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Coming to Terms with the Basics of Competitor Analysis

When drawing up your business plan, creating a “competitive analysis” section is of the utmost importance. Competitor analysis allows you to understand your current and potential competition, ensuring the survival and growth of your business. Think of this as a basic profile detailing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors; enabling you to plan ahead and be at the top of your game. The first step in your competitor analysis should be to figure out what their strengths are in terms of service, price, inventory, convenience, and location. Balance out these strengths by noting any corresponding weaknesses that you may be able to take advantage of. Take note of their marketing strategies and consider how you could adapt your own strategies to be a step ahead of them. Take the time to figure out what your competitors’ basic objectives are and who their target markets are. Try to tweak your own objectives to set yourself up as a future industry leader.

Competitor analysis might sound complicated and time-consuming. You may have no idea where to begin. Gathering information, however, may be simpler than you think. You have a wealth of valuable resources at your fingertips. Visit competitor websites, search the web for news, public relations, blog posts, social media posts, and product/service comparisons. Make use of online tools, such as Similar Web, which uses a panel of over 100 million monitored devices to gather information, to compare your competitors’ online marketing strategies to your own.

Finally, take a trip to your competitors’ locations and get a first-hand account of their sales materials and of their customer service. Learn from their mistakes and successes.

Advantages of Secondary Market Research

Secondary market research plays a pivotal role in laying the foundation for an accurate, effective, goal-driven market research project. The term “secondary” may lead one to believe this initial stage in the market research process to be quick and easy, and perhaps slightly less important than primary market research. The fact of the matter, however, is that this type of research is invaluable to business owners around the globe. In seeking out data that already exists and using it to pin-point market trends, compile customer databases, and document competitor comparisons, secondary market research often eliminates the need for more expensive resources. Large amounts of industry specific research data are available through universities and colleges, simply because this is a hub for budding researchers and analysts. Using this type of research lowers the need for expensive market research professionals simply because the information is right at one’s finger tips.

According to Marketing 91, 75% of business owners and entrepreneurs make use of secondary data from governmental statistics, census data, industry figures, and previously published case studies to lay the groundwork for their primary research projects. Furthermore, 82% of business owners are said to use secondary data to keep a finger on the pulse of their competitors.

With a veritable smorgasbord of information readily available at the click of a mouse, there is no denying that secondary research is prime ammunition for any market research project.

Advantages of Writing White Papers for B2B companies

For those who missed out yesterday Goodman Lantern launched a research paper on Advantages of Writing White Papers for B2B companies. White papers have repeatedly proven to move prospects through the sales funnel and benefit businesses especially for sales within a business to business environment. According to Ric Mccarthy at GM Digital "For us White Papers have proven to be a very effective form of business communication".

Ways to Market your White Paper

Create a Landing Page A landing page is essential to marketing your White Paper, this page needs to tell your audience why they should be handing over their details to download and read your White Paper. This landing page should be totally mobile friendly and look good on all devices. You want the page to be clear and concise, the last thing anyone wants to do is scroll through reams of text just to find the download link.

 

Shout about your business and findings

If your industry is a hot bed for conferences – get involved. Can you get on the schedule as a guest speaker, as an influencer and expert in your field? This not only gives you and your businesses legitimacy but it’s another platform to promote your White Paper

 

Facebook

Promote posts about your White Paper via Facebook, an effective advertising platform. Just be sure to set up conversion pixel tracking so you can see who downloaded your White Paper coming from Facebook.

Linkedin

Linkedin Groups can be a great way to reach other likeminded businesses; it’s a great place to reach b2b businesses.

 

Leverage existing email/newsletter contacts

If you have an email list of potential clients, existing clients, or anyone who may find your whitepaper relevant, consider sending the whitepaper out to them

Why should you Outsource your White Paper writing?

