28 Sep 12 Market research in downturn: Opportunity is knocking, are you listening?
Once there were three thirsty men sitting on a table with a glass of water, Optimist (Man 1) says: The glass is half full, Pessimist (Man 2) says: The glass is half empty, Opportunist (Man 3) says: While you both were discussing it, I drank the water in the glass. By taking action, the opportunist gets to drink the water in the glass. When the market is down and everyone is holding off, isn’t this the right time to put your plans to action? While everyone is being optimistic or pessimistic in the current recession and doing nothing, being opportunistic and taking intelligent action could not only improve your revenues, but also improve your share in the market.
A few months ago, I had a discussion with a COO of a SME steel pipe manufacturing company, for a business research project I was working on, for an industrial machine. After completing my set of questions we ended up having a small discussion on his industry. He said that the entire pipe industry was facing difficulties in gaining business due to the economic downturn/recession and stiff competition from low cost Chinese imports. He wanted to increase his sales force and increase advertisements to improve top line figures. But the constraints of reduced operating and marketing budget did not give him this liberty. I told him I was a research analyst tracking the manufacturing sector. He asked for my opinion on his current situation. I advised him to start offering piping solutions and not just pipes to his clients. My argument was, “this will not only help you win and retain clients, but also shield you from low cost Chinese imports”. He liked the idea and just to test it, he wanted to ask his customers if they will be interested in such a solution?
We had another chat after a couple of days and he said his customers loved this idea. When others are holding back, he wanted to be innovative and grab this opportunity. For me, he was the opportunist who drank the water in the glass. I was thinking, if a couple of phone calls to his clients could bring in such insights and clarity to his plan, I wonder what an entire feasibility assessment study would do.
Since then, I have come in touch with many marketing heads across multiple companies, and while most of them were either optimistic or pessimistic about the Indian economic turnaround, very few were actually opportunistic. All the optimists and pessimists preferred to wait and watch. Their immediate marketing plans, business plans and research projects were put on hold. The argument they gave was the lack of marketing budgets and research budget allocated to them. But I ask, when have the budgets been enough?
An economic downturn offers an opportunity for companies to revisit their current marketing plans and strategies. These companies can realign themselves to meet the current market conditions and reap benefits in the recovery. This market also allows them to reduce their efforts from non-core activities and shift their focus on core or high growth divisions. Here is where an opportunity assessment and feasibility study could be really useful.
I believe that in such a discouraging economic scenario, one should spend more on knowing their market and customers better. These are the times when an innovative business plan, backed by a market research and opportunity assessment study, could help give a company a competitive advantage. In today’s dynamic market, especially in a emerging economies, availability of information and business intelligence acts as a differentiation between you and your competitor.