differences and opportunities that inform strategy, so contributing to the success of your company. In this blog we detail the essential research that every construction product manufacturer should be conducting to inform their business strategy.

1 – Customer analysis

The best way to find out what your customers want is to ask them.

Customer satisfaction research as the name suggests is research to understand how satisfied your customers are with your products or services. Significantly this research provides an opportunity for improvement based on factual evidence of what your customers want. It puts you in a position to promote your strengths and improve your shortcomings.

Measuring decision maker’s perception is another way to understand what specifiers want. The market’s perception of a company will impact on what choices people make, the value they perceive and hence the prices they are prepared to pay for its construction products and services. Perception studies are also a useful way to inform your communications strategy. It can shed light on what specifiers like about your construction product or organisation, what they do not like and, of equal importance, their areas of ignorance.

Another way to inform your communications strategy is through profiling. Decision maker profiling considers a number of factors for example: Sectors worked in; Past projects; Size of business; Roles of key contacts; Areas of speciality; Product specification history. Knowing your customer, their business and what is important to them in each sector allows you to tailor your communications and manage the sales process more effectively.

Whichever way you choose to research your market it is important to use the results in developing your business. Gathering evidence on what is thought of your customer service, brand, product quality and price can also inform further in-depth research into specific areas.

Importantly researching your market identifies the drivers for product selection and how to improve your construction business sales and communications strategies to meet these.

2 – Brand strength analysis

In an industry where companies merge or have a portfolio of brands it is particularly useful to track brand.

Conducting regularly brand strength analysing means you can track brand performance, comparing it against communication initiatives by you and your competitors, gauging changes in attitude. You can measure return on investment for specification selling, benchmark against other leading brands and also get an indication of brand strength for different construction sectors.

There are a number of ways of conducting brand analysis. Most commonly used is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a loyalty metric developed by Fred Reichheld. This provides a simple score on a scale of 1 to 10. With repeat application NPS provides useful trends in your brand against competitors.

Brand personality research provides more qualitative analysis. The technique requires participants to describe a brand in terms of personality traits, this way feelings about the object/brand can be determined. Brand personality is seen as a valuable factor in increasing brand engagement and brand attachment.

Another method is to conduct a study on decision-maker confusion. As the name suggests this gives insight into the tendency to confuse one particular brand with another. Whichever method you choose gaining understanding of how you are perceived in the market place is essential; Giving you the information to position your brand effectively, with key specifiers and decision makers within your construction sector.

3 – Specification analysis

Understanding the drivers behind product selection is hugely significant and all the research techniques in this blog can inform the specification selling process. There are some research techniques though that specifically consider the decision making process.

Trade-off analysis is one way to understand how specifiers make their product choices. Participants are asked to choose a limited number of attributes from a selection, so giving an indication of the importance attached to particular attributes. Or with conjoint analysis participants compare products to establish preferences and can then explain the importance of different attributes. Focus groups are an ideal environment to test opinions or discuss new ideas, particularly in relation to a new product.

To gain detailed insight into how your products are sold, particularly if you use distribution channels, then consider conducting a mystery shopper exercise. As the title suggests this type of research has an anonymous element, where the researcher poses as a customer and records their findings on such elements as service and price. The information gathered can provide you with good and bad practice examples that your team can learn from.

Conducting analysis into why your product is specified can provide greater detail than customer analysis and brand analysis alone. Asking questions on why your product is selected or not selected over another can truly inform you specification strategy.

4 – Market analysis

To make informed business decisions you need to fully understand your construction market sector.

Understanding your market share, expressed in terms of sales value or volume of units sold, positions you against your competitors and allows you to track progress and evaluate success for your business or a particular product.

Forecasting can improve your business planning by indicating construction trends, showing the potential value of each construction sector to your business.

Analysing the market is an essential business tool. It identifies opportunities for new or existing products; allows informed decisions in terms of product investment and development; identifies new market sectors you could move into with minimal risk and most importantly anticipates future demand for your construction product.

Conclusion

The construction industry has a complex Decision Making Unit (DMU), hence a business challenge, and as the government drives initiatives such as sustainability and BIM the dynamics are set to change. For the construction sales and marketing professional this poses a challenge; yet by conducting regular research insight into product specification can be gained and opportunities acted on. Understanding the drivers behind product selection is hugely significant and all the research techniques in this blog can inform the specification selling process.

CTA - Little book of research

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