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By Sharon Dotan

As moderator James Sbrolla said it best, it figures that a panel of three brilliant women would be participating in a session on market intelligence.  Our last Growing Your Business session hosted by the RIC Centre and OCETA involved Usha Srinivasan, Director of Market Intelligence at MaRS, Christine Konig of Konig & Consultants, and Isabel Alexander, founder of Phancorp Inc., on the topic of “Using Market Intelligence as your Strategic Weapon”.

Growing Your Business is a monthly educational series that covers a variety of topics relevant to entrepreneurs and small business owners. These days, entrepreneurs are trying harder than ever to stay on top of their markets. And in order to do so, they must do all they can to fully understand the market – including the roles that both their customers and competitors play there. This is where market intelligence comes in.

Srinivasan, Konig, and Alexander all stressed the importance of knowing your customer, knowing their pain, figuring out how you will solve their pain, and communicating a clear value proposition to them. But market intelligence doesn’t stop with your customers. It is crucial to stay on top of what your competitors are doing, keep up with new and dynamic market trends, and create an innovative and effective business model.

Although this seems like a lot to do, knowing the marketplace that you plan to do business in is a vital part of Growing Your Business. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to help you. Check out MaRS Discovery District’s Market Intelligence program and for more information, you can download the presentations from the event.

Join us on December 9th for “Accessing Government Programs – Leveraging Resources to Grow”. Visit www.riccentre.com for details.

Sharon Dotan is a student in the Master of Biotechnology program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Through her internship at the RIC Centre, she has gained a passion for cultivating and promoting innovation. With her background in life sciences, Sharon has been able to assist RIC’’s our Entrepreneur-in-Residence with various client needs, including market research, business plans, and go-to-market strategies. Sharon is also responsible for the Growing Your Business breakfast series as well as maintenance of the RIC website.

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By Jeff Bowman

As a second generation business owner, I tend to put  stock in tried and true methods of business development and enhancement.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t use the technology of today to improve my business processes, I would be naive if I didn’t.

A company should always have its finger on the pulse of the marketplace, including the economy, new and emerging opportunities and technology that may provide cost savings internally and growth or product opportunities externally, and most importantly, the competition. 40 years ago we called this “the big picture”, today it is known as market intelligence.

Market Intelligence (today’s business guru’s give everything that should have importance short- forms like MI) is defined as the information relevant to a market, which is gathered, studied and documented to enable more confident decision making. This information can be accumulated from external sources and internal sources, or by other nefarious methods such as corporate espionage.  The internet has made this easy.  At the click of a mouse you have access to information that might otherwise have taken years to collect.

Today we can analyze  market trends, consumer attitudes, investment risks, and competitive activities through news releases, publications and annual reports. Corporate websites sometimes provide us with more detail than we really need to know. Online searches can provide the rest – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Compare this to the Willy Wonka style of corporate spying that still goes on today.  Bribes to competitive employees for the inside scoop, some even have gone as far as paying contractors to bring the garbage of a large competitor to their office to be sorted and filed. It seems businesses will go a long way to gain market intelligence.

Market intelligence also includes our own internal data. We can segment our customer information, order history, products purchased and internal surveys to determine opportunities for new products, service improvements and up-sale potential.  Our own websites, if optimized, can give us details about who views what, pages that are of interest and what people are looking for. Customer service departments and your sales force can provide first line information direct from the client that can be used in a variety of ways. And Social Media can provide us with the tools to listen to and engage our customers.

Knowing the marketplace that you choose to do business in is a critical activity that must be part of your strategic planning.  With all the tools available today, it takes most of  the guesswork out of business planning.

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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2“Using Market Intelligence as Your Strategic Weapon” is the next “Growing Your Business” seminar, held Nov. 18  at a new location this month in Brampton. The monthly workshops are hosted by RIC Centre (Research Innovation Commercialization Centre) and the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA).

This session, held at the Rose Theatre, located on 1 Theatre Lane in Brampton, will explore the value of market intelligence as a strategic advantage for entrepreneurs.

Three excellent speakers are on board to explore  this subject.

s3-portrait-ckoenigChristine König, Managing Partner at König & Consultants Inc., studied biochemistry in Goettingen, Germany, where she received her PhD in Cell Biology. Her first entrepreneurial activity was to custom develop genetically modified mice that serve scientists as models for human disease. Later, she transferred that knowledge into a research firm developing state-of-the art breast cancer diagnostics. As an entrepreneur Christine has personally experienced the rise and fall of great ideas, potential markets, and partnerships.

s3-portrait-alexanderIsabel Alexander, Vice Chair, Fielding Chemical Technologies Inc., founded Phancorp Inc., a small chemical wholesaling company that became a global standard for the chemical industry. On August 1, 2009 Phancorp Inc. merged forces with Fielding Chemical Technologies Inc. to provide Cradle to Cradle Care of Chemicals. Isabel now serves as Vice Chair, Fielding Chemical Technologies Inc. Since 2002, Ms. Alexander has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs and in 2009, she was the recipient of the International Women of Influence Award for Emerging/Growth enterprises.

s3-portrait-srinivasanUsha Srinivasan, Director, Market Intelligence, Market Readiness Program, and her team of industry specific and information specialists provide quality and timely market intelligence to entrepreneurs in Ontario through the MaRS Market Intelligence Services. Prior to joining MaRS, she worked at Frost & Sullivan, a leading global market research and consulting company. She has technical and industry background in the water, environment and building technologies space, having worked with global clients such as GE, Siemens, IBM, Honeywell and Brita.

For more information visit  www.riccentre.com. Or  Register here, For further registration details, please contact Sharon Dotan at sharon.dotan@ric-centre.on.ca

Registration deadline for the event is November 17, 2009.

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