A White Paper is an essential sales and marketing tool, but writing a White Paper can be quite a task – hours of research, transcribing, formatting etc not only take a lot of time, but also, a lot of effort! Many businesses today outsource this task, why? Outsourcing is not only cost-effective, but can also be timesaving. If you’re not convinced, here are a few other reasons why you should be outsourcing your White Paper Writing.

 

Get a different viewpoint

Within your business it could be quite difficult to get a fresh perspective on how you work and function, and convey that without being seemingly biased. . An external content writer will be able to get an un-biased picture of your business and convey it to your target audience in persuading words.

 

Quality content

By getting your content written by an expert, you can be sure of communicating the right message in words that are clear, grammatically correct and persuasive.

 

Professionally written

Poorly drafted White Papers can turn customers and clients away and make them lose trust in you or your brand. The best way to gain the trust of your customers is to use content that is professionally written in an articulate manner. Content writers, have years of experience, they are wordsmiths by trade so you can ensure competent writing across the board.

 

Free up your time

Content writing is a time-consuming job, which should be spent on revenue-generating business activities! When you hire a professional content writer, it instantly frees up your time to concentrate on more valuable business leads, all whilst giving you access to quality content.

Branding Guidelines

  Branding refers to the naming a business or a product or service associated to it. A brand will have a logo, or specific design that is recognisable to a customer.

So, for example, let’s take Cadburys. A worldwide brand recognisable instantly from it's logo. Cadburys itself is a brand and business name, as is Dairy Milk (a Cadbury product) Each has it’s own logo and brand design associated with it.

Deciding on your brand can be a difficult and lengthy decision, so we have put together a couple of thinking points to consider aside from the legal procedures that must be followed of course!

 

Memorable.

Brand names must be meaningful and memorable in a positive relevant sense. Ideally your customers should associate your brand(s) with your business, your quality, and perhaps some other aspects of your trading philosophy and style.

 

Choose Carefully.

Choose your brand names wisely. Product and business brand names can sometimes carry connotations. The meanings of a word or phrase can be different between different types of people. If possible, test potential brand names with target customers to see what the market thinks.

 

Going international.

If your business is serious, and certainly if it is international - you must seek advice about the international meaning of branding words and the rights and protections implications of those words.

 

Reputation

It can and probably will take years to build trust and reputation within your branded names, so making changes to business names and brand names is not a good idea, and in some cases even making a single change can produce surprisingly powerful problems!

How to properly format a White Paper

A White Paper is an important document for and business – so it is essential that what you present is to the highest standard within your industry, anything less and you could end up harming your reputation rather than helping it. A white paper is somewhere between a marketing piece and an academic essay. It’s not a brochure, so it shouldn’t be glossy and vibrant, but it has got to be more visually appealing than a report turned out of Word. Here are a few rules to follow when formatting your White Paper.

 

Keep things short & sweet Typically, each line of content should contain 12 words, or about 60 – 66 characters, this ensures easy reading.

Avoid sloppy page breaks Why would anyone start a major new section at the very bottom of a page, with only a line or two of text following? There’s nothing “wrong” with leaving a little white space at the end of a major section. Just start the new section on a new page. That little fix up costs nothing but a few seconds of thought. But it gives readers a momentary break, and helps them see the structure of the paper.

Wall of Grey A white paper formatted as a wall of grey text won’t engross anyone. Avoid long paragraphs of constant text. Instead, use “text organisers” to break up the content. Bullet pointd, boxes, shading, sidebars, callouts are all visual breaks that can help emphasise the central message of each page and provide some welcome eye relief.

Don’t make your pages too busy Too much colour, too many graphics can distract your reader. Choose the most commanding and suitable graphic for your page.

 

Ultimately, the design of your white paper should enhance the content, not undermine it.

 

Getting Started with White Papers

Getting Started with White Papers White Papers are a formal document, which should be “thought leading” in your industry. A White Paper is an amazing marketing tool, you can connect with new clients or customers on a new level – this is because the perception of a white paper is usual that of higher level of expertise, it’s a great way of building trust and rapport. So how should you write a White Paper? Here are our top tips for getting started on your White Paper.

