Small and Medium Sized Businesses – Developing Your Market Intelligence

Nearly every industry is signifcantly more competitive today that it was only a few years ago. Many companies focus on doing their thing a little bit faster or better than they did last year. But in today’s hyper-competitive environment that may not always be enough. We believe that there are three pillars of Business Intelligence that are given short shrift by many companies, and by ignoring these options, they put their company’s future in peril. The three pillars of Market Intelligence are Competitive Intelligence, Secondary Market Intelligence (syndicated or research that can be found or purchased on an given industry) and Primary Market Research – which is conducting research that is specifically designed to answer the questions that your business is grappling with – and that your competitors should never see (because it’s proprietary information).

COMPETITOR ASSESSMENT

It’s important to do a basic SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) on each of your key competitors to understand their positions in the market relative to that of your own company (financial position, apparent growth directions, likely profit margins and the threats that their business is facing). There are companies that specialize in gathering competitive information, and it’s pretty common to spend a couple of months and several thousand dollars to get a report on a number of key competitors. However, because the number of competitors is often very small, it’s often possible to do some gumshoeing on your own. When does your competitor open for business, when do they close, how many customers do they get in the morning, afternoon an evening, and how much does it look like they’re buying? Go in and ask them about their best selling product, buy one and see what they’ve got. You can also do a lot of this research via the web, or by the phone. Look at the city records to see who owns the land, have a realtor friend estimate what the rent would be like on that size building in that part of town. Look at the equipment they have, and the stock that that they carry, count the number of employees. You can probably do a pretty good job of estimating their revenue and even projecting their profit. It’s a good businessperson who has an idea of how their business stacks up.

SECONDARY MARKET RESEARCH

These are the companies that make their money by keeping tabs on the industry overall and try to understand which major competitors are doing well and which are in bad shape. Many can approximate market shares by talking to companies that provide raw goods or by talking to the channels that these companies sell through. Some of these analysts will estimate whether the overall business is growing or shrinking and are brave enough to project these numbers out for several years. The types of companies that track these industries include International Data Corporation, Dataquest, and don’t forget industry groups. Many of these reports are combined at one wonderful website that can help you quickly find reports on every industry under the sun – Market Research. This is probably the fastest place to find quality information on your industry overall, although it’s not free, unfortunately.

PRIMARY MARKET RESARCH

Once you know about your industry, you may decide that you’d like to know more about the specific products or services that you’re developing. Or maybe you just want to find out what kinds of customers are purchasing your products, how happy they are with them, or what their likelihood is of buying another product from you in the future. That’s where Primary Market Research comes in. Primary research entails a couple of dozen different methods of getting customers feedback, depending on what access they have to technology, where they are located in the world, the sensitivity of the topic and whether you think that group synergy would get you a better answer than you would by speaking to a customer one at a time. There are also a few unique methods to probe on other areas, for example there is “lost customer” research, which finds customers that purchased another company’s products and then probing on why they didn’t go with your products.

Anyway there are a number of ways to get at most any type of business issue that you have. Together these techniques can help a savvy business manager to ensure that they keep a finger on the puse of the market in which they operate – and thereby keeping their positiion in that market safer!

Georgetown Heritage Business Developments In Penang

A new kind of energy fills Georgetown City of Penang Island these days. The elegant 19th century shop lots are buzzing with life and activities. New business trends related to heritage living style have sprung up everywhere around the city area.

There has been renewed business interest in the areas since the listing of Georgetown as a UNESCO world heritage site two and a half years ago. Both small time entrepreneurs and more established investors are putting cash in conservation projects. Old heritage houses and shop lots have been transformed into chic eateries, boutique hotels, and charming home stays.

A classic cafe example is ‘Kopi Cine’, which is located at Stewart Lane. This delightful cafe serves Penang style coffee as well as Italian cappuccino. ‘Amelie Cafe’ in Armenian Street is another heritage cafe investment, which serves local delights prepared from fresh market ingredients. The new generation of investors are not merely pumping funds into prime real estates, but have shown deep respect for heritage and culture.

The buffer zone area has also been livening up with the establishment of ‘Hotel Penaga’. This hotel is located in the surrounding areas of Hutton Lane, Transfer Road and Clarke Street, which is a pre-war terrace of fifteen shop units. It has been beautifully restored into a boutique hotel and maintains the character of the heritage zone, while meeting the highest modern expectations for visitors, who particularly wish to experience the heritage style of living accommodation.

Investing in the heritage city of Georgetown may seem like a good idea, but it is not a simple task. The dilapidated condition of many of Georgetown’s old shop houses call for restoration and renovation. Such costs are often double the cost of the initial purchase price of the dilapidated property. But luckily these factors have not discouraged investors, comprising local Penang citizens, Malaysians from other states, as well as foreigners, from investing in heritage estate developments.

Georgetown’s heritage listing has also proved to be a huge investment opportunity and a big boost to Penang’s economy. Penang is now globally recognized as a selected destination for tourist to visit. This has also upgraded the Penang’s status as a healthcare or medical care destination. More visitors from neighbouring countries are now coming to seek medical treatment in Penang. Medical tourism enabled many people to get the benefit of high quality medical treatment with more competitive cost in medical expenses, while going on a beautiful and tranquil vacation.

The cost of getting the treatment done elsewhere aboard has confirmed to be comparatively more expensive, whereas the same medical treatment cost in Penang can be much lower, by as much as 50% of the cost abroad. Patients can get the best possible treatment available in Penang. Penang medical professionals are highly efficient and well versed in English.

