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The importance of knowing your market

Imagine the scene: you’re off on holiday, sat on the plane, all ready to go when a message comes over the tannoy from the captain: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Does anyone know where this flight is going?” Needless to say, you’d be unnerved.

An unbelievable scenario? Surprisingly, many organisations don’t know where they’re going.

Market research (also called market intelligence and market insight) is the first vital step to understanding your market and know where you’re going.

So what is market research in terms of construction? It’s about understanding the mechanisms that make the market tick – customers, competitors, politicians, economics, sectors and of course, the potential for growth. It’s then about using that knowledge to develop a successful plan.

Let’s start with some definitions. In marketing terms, the starting point is primary and secondary research. Primary research is research you have commissioned specifically yourself for a particular purpose, whereas secondary is research already exists.

Primary is more useful since it’s specific to your organisation but more expensive, while secondary will be cheaper but less useful since its original reason for being commissioned may not suit your purposes.

Let’s say you wanted to understand the characteristics of the UK construction market. The Office for National Statistics, the Bank of England, Chambers of Commerce, professional institutions and trade organisations are all great sources of data.

There are plenty of commercial research providers including Glenigan, Experian, Mintel and Keynote to name but a few, while the trade and regional press are invaluable sources of near-horizon information as well as providing company and project information, with services such as CNinsight.

However, the data from all these providers will need to be analysed, interpreted and adapted to suit your needs. This is the trade-off with secondary research.

Of course, research doesn’t need to be on a grand scale with vast armies of researchers. The digital world now gives us the ability to do more with less.

For instance, at a simple primary research level, online surveys can elicit valuable information about what your customers think, how staff view the organisation or how well suppliers are integrated into your organisation.

The power of professional events and local knowledge needs to be recognised. At a recent CIMCIG event in Manchester, we had representatives from the likes of the Bank of England, New Economics Manchester and Drivers Jonas Deloitte, all putting forward their knowledge and thoughts about the coming 12 months.

Every industry event, every conversation with a colleague, peer, supplier or customer is an opportunity to learn a little more about the state of the marketplace.

With the economy likely to be in flux for some time, organisations are thinking about how to get the most from their building stock either by improving building utilisation, implementing new capital expenditure plans or selling existing stock.

This type of intelligence presents opportunities for sharp-eyed firms to assist these organisations with long-term pipelines of work.

The first part of a journey is knowing where you’re going. Without knowing your market, you’re heading up a dead-end in the dark wearing a blindfold.

David Mycock is the head of marketing for Shepherd Gilmour, an international engineering consultancy based in Manchester, a senior national committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group, a committee member of TARGET, a construction marketing organisation based in Leeds, and a judge of the Construction Marketing Awards and the Marketing Effectiveness Awards. For further details visit

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