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Information is power so know about your markets

Many companies devote much time and resource creating monthly financial accounts. While this is important, it equates to looking into the rear view mirror while driving. As any motorist will tell you, looking ahead is much more important. By Chris Ashworth

Market research is the business equivalent of looking ahead. It provides an indication of what to expect. As the past 18 months have demonstrated, it is not always possible to accurately predict the future. But we can at least increase our understanding and be better prepared by conducting regular market research.

There is a tendency to think that market research is an expensive activity that only large companies can afford. But every business should be constantly gathering information and the good news is that it need not be expensive.

Much of the information you need is in the pages of Construction News, so monitor this and be aware of how the market is changing and the impact this will have on your customers and therefore your business.

There are also a number of websites regularly publishing free market information. These include those of the Office for National Statistics, Partnerships UK (PFI Projects), CLG Planning Activity, NHBC statistics, RICS Market Surveys and the CIMCIG Knowledge Hub.

For specialist information, check out the industry research reports which can be purchased at a relatively low price. If you do commission your own research, invest plenty of time in developing the brief to ensure it gives you good value for money. The cost of the research will be small compared to the cost of missed business opportunities.

Much bespoke research is about understanding your customers and potential customers. This may take the form of a customer satisfaction survey or perception study. It provides an understanding of what your customers like about you and your competitors and what they do not like.

This can provide the signpost to success. Armed with this information, a company can focus on promoting its strengths and take action to correct its weaknesses. Very often opportunities are identified to improve the service to the customer and make the company more efficient.

By understanding customer activities and problems it is often possible to identify new business opportunities or improve your chance of success by demonstrating how well you understand your customers’ concerns and problems.

Chris Ashworth is managing director of market research agency Competitive Advantage Consultancy and a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.