Leveraging Competitive Intelligence and Market Research

#USAMfgHour Twitter Chat Recap for June 18, 2020

“…Information is valuable. Having that information to help guide strategy and business decisions is essential.” – @NJMEP

On June 18, 2020, chat co-founder Jennifer Wegman, Social Media / Communications Manager at Service Caster Corporation (@SERVICECASTER) hosted our #USAMfgHour Twitter chat on our @USAMfgHourChat account and discussed how manufacturers can easily leverage competitive intelligence and market research to inform their marketing, strategy, and operations.

After introductions, Jennifer asked participants, “Have you ever benchmarked your direct competitors to see how you fit with them in the marketplace?”  @ZeroSurge said, “Market research is the foundation of any successful campaign. Understanding who you’re marketing to is essential to securing new customers. We definitely use both of these tools!”  However, a few of the participants said they generally do not do much CI benchmarking because their offerings are niche and/or unique from those of their competitors.  Jennifer’s answer to that was even if you believe “There’s no such thing as competition”, there is.  Being aware of what your competitors are doing and how you stack up gives you significant advantages, specifically with marketing and strategy.  Competitive intelligence (CI) benchmarking can 1) inform your content strategy 2) help determine if there is a hole in the marketplace to be filled, and 3) provide you with early warnings of possible market shifts.  @BIllGarlandSpkr concurred, stating that tracking jobs won vs. jobs lost from a technology, technique and personnel standpoint is a great CI action to be doing as well.  In reply, Jennifer recommended participants check out Ellen Naylor’s book on win/loss analysis as a great resource to inform their customer intelligence.

Next, Jennifer asked participants how many competitors they monitor on social media and other public (often called OSINT, or “open source intelligence”) channels.  Numbers ranged from zero to as high as 13.  A few participants, such as @CVTPlastics, @NJMEP, and @DynamicOEM said they don’t have a lot of direct competitors, so they monitor similar companies to gauge their brands’ social media and other activity.  Jennifer thought that was great, but also mentioned that participants should regularly monitor at least 5-10 of direct competitors, as well as at least 3 indirect competitors.  Benchmarking spreadsheets should include information relevant to what you’re trying to measure.  Social media handles, average likes and comments, frequency of posting, type of content posted, overview of blogs posted, and customer sentiments are some examples of items to monitor, as well as pricing, order avenues, products or services offered, job openings, new products, retired products, and more.  

When asked how often they should update their CI benchmarking data, participants responded with a range of timelines, including monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually, depending on the data they are monitoring.  While Jennifer recommended at least a quarterly update, she encouraged participants to set their own timelines, but not not go out past a year because data can get outdated.  And you can’t make timely, relevant insights for the future of your business based on non-current data.

At the halfway point of the chat, Jennifer switched gears into market research and asked participants what efforts they make in that area in order to help them excel at their businesses.  Everyone who responded said they don’t have anything formal in place for market research or don’t do it at all.  Jennifer explained that continuous #market research enables companies to increase awareness of their standing and advantages in the marketplace.  However, it is more focused on the market itself than on specific companies than CI benchmarking is. Companies who do market research often monitor market forecasts and trends, new entrants, exits, product/service development, influencers and thought leaders, and customers using open source info, databases, and proprietary information.

When asked about great sources for market research information, participants came through in a big way and shared the following great information:

  • @CVTPlastics – We are all custom B2B.  So, we monitor Twitter, LinkedIn , and YouTube. Also, websites.  We sell to other molders so we review their websites as well.
  • @NJMEP – One of our favorite sources are our clients! We focus heavily on building strong, real relationships with clients. Sparking up conversations and recording that data provides valuable insight into our market.
  • @ZeroSurge – We use a lot of internal information that we’ve gathered from our customers. We also keep a close eye on various social media channels to see which way the industry is heading. We’ll definitely keep watching this thread though to learn some new avenues for information!
  • @DynamaticOEM – Our go-to sources for market information include our sales team and clients, social media and websites, trade publications, and news sources that post company updates. 
  • @SERVICECASTER – Generally, I love @EYManufacturing @IndustryWeek @strategyand @stratandbiz @DeloitteUS @mckinsey_mfg @McKinsey for overviews of what’s going on.

Following up on these responses, Jennifer said some useful go-to open sources include social media, industry publications, industry associations, chambers of commerce, big consulting and accounting firms, public companies in the industry (especially their investor presentations), and databases like @IBISWorld.

Finally, Jennifer asked how participants get the most bang for their buck out of their market research efforts.  @DynamaticOEM said, “That’s a bit of a loaded question. The short answer: We keep a close eye on our budget, use analytics (search engine and social media) to find out where we need to be, and monitor engagement consistently.”  

Before closing the chat, Jennifer shared her favorite proprietary methodology for easy market research – P.U.L.S.E., which stands for the following:

  • PLAN: Know your purpose. What do you want to know? Have you done previous research? Create a plan for completion. 
  • UNDERSTAND: Know your audience. Who are you asking? Where will you find them? How will you contact them?
  • LEVERAGE: Search online resources. Actively listen on social media. Perform regular internet searches. Follow influencers and competitors.
  • SURVEY: Ask your audience. Create periodic surveys. Ask single questions regularly. Perform informational interviews 1:1 or in groups.
  • EVOLVE: Act on your findings.  Record data so it is comparable. Analyze findings without emotion. Be willing to make changes. 

Finally, Jennifer reminded participants that CI and #market research only do you good if you ACT upon the information and insights you gather and shared the following Great CI and #market research resources: @SCIP, @AIIP @ToddingtonInt’s free #OSINT resources, and academyci.com.  

Questions about implementing a CI or market research program into your manufacturing business?  DM us at @USAMfgHourChat on Twitter or email [email protected]Don’t forget to download your free CI benchmarking spreadsheet template.

The #USAMfgHour chat, held every Thursday from 2-3 PM Eastern is founded by @CVTPlastics @DCSCInc @witzshared and @SERVICECASTER.  Be sure to follow the official account for chat highlights, recaps, and information at @USAMfgHourChat and visit us on other platforms to keep in touch between chats.

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