The 4 major dimensions of
business and marketing analysis
You can create a powerful business plan / marketing plan – for a small business, SMB, or large company – by applying the key concepts + tips of strategic marketing analysis outlined below.
Insights from marketing analysis shape and power your online marketing strategy – helping you achieve sustained business growth and success in changing, competitive markets.
These key questions and tips are as relevant and powerful for the world’s leading corporations as they are for entrepreneurial small businesses, SMB firms, startups, visionary founders.
Online Marketing Strategy 101
Get started today
Analysis, Strategy, Plans for
Insights, Improvements, Innovations
needs, wants, segments, attributes, trends
What is customer analysis?
Developing an up-to-date, detailed, meaningful understanding of your target customers – defined further into different target segments with their attributes and priorities.
All businesses are about serving customer needs and wants – thereby delivering benefits that are valued by the users and paying customers.
What are some best practices & tips for customer / user needs analysis?
The core of marketing is keeping a close watch on these evolving user needs – and the various trends – technology, economic, social etc. that influence those customer needs.
Prioritizing them, keeping an eye out for those needs that are expressed but unmet or not adequately serviced by any offering currently available.
What are the key benefits of customer & user needs analysis?
A thorough knowledge of target customers and trends, along with creativity and innovation, enables you to envision new products & features that satisfy as yet unexpressed / unanticipated needs – the epitome of product innovation!
As Henry Ford is supposed to have said (maybe an urban myth but like other enduring myths, there is a kernel of wisdom here!) … if he had asked his target customers what they wanted, they would have strongly voted for an improved horse-drawn carriage.
Of course, whether it is an incremental refinement of a product feature or a newly envisioned product, the process of validating it’s perceived value and usability with your target customers is an essential step in the marketing process.
User Needs & Customer Analysis 101
competitive positioning, product differentiation
What is competitive analysis?
How are your products superior to competing products? Do your target customers understand and appreciate those differences? [How about your own team?!]
The first step towards achieving competitive advantage is developing a detailed understanding of your own products as well as your competitors – overcoming any natural hesitation to tally their strengths AND honestly acknowledge your weaknesses!
What are some best practices & tips for competitive analysis?
A good marketing practice is to rate your products and services along a number of key dimensions that users care about.
Tabulating the data from this evaluation in a comparative matrix with competing products – both direct and indirect alternatives (e.g. water for your colored, sugary, fizzy drink!).
What are the key benefits of competitive analysis?
A regularly updated comparative product matrix is a critical tool for your product development / product innovation efforts. And also for developing marketing messages & web content to support your brand building, promotion, and sales efforts.
Competitive Analysis (along with SWOT Analysis) can yield a gold mine of usable information and insights – yet it is often overlooked or under-emphasized. An ongoing effort provides tremendous ROI – by elevating and enriching your business’s efforts in various key focus areas.
Competitive Analysis 101
Company & Industry Analysis
products & services, brand, competencies, constraints
What is company analysis?
Another core marketing activity for a business of any size (from a startup / small business to a large corporation) is taking a hard look at (i.e. an independent, objective review of) the full range of your products and services, developing or revisiting the business case for each offering.
While reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s offerings, attention is also focused on identifying and evaluating the company strengths, core competencies, as well as any weaknesses, issues and risks.
What are some best practices & tips for company, product, and industry analysis?
Invest in sharp resources and time to evaluate the strengths of each of your market offerings, the core benefits, use-cases or applications, value proposition, USP, branding. An external perspective can bring much needed objectivity – and challenge / verify unstated assumptions and organizational blindspots.
Similarly, taking the time to assess the strengths and improvement areas for the company and brand as a whole. Identifying, from even a high level analysis, those areas that are either enabling or obstructing the path to greater success.
It is also very useful and important to take a wider look, beyond your company’s attributes, at the industry that you are a part of. Industry analysis can be done using a variety of strategic analysis tools and frameworks – including some classic ones, such as:
- Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis
- BCG Growth Share Matrix
- GE-McKinsey Attractiveness Matrix
- Ansoff Matrix
- Good-old Industry Research
(Key developments, trends, statistics – market size, market share, growth rates.)