Penang may be small but is full of life, and have been voted as one of the top most livable place in the world.

Developing Your 2012 Pipeline and Preparing For a Great Year of Winning Business

If you are anything like me, you’ve dealt with three challenges during the holidays – trying to keep from overindulging too much and gaining hard-to-shed pounds; fighting off a recurring cold; and trying to juggle family time with proposals that are due early to mid-January. By the way, I am officially envious if you faced no challenges or dealt with them through advance planning and orderly life. You are my hero.

This article is for everyone else who is not a planning maven, or like me, tends to pile the plate so high that no amount of planning is enough, no matter how hard I try. Now that the holiday hustle and bustle is over, and there is relatively smooth sailing through the frigid months ahead, it is time to slow down for a day or two and finally plan. Dust off your crystal ball, sharpen your pencils, and let’s talk about getting your company (and you) to that next level of growth.

My first question to you is, what does your opportunities pipeline look like for 2012? This question is relevant to everyone – not only the executives, but also capture and proposal staff, and even proposal consultants. Every business has to have a healthy pipeline to thrive. It is surprising, however, how many simply do not have one, have proposal staff that don’t know about its existence (if there is one), or have one but are skeptical about its quality and usefulness. I hear a common story that bespeaks of broken pipelines from small and large companies alike:

• “We only submitted a handful of proposals last year; we could be proud that we are picky but our win rate is so low.”
• “We cannot find opportunities that match our exact area of expertise, so our pipeline is small and won’t sustain our desired growth.”
• “We bid on everything – I think our bid-no-bid process is broken – and having everything under the sun in the pipeline simply doesn’t make sense.”
• “We keep going after bluebirds – we haven’t updated our pipeline in a while.”

Or better yet,

• “We don’t know what our Bid and Proposal budget is. Because no one has planned the pipeline for the year. Therefore, we have not decided how much investment is needed to win the opportunities that show up in the pipeline to reach our annual goal, while factoring in our win rate.”

If you recognize your company in the statements above, or have other pipeline challenges, it is time for change. You have to put business development higher on your priorities list, because a quality pipeline directly correlates to your future revenue. Or lack thereof. If you are a business owner, executive, or a consultant, make sure that you make this an investment year into your pipeline development. It will contribute to your peace of mind, and give you greater control over your destiny.

If you are working in a proposal department – wouldn’t it be nice to bring some degree of planning and order into your resources, time, and efforts? Perhaps, you would be compelled to act bolder and ask your management for more resources knowing that you are facing a churn-and-burn proposal stretch. Maybe you could dedicate more time to capture – even if you could do a little bit at a time while you are busy on other pursuits. All of it will lower your stress and contribute to your quality of life.

My second question is, have you looked at your industry’s trends? What does the immediate future hold for you and your company? For example, with the government moving more and more work to the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) vehicles and GSA and VA schedules, have you caught up and learned how to turn your company into a task order winning machine? What was the last time you have looked at the legislative changes impacting government contractors? What areas will continue to grow, like Cyber and Security fields – and what industries are bound to shrink with the budget crunch? How are your target customers changing their procurement behaviors given the state of the economy? How will you adjust the type of opportunities you are bidding on?

Also, what are your competitors now doing to beat you? Are they cutting costs – and if so, how are they doing it? Are they investing into new initiatives?

Answers to these questions will shape your pipeline even further.

These questions may seem irrelevant to proposal managers, coordinators, writers, editors, and other proposal professionals not as directly involved in strategy and planning – but I beg to differ. It will make you a better rounded professional if you understand what the industry is doing and how your company is likely to react – and you can adjust accordingly if there are certain risks on the horizon.

Which brings me to my third question – have you looked at your career and growth opportunities for 2012? What will you do to advance yourself, earn more money, and get greater job security, while helping your business? Will you stay in the same field or will you expand your abilities? In the business development field, there are always ways to command higher pay, be more in demand, and ultimately become more successful. On the other hand, many proposal professionals narrowly specialized in one field may find themselves in less secure positions.

To change this situation, it is important that you don’t succumb to burnout-induced complacency. Explore professions that are adjacent to your fields to increase your competitiveness and pay grade. There are natural career paths for certain professions. For example, proposal managers would greatly benefit from getting training in management, capture management, orals coaching if your customer set uses orals, technical writing, pricing, desktop publishing, and graphics skills – and could definitely use training in cost proposals development. Capture managers should expand their skills into proposal management, business development, price-to-win, and cost strategy. Technical writers should consider proposal coordination and proposal management as a career path if they are comfortable with higher levels of responsibility over the team. Proposal coordinators could venture into desktop publishing, graphics, and editing; or step up and becom e proposal managers.

For executives, investing into developing more versatile proposal teams means higher success rate in winning proposals, and ability to rotate personnel from one role to another on a variety of proposals, preventing team burnout. And, ultimately, getting a more skilled resource pool may mean a different type of pipeline where you can be more aggressive in pursuing opportunities.

Determine what training courses you are going to attend in 2012 to expand your capabilities, and definitely plan to make it to the APMP-NCA’s educational events.

Well, onward and upward, as some of my dear friends like to say. If you haven’t already asked yourself or your colleagues these three questions, it may be time that you do. Life may not go according to a plan, but it is better to have one anyway. Life without a plan is almost guaranteed to have much less spectacular results. I wish you a professionally and personally rewarding year!