All too often, day-to-day responsibilities get in the way of making a business more successful. In today’s highly competitive, ever-changing world market, small to midsize manufacturers that want to continue their success need to do more than just build a product and hope people will come. They need to utilize advanced technologies and good business practices, such as market assessments.
Manufacturers need to look up from their desks and see what’s happening to their business, customers, and the market. They need to revaluate their marketing efforts, groom customer lists, and revisit old customers to see about new projects. They should look at current markets and see how their products fit in and how they can adapt their capabilities to fit changing needs.
Almost every manufacturer understands the importance of making assessments, but the question is when and how? In addition, can an organization accurately assess itself? Business people are often too busy with day-to-day fire fighting and too close to the subject to look ahead and do what’s necessary for success.
Manufacturers Resource Center, a nonprofit organization created to help small and midsize manufacturers grow and remain competitive, recommends an independent market assessment. According to MRC, a market assessment is not just for challenging times; manufacturers should look at doing an assessment on a frequent and ongoing basis to open their eyes to opportunities for growth.
MRC conducts what it calls a horizontal approach to assessment, with research covering four basic strategic issues:
- Opportunities in new product development
- Sales development
- New market opportunities for existing products
- Strategic business analysis
MRC, which is affiliated with Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, conducts its research in three segments. In the first, the organization’s consultants “live with” their client manufacturers. They interview management team members independently about the company’s core competencies, strengths, and weaknesses, in many cases learning what one team member would never share with another. The consultants then interview trusted advisors such as the corporate lawyer or accountant or even family members who influence corporate decisions.
In the second segment, the consultants interview the manufacturers’ current customers, former customers, and customers it wants to secure. Again, the consultants work to glean information about the strategic issues, information the interviewees would be more inclined to give to a third-party than to a manufacturer directly. The third segment focuses on secondary database research.
With this information, the MRC consultants look for common points of alignment, for opportunities that match up with the manufacturer’s core competencies. Then the consultants provide recommendations to help the manufacturers discover new opportunities, in new markets, sales distribution, and existing or new product lines.
Is this type of assessment approach something a manufacturer can do on its own? Perhaps, but the odds are not in the manufacturer’s favor, given the typical hectic schedule and the challenge of being objective and gaining objective information from key sources.
An outside, third-party assessment can quickly pay for itself by helping manufacturers keep to a successful path.