What are the key benefits of company, product, and industry analysis?
The power of these analyses is not in creating attractive powerpoint presentations to impress external audiences (or even internal!) – but in surfacing key questions, issues AND opportunities – that result from simply looking at your business from different angles – and with a fresh perspective.
A solid, up-to-date understanding of your product portfolio and brand is not just for your customers or funding partners. A well-documented summary of this information is extremely valuable for your internal staff– both for product design & development as well as marketing & promotion.
And since the US / world economy and its players, from new startups to small businesses / SMB firms to large corporations, are all evolving (or dying off!) as they face the winds of changing trends on a daily basis, it should be a no-brainer that these types of business and marketing analysis are performed and utilized on a regular / ongoing basis – at most, every couple of months.
Company & Industry Analysis 101
social, technological, economic, political, legal, ecological
What is business environment analysis?
Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. In addition to your competitors who may be directly or indirectly aiming for the same customer base / market space, there are other entities that have a non-trivial influence on the goals and operations of your business.
Key stakeholders include other partner businesses such as suppliers, distributors, technology partners, contract manufacturers etc. As well as other entities such as: government oversight agencies, citizen’s groups, NGO’s, customer associations, and yes, the courts – who may be concerned about some aspect of your business – e.g. product quality, operating policies, information gathering and privacy issues, workplace conditions etc.
What are some best practices & tips for business environment analysis?
It is best to have a balanced attitude regarding the influence of these stakeholders – not all of it is negative. The next time you are in a hospital getting life-saving surgery, you will probably feel thankful for the verified quality of the medicines, the tested reliability of the equipment, the accredited qualifications and training of the doctors and staff, and the transparency and corrective actions on hospital errors – all of which contribute to a positive experience – making you a satisfied, healthy, & happy customer (though in this case, hopefully not a repeat customer!)
The best way to factor these market influences into your business and strategy is to proactively scan your environment along a number of dimensions to identify both favorable business drivers and potential challenges (to your business model, strategies, operations).
What are the key benefits of business environment analysis?
An acronym that has gained popularity is PESTLE Analysis – highlighting the following significant elements of your environment – Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental (Ecological).
By investing in a methodical and periodic review process, you can make sure that you are basing your key business & marketing decisions on a complete and up-to-date picture (to the extent practical) of your operating environment – minimizing post-launch surprises that can dent your sales, profitability, and if you are a small business, your very existence.
P.S. Speaking of acronyms, I prefer to call it LE STEP … to remind us that this is a critical step (even if it is not as exciting as working on product strategy or communications strategy!).
A humble but valuable step that helps the CEO / Founder / Head of Marketing aim (refine your business vision and goals) and lead your business (refine your strategies and operations) towards success and new heights!
Business Environment Analysis 101
The 4 core marketing and business analysis areas outlined above yield valuable strategic insights that enrich and shape all downstream activities – starting with the formulation of effective marketing strategies & plans. As a result, your business plan and marketing plan implementation efforts become more aligned and effective – helping you achieve key business & marketing goals and a high marketing ROI.
To put it simply, it is not just the old wisdom of "Ready, Aim, then Fire" but also the concept of ongoing learning, applying the lessons, and growing. With the recognition that the key determinant of success is the willingness to look within – along with the determination to continually elevate one’s vision, understanding, and offerings.
What is Marketing SWOT analysis?
How it spurs innovation and marketing strategy development
After analyzing your business and market environment along the 4 key dimensions above, you can consolidate and categorize your findings and insights into a 4 quadrant matrix (or some other tabular form) that highlight your STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, THREATS.
Known as SWOT analysis, an acronym from the initial letters, it is the most important tool for developing marketing strategy and running your business.
