As a B2B small business owner you might think you know everything about your space. But whether your company is in its nascent stage or you’ve existed for years, it’s impossible to be an industry expert without staying abreast of industry trends, advancements, and opportunities.
With that said, an important first step in becoming an industry expert and a savvy business leader is mastering the process of conducting high-quality and actionable industry research. After all, for small businesses to survive in today’s cutthroat marketplace, it’s crucial to use information gleaned from research to better understand your target audience’s needs and gain a leg up on the competition.
And contrary to popular belief, obtaining high quality industry research doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For example, with Hoover's industry reports you can gain in-depth insights on everything from industry forecast, industry growth ratings, business trends, business challenges, industry opportunities and even a list of call prep questions so that your sales agents can stay on the ball when speaking with clients.
So, let’s say you’re an emerging B2B small business in the business services sector. By investing in third-party industry research reports, like that of Hoover’s, you can learn information that will be instrumental in making and fine-tuning your business plan. For example, the competitive landscape analysis could reveal that this sector is highly fragmented. In fact, the 50 largest companies account for less than 25% of sector revenue - which means competition is fierce. Altogether, the business services sector is made up of 390,000 companies in the US totaling $815 billion in revenue. And with so many companies dependent on customer referrals for new business, there might be opportunity in a direct mail campaign.
As such, it’s important to have an industry research strategy set in place to effectively extract only the most pertinent information that will afford you a real competitive advantage.
Here are four important steps to take when implementing a researching strategy for your business:
1. Set Targeted Goals
There’s an infinite amount of research that you can consult, but finding the right information that will help you gain competitive insight isn’t always easy. Unless you have a specific goal in mind, you could end up spending months gathering data that may or may not be valuable. Before you start to conduct industry research, it’s important to first set a specific goal. Ask yourself, what type of problem are you trying to solve within your market? Perhaps it’s providing a more cost-efficient service than your potential competitors, or finding a new niche to target. When you’ve defined your goal, you can more easily search for industry research that matches your criteria.
2. Segment Your Market
Evaluate the niche groups within your market—by demographic differences, company sizes, sales, etc.—and how you can position your products differently to each end. This will help guide your industry research journey, as it’ll enable you to conduct more pinpointed research. In doing so you’ll be able to gather more accurate information about the different groups of buyers you’re trying to reach. For example, your research might indicate that various demographics have different purchasing patterns for your product. With this knowledge you can then segment your marketing messages and adjust sales agents’ talk tracks to match the preferences of these unique target audiences.
3. Set News Alerts
Your industry is constantly changing and your competitors are always on the move. To ensure that you don’t let opportunity slip through the cracks, set news alerts on your competitors and other players within your industry. For instance, taking advantage of a service such as Hoover’s Alerts will enable you stay up to date on all the happenings. News alerts such as these give businesses owners access to real-time information in the form of press releases, Tweets, articles, blogs, and more. You’ll gain a 360-degree view of current events within your industry as it happens, enabling you to always keep your fingers on the pulse.
4. Partner with a Trusted Source
While a search engine like Google is a great place to start your research, the information found there isn’t always 100% accurate. Businesses, for example, don’t always update their contact information which means their address, phone number, and other pertinent information may be inaccurate. Likewise, not every industry research source that you find on the web is reliable. As such, position your business for success by partnering with a trusted third-party industry research provider, like Hoover’s, which provides curated data on thousands of businesses within your market. A trustworthy third-party source enables business owners to gain actionable insights such as an analysis of the competitive landscape, products, operations, technology, sales and marketing, finances, and regulations of competitors in their markets. (See a sample report here.)
The more you know about your industry, audience, and competitors, the more opportunity you have to build stronger marketing and sales strategies that work towards boosting your bottom line. So, follow these four steps to implementing a sound industry research strategy, you’ll see how a little bit of a research can go a long way.