Strategic Planning Process-Market Research – Political, Economic, Regulatory, Competitive

                                       The Strategic Planning Process                             

                      Market Research – Political, Economic, Regulatory, Competitive

                         ……….and the greatest of these is Competitive Research

A well integrated Strategic Planning Process has always been the cornerstone of strong Company earnings and positive market share growth among industry leaders. Within the Strategic Planning Process there is a wealth of information available on the potential impact of Political, Economic and Regulatory changes for the segments in which your company operates. Corporate Planning for the next few business cycles will pay particular attention to the potential impact of the very turbulent financial markets worldwide.  

In 2009, this could include the potentially positive impact of the ‘bailout’ action plans of the Barack Obama and Stephen Harper administrations, the ‘New Reality’ economic operating environment and its potential business consequences, regulatory changes, and social trends for the environments in which your Company operates.

The competitive marketplace, however – that is an entirely different matter.

The ‘Competitive Intelligence’ updates would pay close attention each key competitor as well as new entrants and those exiting the business. The research data on customer and supplier profile changes that may impact the business going forward is a ‘mission critical’ element. There is no question that both the advancements in technology and the seemingly ‘out of the blue’ arrival of non traditional competitors may in fact, along with a floundering economy, be the most essential aspects of Strategic Planning in this business cycle.

All too often the road of an internalized Strategic Planning Process with only a cursory look at the traditional competition as well as the potential impact of new trends or technologies has led to market share self destruction. The emphasis is on market research and qualitative data.

As a good illustration, the Audio/Video, in-home entertainment, mobile devices and communications industries represent an excellent case in point. These are all industries with very clear market leaders that are now struggling to compete with new products and /or systems that are connecting with a new consumer who is on the grid; who is product savvy; who is environmentally concerned and who wants immediate access to the latest of everything that is just a ‘point-and-click’ away. Consumers just want to ‘plug and play’. They don’t want to order or wait for CD’s, DVD’s, videos or have to buy a new device to get new features.

These same consumers make choices and form opinions from Social Utility Networking Applications like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn (primarily a business relationship networking site) and beware, these may also be also the same consumers that have no problem posting positive and negative videos about your company on YouTube.  They will share positive or negative press or reviews about your product on Digg, a social news website. They willingly provide their own interpretation of your marketing or logos on MySpace and at the end of the day, have the power, through Twitter micro blogging, to spread news faster than the New York Times, who is also on Twitter themselves.

Are the right wing leaning, very conservative Drudge Report or the left leaning liberal Huffington Post relevant internet news hubs?  Well, the Drudge Report, founded in 1997, drew international recognition in 1998 as first news network to break the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. After Matt Drudge’s report, Newsweek published the story. The DrudgeReport.com consists mainly of a selection of hyperlinks to news websites all over the world. A few years ago, the two man team of Drudge and Andrew Breitbart moved the website from their LA apartment to Drudge’s home in Miami, Florida. This virtual news network will see Gross Revenue for 2009 projected at $15 million. Nielsen NetRatings reports a combined 5.3 million Drudge/Breitbart website visitors per month with visitors spending an average of 66 minutes per visit. USAToday.com has 10.7 million visitors monthly. Is this relevant ? You decide. As that marketing icon Bob Dylan would say, ‘the times they are a changing.’

 This could all seem like bad news, or possibly shock therapy to a Marketing Department but on the other hand it could serve your company well as a competitive advantage. As a key component at the front end of the Strategic Planning Process to either gather market research or to use it as an additional tool to disseminate information to key market segments.

A word of caution should be added to all of this as well. ‘Those who talk don’t know and those who don’t know, talk.’  Validate your sources to be sure the research is qualitative research.

Embracing new technologies like blogging, wiki’s, news networks, social networks and micro blogging can possibly build brand loyalty faster than many traditional methods of reaching consumers in these particular market segments. It cannot be ignored. More e-communication in various forms now takes place between individuals via these networks than through e-mail.

The new consumer is evident everywhere. It is no accident that bricks and mortar video rental stores like Blockbuster and Rogers are giving way to other alternatives. Interestingly enough, over 53% of their rental revenue came from late return charges. Some initial indications of change took place in larger cities like New York, LA and San Francisco. With Real Estate costs at a premium it created the perfect opportunity for NetFlix. Consumers could order their movies; the movie would arrive at their doorstep and then, once viewed, is returned via the mail. A process however, that was still a bit clumsy.

Now, the ‘new and improved’ NetFlix of Cisco Systems Inc. HD broadband Video-on-demand subscribers have video direct streaming access to over 12,000  HD or Blu-Ray titles as well as PVR services like TiVo. Viewers can order online, view online, and even store it online and watch it any time they want. Both NetFlix and On-Demand represent corporate strategies to improve the consumer experience.

With those questions then, what are the answers? The answer to all these questions again is simple: timely qualitative research. It could also be called the 4R’s of Marketing. The right product, at the right time at the right price to the right consumer; AKA the building block derivatives of an in depth strategic planning process.

The Strategic Planning Process is the first step within the discipline of Business Process Management. The follow-up steps are then Business Case Methodology to ensure that each and every meaningful Company initiative is accompanied by a detailed Business Case for Senior Management and/or Board approval. 

The next stage in Business Process Management is either the Product Development Process or the Project Management Process that represents a disciplined, staged workflow process to ensure on time/on budget results. Built into each of the ‘processes’ are ‘go and no go’ check points for timely reporting back to Senior Management/Board.

The final stage of the completion of the project would be its transfer into Operations. The final stage of the completion and launch of the product would be the transfer of product responsibilities into the Product Management Process.

The fact that the marketplace is in transition across each end every industry segment isn’t new. Change and survival are commonplace and at least in concept are not a great deal different than ‘The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection’ by Charles Darwin. Those companies that are best prepared for the ‘New Reality’ will thrive and those that are not well prepared will despair. There is nothing particularly unique about the key components Business Process Management. Similarly, the fact that the ‘excellence companies’ have engrained both the discipline and the fundamentals of Business Process Management into the evolution of their businesses is also not unique.

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