When performed correctly, SWOT can be an extremely powerful tool that guides (almost forces!) the core team to acknowledge both the positives and negatives in their market / competitive environment – rather than relying on wishful thinking or outdated assumptions.
The SWOT matrix stimulates creative / strategic thinking – pushing the team to develop strategies, solutions, and tactics to address the identified weaknesses, and build on the product and company’s strengths.
Power of strategic questioning and validation
Value of objectivity and perspective in marketing analysis / strategy development
This is one area where an external, objective perspective is particularly valuable and pays rich dividends. It helps to counter the usual human qualities that often accompany the desired qualities of strength and confidence – blind spots, over-optimism, attachments, biases. These inevitably and understandably develop among the core team members who become "too close" to their brainchild.
Getting an external viewpoint / review also helps to offset another phenomenon – subordinates / analysts who may not feel comfortable enough to raise uncomfortable questions or challenging ideas about key assumptions or "accepted wisdom".
In order to achieve success (assuming finite allocations of money and time!), it is vital that all issues / threats (and true, verified strengths) are surfaced & appreciated sooner rather than later (after spending a ton of money in launching the business on assumptions and hope!)
Right timing for strategic analysis / SWOT
Best frequency for ongoing marketing success
For a lot of businesses, this is a strategic exercise done at the beginning / startup phase while creating a business plan, but not updated or utilized much later on. The real value / ROI of strategic marketing analysis (summarized in the SWOT matrix) comes from ongoing guidance – similar to primary, ground-sensing radar to guide your flight through through unknown & changing terrain in foggy & dynamic weather!
Your marketing strategy and plan needs to be kept up-to-date on a monthly (or at least quarterly) frequency – so it can guide and shape key business decisions on a regular basis. Doing that leads to winning ideas and decisions across critical priority areas such as: product innovation & product development; services & business processes for sales, delivery, and support; marketing strategy & key messages; communications & promotion.
Online Marketing Strategy 101
Role of strategic analysis – from vision, marketing strategy, to execution
The infographic below offers a summary and perspective view of the various elements (of business, marketing, strategy, and execution) that need to come together – to take a business from it’s original vision & goals to real world success.
In an increasingly complex, competitive, and dynamic world, the development of a winning strategy / sustainable competitive advantage requires creative and thoughtful consideration, analysis, and brainstorming / innovation across ALL of these strategic components – with a solid understanding of their inter-relationships.
You can get there with a solid combination of good process (plans), tools (online collaboration), and skills (multi-disciplinary / cross-functional) – including a good dose of the 3 PMs – strategic product management, program management, and project management.
Along with leadership / facilitation skills to stimulate good thinking from all core team members, gathering of external ideas & data, healthy discussions & debates, and finally, clear articulation and documentation of developed strategies and solutions.
A final analogy: the power & spectacle of a rocket launch!
The tremendous light and sound show of a rocket launch and the accompanying TV / media coverage is an enjoyable spectacle that is hard to miss.
The reality of these 15 seconds of fame, however, is very different from the diligent, innovative behind-the-scenes work for months and years that leads up to the launch.
Critical work on strategy, planning, and development that determine, for the most part, whether the bright flash of launch will lead to the achievement of mission objectives – which can take days or months to materialize!
Online Marketing Strategy 101
Get started today
A strategy-driven online marketing consultant can bring fresh perspective, sharp skills, and objectivity to enrich these critical analysis and strategy development efforts.
Contact us today to schedule an initial conversation about your needs & goals – and how we can partner together productively.
An experienced business consultant focused on innovation opportunities – in every strategic dimension of your business – can help refine your firm’s direction as well as execution – in significant ways.
If you need a perceptive sounding board and an innovative strategist to enrich your efforts as you refine or redesign your brand, marketing communications, and products / services, then do get in touch.
MBA, Duke University
- Big-4 Management Consulting firm experience
- Fortune 500 and other leading global corporations
- As well as SMB, small business, entrepreneurial startups.
© 2016-2017 All rights reserved.