How Market Research Can Help You Crush the Competition

Market research might not be a crystal ball, but it certainly will help you make strategic estimates on what will be coming next

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The following is a guest “Contractor’s Best Friend” post from Colby Humphrey, Senior Director at the Pinnacle Center for Competitive Intelligence and Development. Colby provides research and development expertise to the CCID and helps companies identify targeted needs to strengthen their business development and marketing efforts. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Many of us in the construction field have never considered incorporating market research into our operations. There are a number of limiting factors, including time, money and resources. You might be wondering, “Why would I want to spend money doing research? We’re in the construction business, not the research business.” One of our goals at the Pinnacle Center for Competitive Intelligence & Development (Pinnacle CCID) is to start to change that line of thinking and to help contractors understand that by not doing research they are wasting time, money and missing out on potential work opportunities.

1. Long-term planning efforts

To begin, market research can help you in your long-term planning efforts. What if you could proactively pursue growth areas of your region rather than waiting for bids to come along? Simply monitoring population trends helps you determine what cities, counties and even zip codes might be on the cusp of major growth and in need of construction work. Understanding your region’s economic strengths — be it healthcare, retail or higher education — can help prepare you for how to market your services as well. If you’re not monitoring growth trends, then you aren’t proactively engaging your market and anticipating changes that will surely be heading your way.

2. Understand your own company

Market research can also help you understand your own company more clearly than ever. A simple survey of previous clients might help you identify strengths you didn’t know you had; and, perhaps more importantly, show you weaknesses in your organization that need to be addressed. We all know our reputations are at stake in our work, and your competitors will certainly be keeping their ears open to any weaknesses on your part. Pinnacle CCID’s own research has shown that nearly 60 percent of contractors monitor the work being done by their competitors. Market research can help you address these threats by understanding your own company like never before.

3. Learn the competition's secrets

If you own your own business — any business — you know that competition is fierce. How many of us actually take the time to understand our own competitors? If you’ve lost four bids to the same company in the last year, do you ever wonder how they are able to keep securing work while you wait for the next project to come along? Market research can help change your understanding of your competition. Keeping track of your competitors allows you to understand the types of projects they are pursuing, anticipate their next moves, and position you and your company to take advantage of the weaknesses in their own operations. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what your competitors are doing before they even know they are going to do it? Market research might not be a crystal ball, but it certainly will help you make strategic estimates on what will be coming next from your competition.

4. Differentiation

Lastly, market research will, without a doubt, help set you apart from the competition in the bidding process. What are some typical phrases we always hear from companies looking to secure future work? “We are the best company in the area; We guarantee quality work and service; You can trust us.” Everyone says these things, in part because they are great things to say. No one can argue against them. The problem, though, is that EVERYONE is saying some variation of these phrases. If this is all you’re bringing to the sales pitch you aren’t doing anything to differentiate yourself and your presentation.

Market research can change this and give you the tools to knock your customers off their feet. Instead of repeating the “same old” lines that you always use, you will become empowered to provide your customers with new information that they didn’t even know. Or, you could even change their own thought processes on a project in a way that makes them say, “Well, we never thought of it that way, but you’ve got a great point.”

This is the goal of incorporating market research into your business development efforts: to help you secure the trust of your clients before you even step onto a jobsite. It’s possible, we’ve seen it work, and it will help set you and your company apart from the competition.

Colby Humphrey  

© Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™