COVID effects: who could become your “replacement product” competitors?

 

In marketing, we think about the following types of competitors (I’ve taught this in undergraduate and MBA courses):

Direct Competitors

Direct competitors sell the same types of products with comparable features, pricing, and outcomes, to the same target audience.  Examples include Harvard vs. Yale, Honda vs. Toyota, Sears vs. JCPenney, Hershey’s chocolate vs. Nestle chocolate.

Indirect Competitors

Indirect competitors sell similar products or services that could serve a similar purpose for your direct or peripheral customer groups.  For example, community colleges vs. in-state four-year colleges, Mercedes Benz vs. Toyota, home ownership vs. renting, specialty restaurants vs. fast food hamburgers, pie or baklava vs. chocolate bars.

Replacement Product Competitors

Replacement products are substantially different products customers could use instead of your product or service to meet their same need.   When markets are turned completely on their heads, for example, some vehicle purchasers might skip buying a second Mercedes and buy a motorcycle or bicycle instead (or join a car share club).  One example that’s getting recent attention during the current financial downturn and “study from home” environment is Google’s pursuit of attracting students away from traditional university education to pursue Google’s new “Career Certificates.”

What About Your New Forms of Potential Competition?

Have you assessed how your customer’s buying decisions could change in the short term and the long term due to COVID-19? Have you identified what kinds of replacement products this may lead them them to consider purchasing instead of continuing to use your products or services? Working through this idea effectively is necessary to think through how to retain as much business as possible and/or to attract other customers who could use your product as a replacement product for an alternate product that is now not working for them (budgetary or movement constraints, etc.).

If you haven’t considered this – or you are feeling challenged by this – Burkhardt & Co. is here to help. Our consulting services are one option for you. Purchasing our Competitive Intelligence Workbook is another option for you.

Information Literacy – a skill worth learning

pen

Market research data collection, which we provide at Burkhardt & Co., requires a high level of information literacy so we can find, collect, and make use of information that is accurate, relevant, and useful.  We believe information literacy is important for everyone.  Thus, we offer this brief primer on information and media literacy.

When you look at information from any source – from books to quotations, literary references, reports, news stories, and social media – ask the following:

  • What is the source of the information? Does the information come from a knowledgeable and reliable source – such as reputable expert, university, government study, or someone with first-hand knowledge?   How close is the information provider to the information source?  The closer the source is to original information – a current news story, a historical event, etc. – the more likely it is to be accurate.
  • Is the information sensical and measurable?  Does the information “measure up” against standards of knowledge you already know?   There are many “levels” to this……  Does a reference to Queen Victoria accurately mention the time period in which she was Queen of England (i.e., question any source that discusses a decision she made in 1750)?  If you are reading the results of a medical study, question the results of a study for medication to treat gynecological health problems that are only tested on men (yes, this is said to have actually occurred!).   When reading about a statistical study, were there enough study participants for the results to be statistically relevant?
  • What is the information’s date?  Medical recommendations from a medical textbook published in 2015 are going to be more rigorous than a medical textbook published in 1815.  On the other hand, someone writing in 1815 about a news event that happened in that year will have more first-hand knowledge of the situation than someone extrapolating a theory of the event in 2015.
  • Is there bias involved?  Does an information source have a motive for wanting you to believe a particular perspective?  If the answer is yes, that bias can be cause for scrutiny – depending on the context.  On the other hand, an information source may clearly state, “My bias is X and here’s why I believe you should view this from a particular perspective….”

Interested in learning the skills involved in information literacy?

 

Kim Burkhardt, MBA is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

How are you anticipating post-COVID-19 business? Are you?

moon, plane II

One of my favorite business newscasters often says, “business doesn’t like uncertainty.”  Yes, well….. We are living the maxim, “May you live in interesting times.”

So…. what are you doing to anticipate market conditions three, six, twelve, eighteen months from now?   Spinning in anxiety isn’t an effective business planning tool.

I used foresight to anticipate a plane heading toward an afternoon moon to position my camera for the above photograph.   I also used a thought-out forecasting strategy in early 2007 to anticipate the direction Canada’s economic indicators would take for the year; in February, 2008, I won the Association of Professional Economists of B.C. “Crystal Ball” Award for having most closely predicted the nation’s 2007 economic indicators.