 

Begin with your Conclusion. The best place to start is to summarise your findings. This will help you set the tone of the White Paper. Newspapers use a paragraph in bold at the beginning of the news piece to hold the readers interest and make them read more, White Papers can also use this tactic.

 

Use Clear English and avoid assumptions

It is essential that your readers understand your writing, avoid Acronyms, Industry clichés, buzzwords etc. Descriptions or paragraphs that are written by other people within the company (Product Descriptions, Developers, Web Designers etc.) will often contain assumptions that the reader knows and understands what they are talking about, although most of the time, this is not the case.

 

Be Specific

If you know that your readers are tech experts then don't teach them the basics this could drive readers away.

 

Differentiate your White Paper

A White Paper makes for an excellent marketing & sales tool, so make sure you make the most of this in the least obvious way. Your unique and thought leading ideas might be interesting, but explain how they can make an actual difference. Show readers the evidence that your ideas, solutions or tactics are better than your competitors, and then validate that with Independent assessments or benchmark tests.

 

Ultimately, your goal here is to have an impact and encourage the reader to follow your ‘call to action’ – that could be a visit to the website or purchasing a product or service from you.

 

Use of White Papers to establish a company as a thought leader.

White papers are a fantastic marketing and sales tool, used to attract and encourage potential customers or clients to learn more about the business, service or product.A white paper should be “thought leading” so don’t think about trying to use this as a way of selling your business, but more of a way of impressing readers and making them want to do more research into your company. You want to create well-written and thoughtful resource that is relevant to your industry. Getting your brand out there in a subtle and un-sales like way is one of the main objectives.

 

Creating your white paper is just the beginning!

Now you need to get it out there and use its marketing power. Putting it on your website is the first and most obvious step. Adding a download link, which also includes a small data capture (name & email address). Don’t forget about your blog too! White papers provide businesses with an added opportunity to generate organic links that drive referral traffic back to their website. You should also take advantage of your Adwords account – people in your industry will be searching for white papers as a means of research or resource so making sure yours comes up top is vital. Use your paid search to target keywords and phrases, with the headline “Download Free White Paper Now!”. As you would with any other business announcement Press Releases targeted to your industry and potential clients is a must, make sure everyone knows it’s free!

 

Ultimately, you want to showcase your expertise through high-quality, effective and thought provoking white papers. You want to show people you’re the best of the best so when they think about a certain industry, your name pops up instantly.

Do your Secondary Research First!

Don’t let its name fool you – there are many benefits in carrying out your secondary market research first. You’re basically getting the ‘easy stuff’ out of the way as secondary research already exists, the data has been captured, collated and published for you, although it may incur a cost to acquire depending on the data you’re looking for. Examples of secondary research include Census Bureau data, encyclopaedias, and analyst reports. (The Census is a great source of data, and the government makes it publicly available for free!) Another place to find existing, relevant data is with professional associations. Many professional associations actually fund research.

You should ensure that after you have completed your secondary research you are optimising your Primary Research by using the data you have found from your secondary research to produce better results and maybe even new insights.

 

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Qualitative research is used to outline a problem or develop a method to approach the problem. Focus groups, in-depth interviews, uninterrupted observation groups are just a few of the qualitative research techniques most commonly used.

Quantitative research is a logical and data-led method that provides a measure of what people think from a statistical and numerical point of view. Data is collected through surveys (online, phone, paper), audits, and points of purchase (purchase transactions).

Ideally, businesses should use both qualitative and quantitative research since they provide different perspectives and will usually complement each other. If you can only afford one or the other, make sure you select the approach that best fits the research objectives and be aware of its limitations. Don't assume that doing more focus groups is a substitute for quantitative research or that a long survey will give you all the in-depth information you can get though qualitative research methods.

