“How are you doing compared to your competition?” It’s one of the first questions I like to ask prospective clients.

A common response is, “Pretty good.” Sometimes they will actually know some measurables to back that assessment, but more often they have a general feel for it—worst case it’s just a guess. Oftentimes, it’s based more on old information and biases that have been built over years, and not recent, verified data. Thankfully, they also usually add, “But we can do better!”

Consider that your company might have five main competitors. How would you rate yourself against each of them in the areas of price, quality, innovation, delivery, timing, service, education or reputation? There are more categories, but you get the idea. Frankly, most middle-market companies cannot supply us with this qualitative and quantitative research and analysis.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some measurables to leverage when planning your branding, marketing and advertising? Without an unbiased accounting, if someone says, “I think we should do this or that ...” they are likely just hedging on what they consider a solution—because they won’t be able to verify the competitive advantage of implementing it.

Here we go into another end-of-year planning season. I urge everyone to consider hiring a quality marketing consultant or agency to do this data collection and analysis. It’s a relatively low-cost investment compared to the misfires that oftentimes occur. And it’s probably not something you’ll have to do annually, though that would be prudent. Consider mentally “amortizing” the investment over a couple of years—measure the ROI accordingly.

We’ve yet to land a client who has an unlimited budget (still holding out hope). So, be wise and invest in solid market intelligence. I can confidently attest that it’s a strategic decision that could provide a 5x-10x return on total investment in the long run. I see it happen. A lot.

Tim Padgett

“It is the new and different that is always most vulnerable to market research.”
—Malcolm Gladwell

“Long-range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”
—Peter Drucker