What’s more, there are strategies you can take to diminish business uncertainty about the coming months and years during these “interesting times.”  Any strategy requires information.  Thus, “living in an interesting time” demonstrates the need for data – including collection and analysis of competitor and market data to better assess your market environment.  

Tap your firm’s internal knowledge and experience

  •  Talk to – interview – a broad range of people within your firm to learn their perspectives and gain their insights about market activity.
  • Listen thoughtfully to what people have to say.  If they say something that challenges you, consider thoughtfully what they have to say.  Don’t dismiss something you disagree with or that comes from a source you don’t expect.
  • Organize the information you gather into a resource to which you can refer.   For example, the charts in Competitive Intelligence Workbook are a useful repository of competitor and market information.

Tap your network’s knowledge and experience

This is a critical time to make use of your industry and professional networks.  Talk to professionals in your network to “get the pulse” of what’s happening in your industry.  Apply the same principles listed above.

 

Specifically, gather and evaluate market and competitive intelligence:

In addition to the age-old maxim of “know thyself,” this is a critical time to “know your market” and “know your competitors.”

Companies are sometimes tempted to cut costs – including market research and competitive intelligence – in lean times.  Smart companies recognize they need MORE information, not less, during challenging times.   Market research and competitive intelligence deliver important information to help you navigate difficult times.

  • What do you need to know about markets and competitors?  What don’t you know?   Those questions are fairly easy to answer.  For example:

1) How much is the economy going to shrink or expand and by how much?

2) When is the economic tide going to turn?

3) How are my customers going to respond to market conditions over time?

4) What are my competitors doing?  What will they do?

5) What’s going to happen with coronavirus?

6) Etc.

  • Create blank charts, graphs, and reports into which your market research and competitive intelligence team can enter data to gain a picture about the questions above  – potential and likely answers to your questions.

 

  • Your market research and competitive intelligence team can then go to work “filling in the charts” to gain a picture of market conditions.  Be sure to have employees from throughout the company feed their industry knowledge to your intelligence charts.

 

  • As market and competitor data is populated into your charts, think of your charts like a jigsaw puzzle.  You may or may not fit every jigsaw piece into the information puzzle; the more information you enter into the chart, though, the better you’ll be able to plan your strategic direction based upon available data.  Further, providing your collective insights to your corporate teams – sales, marketing, etc. – will  enable them to improve their performance.

 

Burkhardt & Co. is available to assist you with your market research and competitive intelligence activities.  Contact us today.

 

Navigating through changing times

Cascade Mtns via 520 bridge

Everything’s changed. How can our firm get through this and succeed going forward?

When a crisis “changes everything” for one’s business, then what?

It’s easy to panic.  What do we do?  How do we keep functioning, keep our business viable?

Be useful and relevant to your clients.   They are also experiencing anxiety and change.

“But, how do we do this,” you ask?  “In what ways?”

Well……You are experiencing change and anxiety?  So are your clients.  So are potential clients.   Solving their needs is the answer to your questions about how to get through this time.

  • “Reach out and touch someone.” Remember that old telecom commercial?  It applies today.  Contact your clients.  Find out from them what they most need.  Find out how and why they need it (perhaps they need some flexibility in service/product delivery at the moment or they have circumstances you aren’t aware of) – focus on that. Figuring out how to meet their needs will inform how to manage your own internal resources.
  • Who else has needs can we satisfy, both during COVID-19 and in the future?  What emerging market needs are emerging as a result of coronavirus?  Which ones can your company’s capabilities support?  Just as Zoom and other online meeting platforms are satisfying a suddenly-increased market need for online meetings, there could be  other emerging market needs for which your products and capabilities might be useful.  Time to look at the Four Ps from marketing (product, price, place, promotion) – toss in a look at your capabilities – and look at matching up your products and abilities with emerging market trends and needs.
  • What can our firm do to calm people’s anxiety?  Both clients and potential clients will positively remember a firm who can help relieve their nervousness during this time.   Whether you reach out to offer social condolences or offer a product/service that meets people’s needs, people will appreciate you.

 

Need assistance looking at emerging market trends?

Give us a callWe are in this together.  Burkhardt & Co. will work with you, delivering your market research needs.  Investigating market trends, understanding vague or emerging market or economic topics, studying industry dynamics, finding solutions to company-specific challenges, planning future stages of business development…. We are here to help.

Market research matters. To you.

Partially frozen Green Lake in winter, Seattle

Market research insights lower business risk and uncertainty

No business operates in a vacuum.   Sources of uncertainty cannot be ignored because they are not fully understood or seem remote or intimidating.

Market research can reduce uncertainty.  Market research isn’t just customer surveys.  Market research spans a broad range of activities from literature searches of specialty publications to interviewing specialists and combing through public records.

 

Market research insights increase market opportunities

None of us know everything about the markets in which we operate – nor is one person or department likely to anticipate every type of new market or industry for which your company might profit from entering.

Market research provides insight to guide participation your market(s) – consumer demographics, customer attitudes and buying behavior (present and potential), industry trends, competitor dynamics, legislation.

 

Market research helps you understand your customers and competitors

Who is your target market?  Where can you find additional target markets who would benefit from your products and services?  What are their demographics and needs?  Which types of marketing efforts will they respond to best?   What’s changing in your target market and their needs and preferences?

Who are your competitors?  How do they operate – in terms of both products/services and market strategy?  Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying something to the effect of, “No matter how immersed one becomes in one’s own thoughts, you occasionally have to take the enemy into account.”   Not that I would necessarily call competitors “enemies….”  – the point is that competitors market activity need to be taken into consideration. 

Burkhardt & Co. is available for your market research needs.

 

Kim Burkhardt, MBA is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

 

 

 

 

VOWEL – economic recovery

vowel

My “vowel” moment in thinking about post-coronavirus economic recovery – and how to support our market research clients – came when I realized, “Oh, market research is the E in VOWEL.”

In efforts to think about the post-coronavirus economy – and how, if, and/or when it will recover – Bloomberg published an April 26, 2020 article about “VWL” (“Tale of Two Economies…”).

In this article, there are economists’ views of  “An uneven reboot for the global economy” – a view which makes sound sense.  ….Some nations’ recoveries “are a little more V-shaped because there’s a little bit more manufacturing, a little more tech,” Catherine Mann, Citigroup Inc. chief economist and former chief economist for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, told Bloomberg Television April 23. [think: a fast decline down, a fast recovery back up] “That might be a South Korea or Taiwan. And then there are other economies that are extremely tourism dependent. Those are facing L’s. Something like a Thailand, a Singapore.”

So, think of economies recovering as V, W, LV’s for the quick rebounders, W’s for the uneven “up and down, all over” nature of varying economic sectors, and L’s for the flattened sectors.  Insert the vowels O for “O, that makes sense” and E between these consonants and you’ve got VOWEL.

Dictionary.com defines vowel as “a speech sound which is produced by comparatively open configuration of the vocal tract, with vibration of the vocal cords but without audible friction, and which is a unit of the sound system of a language that forms the nucleus of a syllable.”

Oh. A vowel doesn’t create audible friction.

…..If your firm would like to reduce friction in its’ business model going forward – in other words, have assistance in dealing with and recovering from economic uncertainty – get the E in VOWEL .  Specifically, research your best RECOVERY(EE) options with Burkhardt & Co.’s market research and business planning services (market forecasting and strategic planning, if you will).   Contact us today.

Kim Burkhardt, MBA is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

Everything’s changed. How can our firm get through this and succeed going forward?

MySkyline

When a crisis “changes everything” for one’s business, then what?

It’s easy to panic.  What do we do?  How do we keep functioning, keep our business viable?

Focusing on one particular “end result” will put everything else into perspective, answering all other questions.

The “end result” focus point: be useful and relevant. 

“But, how do we do this,” you ask?  “In what ways?”  

Well……You are experiencing change and anxiety?  So are your clients.  So are potential clients.   Solving their needs is the answer to your questions about how to get through this time.  

  • “Reach out and touch someone.” Remember that old telecom commercial?  It applies today.  Contact your clients.  Find out from them what they most need.  Find out how and why they need it (perhaps they need some flexibility in service/product delivery at the moment or they have circumstances you aren’t aware of) – focus on that. Figuring out how to meet their needs will inform how to manage your own internal resources. 
  • Who else has needs can we satisfy, both during COVID-19 and in the future?  What emerging market needs are out as a result of COVID-19?  Which ones can your company’s capabilities can support?  Just as Zoom and other online meeting platforms are meeting a suddenly-increased market need, there could be  other emerging market needs for which your products and capabilities might be useful.  Time to look at the Four Ps from marketing (product, price, place, promotion) – toss in a look at your capabilities – and look at matching up your products and abilities with emerging market trends and needs.

 

Need assistance looking at emerging market trends?

Give us a call.  We will work with you to deliver your market research needs.  We are here to help.

 

Kim Burkhardt is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

Coronavirus, an increase in remote work. Then? Anticipating the future.

chart

I’ve long been a remote worker; I am well suited for it. Thus, it was a natural to offer a page of “remote working” resources with the recent increase in unexpected remote workers.  This page had so many initial visitors that I’ve continued listed more links and resources.  Check it out!

What happens, though, after the current phase of social distancing and unanticipated levels of remote work?  What happens to the overall economy?

Will work – and every other facet of our lives – “return to normal?”   Or will there be changes in our lives, societies, and/or economies?  A new normal?

Economists are now saying that we have entered – with coronavirus and our global response – into the greatest economic recession/depression since the Great Depression.  The IMF, for example, is predicting a 3% economic contraction – much greater than the 1% contraction of 2008.

Further, varied individuals and groups are speculating on corona-caused economic and social change going forward.  Not all of these ideas will materialize.   I have variously heard:  

  • “There could be a permanent shift in how people experience employment.”  For example, there could be a sustained state of more people working remotely.
  • “The U.S. might finally shift to providing health care to all residents.”  
  • “With more online meetings, there could be a permanent reduction in auto and air traffic.”  
  • “Societies are going to re-think their war mentalities.”  
  • “The economic consequences of coronavirus will – or could – effect upcoming political elections in  X or Y fashion.”
  • “Societies are going to develop a stronger social conscience,” or “Coronavirus is revealing deep social divisions that call us to develop a new social contract.”
  • Political and religious conspiracy theories.

At a minimum, I agree with economists who are projecting deep recessionary consequences of coronavirus and our response to it.   I say this as the 2008 winner of the Association of Professional Economists of B.C. Crystal Ball Award (i.e., in early 2007 I submitted the most accurate forecast of the direction of Canada’s economic indicators for the year).   

In addition to a current recession (depression), we may see far-reaching shifts over time.  But which shifts?

To put this another way….. Beyond the immediate fact of negative short and/or long-term economic consequences of coronavirus (and our current response to it), how are we to develop a framework for considering potential long-term changes – a “new normal?”  A few thoughts:

  • Start with what college students are commonly told to do – “examine your assumptions.”   Why do you believe what you believe?  What underlying assumptions inform your ideas?  What assumptions are we making about the consequences of coronavirus?  What social and economic considerations will society actually act upon? 
  • Review news sources for additional hints and hypotheses of economic and social factors – and their possible long-term outcomes.  Look at both current ideas and analysis of how the world changed as a result of past pandemics.  Don’t limit your attention to theories or possibilities that support your own world view or ideas you are inclined to agree with, consider any possibility that’s plausible.   it’s not always our own perspective that wins out (who, for example, always sees their favored political candidate win an election?).  
  • Use economic modeling to test drive several projections based on info and perspectives you’ve collected.  What could be the consequences of our economic situation and societal choices?  As per study.com, “An economic model is a hypothetical construct that embodies economic procedures using a set of variables in logical and/or quantitative correlations. It is a simplistic method using mathematical and other techniques created to show complicated processes. An economic model can have many constraints, which may change to generate different property….There are five main reasons that economic models are used….. 1. To predict economic activities in which conclusions are drawn based on assumptions.  2. To prescribe new economic guidelines that will change future economic behavior.  3. To provide logical defense to justify economic policies at three levels: national/political, organizational, and household.  4. For planning and allocating resources and planning logistics and business leadership.  5. To assist with trading and investment speculation.”  For more on economic modeling, here is an article from the IMF.
  • Finally, consider several possible outcomes based on economic modeling exercises.  Think through how you, your firm, and your social community might handle several possible long-term consequences of Coronavirus.  Thinking through several possible outcomes will help you consider a number of “new normal” scenarios in which you may have to contend.  This approach is something like the “jigsaw puzzle approach” that I take to collecting and analyzing market research and competitive intelligence data (gather as much information as possible, then “piece together” the information into a jigsaw puzzle of analyzable data that will look at least partially complete – more complete than if you had done no research or planning).

Kim Burkhardt is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

Staying connected while working remotely

birds of a feather, Lake Washington

I’ve long been a remote worker; I am well suited for it. Thus, it was a natural for me to offer a page of “remote working” resources with the recent increase in unexpected remote workers.  This page had so many initial visitors that I’ve continued listed more links and resources.  Check it out!

Workplace Connectedness and Networking During Social Distancing

Working from home doesn’t have to mean being socially isolated and “out of the loop.”

Sustaining connections with colleagues and clients is important for maintaining workplace communication, managing project productivity, and for avoiding the increased risk of loneliness and depression among remote workers.

So, a few tips:

  • Dial in regularly to project and departmental planning and logistics calls (daily or weekly, as appropriate).  These calls help keep projects on track (“Who is doing what?”  “What’s happening with A and B?”  “How is the client responding to X and Y?”).  Just as these calls keep open necessary lines of communication, the calls support social connectedness/networking.
  • Participate in “remote water cooler” events at your firm – online company communication portals, virtual lunches or dinners, project “chat sessions,” and the like.  If your firm isn’t already offering such events, offer to start one!  I have increased my involvement in this recently with several groups I’m a part-of; these Zoom calls offer professional and social connections and one earns leadership kudos from attendees (“Thank you for organizing this!”).
  • Volunteer for company projects that allow you to interact with people at your firm.  Lead projects, organizing charity drives, etc.
  • Participate regularly on LinkedIn and other networking platforms.  Post content, respond to other people’s content, anticipate content to post that could be of interest to people in your network.
  • If you continue working remotely for the long-term: engage more actively with company and industry opportunities for networking – local industry events (association dinners and speakers), conferences, etc.  Speaking at conferences has been one of the ways I’ve built professional recognition among potential clients – thus motivating me to attend conferences near and far.  Once I am at a conference, I am attracted to the trade show floors at conferences that provide them; I get a social boost from the buzz of the trade floor.
  • If you continue working remotely for the long-term: find local coffee shops where remote workers congregate.  Take your devices there to work for at least one or two sessions per week – it’s a chance to be around people and develop new professional connections.
  • Engage with social and family connections outside of work.  These become more important for your personal well-being when you are connecting in person less at work.

 

Kim Burkhardt is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.

COVID & arson. Online search: What’s going to impact your business and industry?

fire

Katherine Doyle at The Washington Examiner reported yesterday (April 7, 2020) that “Internet search queries for ‘how to set fire’ are spiking amid the downturn from the coronavirus pandemic, which experts say is a sign that some people may be planning to commit insurance fraud.  Search term data compiled by Google shows that the number of users looking for information on how to start a fire grew by 125% year-over-year in the last week of March. A massive 700,000 jobs were lost during the month.”   Find the article here.

This poignantly demonstrates the value search professionals (info pros) deliver to companies.

Skilled searching is part of how I generate useful market research and competitive intelligence services for clients.   This goes beyond just, “Oh sure.  Anyone can type in a search on Google and find things.”

To demonstrate skilled searching from another perspective, a client came to me several years ago with a conundrum.  “A low-level competitor is suddenly and unexpectedly gaining noticeable market share against us.  We don’t know how they’re doing it.  Can you find out how they’re doing it?”  “Sure,” I told them, “I’ll see what I can do.”   After several days of effort, I logged into – yes – LinkedIn and did a search for people whose LinkedIn profiles reported having worked for both my client and my client’s competitor.  Voila.   I found a former employee of my client who self-identified on LinkedIn that they had left my client’s firm to work for the competitor several months before the competitor started gaining significant market share; the person’s profile further indicated that they had also stayed on at my client’s firm during the first month of also working for the competitor.  That employee was in a position to share info with the competitor that could have been used for competitive advantage.  When I uncovered this information, my client immediately brought this information to their firm’s legal team.

I sometimes describe my market research and competitive intelligence services as being an “MBA Librarian” (I do have the MBA) or a “jigsaw puzzle magician” who finds data, pieces it together like a jigsaw puzzle, and provides clients with information and analysis that usefully drive productive business decisions.

In uncertain times, being competitive and keeping clients onboard is challenging – making it more essential to have insightful information and analysis to guide your ability to be competitive.    Give us a call at Burkhardt & Co.