Improve your Pricing Strategy

Understanding your market and demand is one thing – but developing a sustainable price point can be tricky. You need to recognise the value that your product and service holds, without being too unrealistic.Use factors such as Uniqueness – do you have a product or service that nobody else is offering? How much it costs you for rent, wages and any other fixed costs, you can also include your marketing in this too. Payment methods are another element that many people forget about when they are thinking about their pricing strategy. You must be as flexible as you can with payment options, make it easy for your customers to pay you!

You must review your pricing and business expenses regularly to ensure your current pricing strategy is relevant and is not leaving you out of pocket. Take a look at the products that have sold really well – why do you think that it? Do the same with the products that didn’t sell so well. How can you improve and expand to cater for different budgets?

 

When is it time to hire an Executive Assistant?

Did you know that executive assisting is one of the largest occupations nationwide? And there's a good reason for it! To allow you, the MD or CEO to get on with other important tasks an executive assistant can ensure the office and admin side of the business runs smoothly. An executive assistant must have fantastic organisational skills. Having responsibility for organising the schedules (or indeed lives) of some very senior people is an extremely important task. In order to do this, sound logistical arrangements must be in place and your executive assistant must be competent in taking responsibility for deciding which meetings and appointments are of the most strategic importance and will be the best use of your time. In today's fast-paced working environment, an executive assistant is essential to the smooth running of any organisation.

Brand Focus: Starbucks Premium Pricing Strategy

Premium Pricing involves setting the prices of products higher than comparable products. It is usually used to boost profits in areas where the customer is happy to pay more. Some brands, such as Starbucks can charge a premium price because their entire brand image is based around luxury.Starbucks sets its prices on a simple idea: high value at moderate cost. When people feel like they are getting a good deal for their money, they are more likely to pay a higher cost. Starbucks appreciates that the mainstream of their customer base is impervious to price, and uses small price rises that everyday customers may not notice to increase margins. The goal is to use the price increases to guide the customer towards your most profitable product. Starbucks do not increase the prices of their products with the highest margins.  Starbucks raised the price of a tall coffee in order to convince customers to buy a larger coffee size (with slightly higher margins) How many times have you walked into a coffee shop and decided on a larger cup because there is only 20/30p difference? How can a company justify these price increases? Well, if you’ve ever been into Starbucks you might notice that they spend lot of time and energy differentiating themselves from their competitors. The design of its coffee shops, the music played and the types of products it sells.  They situate themselves as selling luxury and sought after products, as well as being a luxury and sought after brand.

Why should you be reviewing your Pricing Strategy?

Pricing is a powerful part of any businesses marketing strategy. The pricing structure of your services and/or products, and how it relates to your competitors & pricing strategies and the expectations of customers, are all significant when creating an image for the company and establishing a specific customer base. An analysis of your pricing strategy can reveal that companies have a range of options in their pricing toolkit that they can use to enhance their marketing activities.

 

So, how do you perform a Pricing Analysis?

To start off with you should head to google and search a particular item or service on to get an idea of how they are priced and how they perform.

You can also contact the manufacturer for a suggested RRP or you could even get quotes on the same item from competitor brands or manufacturers

Seek advice from industry experts to get a sense of what other businesses have paid for the same item.

 

Of course while your advertising and promo strategies will be successful at spreading the word about your products and services, ultimately, your pricing strategy (combined with product/service quality) will determine whether you can turn new customers into repeat customers!

 

Equity Crowdfunding

Crowdcube helped 105 Businesses Raise over £35.9 Million in 2014, add that to a successful advertising campaign throughout central London on the Tube and Cabs, the world’s first equity crowdfunding platform is one to know about.

So what is the key to a successful Crowdcube campaign? We took a selection of companies in the food & drink sector who have raised money recently and analysed why they were so successful.

Here's what you need to know:

Taylor Street Baristas raised £1,713,500 although it's target was £1,500,000 Good Egg Restaurants raised £216,080 although it's target was £180,000 UBREW raised £93,140 although it's target was £75,000 DeskBeers raised £111,780 although it's target was £80,000

So why did these businesses go above and beyond their targets? All of these businesses were offering a luxury service or product - Barista brewed coffee, market deli foods and crafted Beer. All of which The 'Grab-and-Go' ideal of a coffee shop & Deli, delivery direct to you.  The key thing to note here is that although most of these ideas are not unique or revolutionary, they are all building upon existing business ideas yet with an focus on exceptional quality.

The 4 W’s of Quantitative Research

Exploring your quantitative Research can help you move beyond the seemingly simple answers to survey questions. By looking into the who, what, why and where’s of your research data, you may discover more valued data.. Why Your quantitative research primarily gathers numerical statistics, but to understand the motivation behind such figures open ended questions are essential in attaining this crucial information, that will benefit you further into your research Who Asking the consumer directly can help you gain an understanding the motivators. They are best approached by first attempting to understand the full picture and intentions behind their decision making. This can provide additional and valued information than simply just asking the consumer closed ended questions Where When surprising or insightful data emerges, it often changes the way you perceive the original question. Be sure to follow these leads and dig deeper as this can lead to unforeseen yet greater insights

What Investigate beyond what respondents say to ascertain the motivation behind their behaviour. Consumers tend to act contrary to what they say. Of course, what they do say is incredibly useful, but there are greater insights to be gained by attempting to discover the true drivers of their behaviour

 

Why should you be using Secondary Market Research?

Back at business school the notion of research was drummed into my head time and time again. Writing a new business plan? – Let’s see your Research. Launching a new product? – Where is the Research on your competitors? At the start of 2014 there were an estimated 5.2 million small businesses in the UK (http://www.fsb.org.uk/stats) I found that out from conducting secondary market research for this article. So with more and more SMEs popping up, how do you stand out from the crowd and how do you define your USP? Here’s that word again...Research!

 

Secondary Market Research is typically seen to be an easier method than primary market research. Secondary Market Research already exists; some kind soul has already done the dirty work for you so it saves time and money collecting essential data. It’s often cheaper than doing primary research too, no need to spend money in creating & distributing questionnaires or assembling focus groups.

Of course, there will always be disadvantages to secondary research methods, you have no control over how this data was collected, therefore there could be biases in the data, and ultimately the answers you find may not fit the question your asking.

 

Ultimately, any research you conduct should lead to a better understanding of your market, your customers and inform any future actions you take.

Learnings from successful 'technology' Kickstarter projects

Kickstarter is now used by various sectors to raise funding, technology is no exception. In the PDF below find the specifics of the leading companies who raised several times over the amount they were set to raise. For instance First Domestic Robot That Tracks Intruders! raised 24,952% over the amount it was meant to raise to make it's project a reality. Here is an analysis of what's common between the various successful companies:  

To Raise Over $10kPre-requisite: You should be building something truly revolutionary. Like a 3D printing pen, smart-home ⁃ Making life truly easy for everyday tech i.e. home devices, keyboards, flashlights and more ⁃ Empowering everyday people to do amazing stuff at low prices. Eg: 3D printing, coding for real devices (for kids), ⁃ Become healthy with quantifiable results. Eg: vest burns up to a pound of fat per week (500 calories/day ⁃ Available for most devices. It was observed that most oversubscribed projects were universal i.e. they worked on most devices. Even if they were only for mobile devices they supported iOS and Android.

To Raise under $10kPre-requisite: The item is in-expensive to buy for the end user ⁃ Applicable to a large audience irrespective of gender, profession and age. Example: Yoga classes, home safe of intruders and 3D laser scanner ⁃ Fun to have or use, could be a potential hobby. Example: guitar hero for real instruments, 3D scanners for

Other observations: ⁃ All the companies that raised money via Kickstarter in the technology section had great descriptions. They were able to define their product in under 10 words. Example: The World’s First 3D Printing Pen, Calorie Burning Vest, Cool-Ink 3D Pen, ⁃ Had a wow-factor in it’s description. Example: Designed by a NASA scientist, The world’s first and best 3D printing pen and Winner of the 2015 CES Best of Innovation

 

Analysis based on companies: