How You Compare, i.e. Competitive Analysis Tactics

Successful companies conduct competitive analysis on an ongoing basis.  It is important to review how you compare to like companies with respect to the product or service you offer – Market Share, SWOT, Customer Experience, and Pricing.  In theory, consumers make informed and rational decisions based on their perception of what you offer.  Following are some ways to understand their buying decisions –

MARKET SHARE ANALYSIS (Management Focus) –It is very important to understand your success at attracting customers, compared to the entire population of opportunity, i.e. your share of the market.  Depending on your business, you may find that data providers already exist that generate statistics on the size of your industry.  If this information is not available by a third party resource, attempt to capture information from your local industry group.  Study frequency – quarterly.

SWOT ANALYSIS (Operational Focus) – The result of this analysis is a four quadrant matrix which shows your company’s Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats compared to your competitors.  A common mistake I have seen is when a new company enters a market with a product, that they believe is superior.  Their product goes beyond what is offered in the market today, but does not offer all the features provided by current competitors.  This approach is dangerous.  You run the risk of being considered a product in a different category, by potential customers.  Successful companies offer customers everything that is offered by its competitors today and more!  The SWOT analysis should show what you may be missing.  Study frequency – annually.

MYSTERY SHOPPING (Marketing Focus) –This type of activity could be used for multiple reasons, i.e. understanding sales approach, product features, pricing, Marketing positioning.  But the most valuable information learned with this technique – “What is the customer experience?”  In addition to calling competitors, be sure to also call your own service center/office.  What deficiencies can be addressed by increased training?  Study frequency – monthly.

PRICING SURVEY (Finance Focus) –If this information is not easily obtained through purchasing data from a third party vendor or industry group, include this area in your Mystery Shopping.  Your goal should never be, to be the low cost provider.  The middle price point is a great place.  Study frequency – monthly.

Be confident in the information collected.  It is important to make sure that the approaches used are the same every time, i.e. script for performing Mystery Shopping.  Trend the data.  One data point should not cause you to rethink your business model.

Once you have collected information for a reasonable period — Set Strategy!

What is your experience?

Author: Regis Quirin
Visit Regis's Website - Email Regis
Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.

Relationship Development after the Sale

The amount of time and energy, not to mention money that is required to develop a relationship can be quite large, depending on what you are selling.  All too often do Sales professionals make a sale and move on to the next potential customer, rather than further cultivating the relationship.  The very best Sales professionals recognize – a customer today can be a great source of referrals; maintaining a customer is less expensive than cultivating a new customer; if they purchased today they are likely to purchase again in the future; and a current customer offers the best opportunity to cross-sell other products and services.

In my experience, I have heard multiple excuses for not contacting a current customer.  Quick Test – If you ask your Sales Force about their most recent contact with their customers and they respond with any of these statements, you have a problem – My product is intuitive, this customer understands. They have my phone number if there is an issue.  I haven’t had a reason to call.

Following is an approach that has been very successful in the past, for a Service provider –   

Pick up the phone.  Do not send an e-mail.  It is very easy to ignore e-mail.

Prior to any call review the customer’s situation.

-Review dates of last service – What occurred?

-Review billing history – payment status.

-Check files to see if all documentation is up to date.

-Ask staff of any recent conversations with this client.

Call the Customer

Hi. My Name is ____________________ from _________________________.

General Customer Satisfaction

I see from our records that we provided service to you on ______________________ at the ___________________ location. Please tell me about this experience.

Were you satisfied? Why or Why not? What could we have done to improve your satisfaction?

We send out a customer satisfaction survey periodically. Your feedback is very important to us. I want to confirm that this survey should be going to the _______________________@ ______________________.

Billing

I see from our records that your current outstanding balance is $_______________.

Either thank the customer for timely payments or ask If there any problem with the billing?

Files

I see from our records that we are missing an updated and accurate Client Information sheet. If you do not have one, please give me your e-mail address and I will send it to you now. But before we hang-up, there are a couple of pieces of information I would like to get from you right now.

Our records show that __________________ is the General Manager, please confirm that this information is still accurate. Our records also show that the phone and e-mail address are _____________________________.  Ask this same question for the Controller and Accounts Payable Manager.

I know that we send all invoices to ______________________ at ________________________ e-mail address. Does this process work for you?

After Call

-Document the conversation.

-If a problem was discovered, refer the issue to the appropriate Manager for resolution.  Never leave it to the customer to call.  Once the issue is resolved, call the customer and discuss the outcome.

By touching these three areas (satisfaction, billing, records) you will discover information about your customer you did not know; as well as identify future issues prior to them becoming a large distraction.

Author: Regis Quirin
Visit Regis's Website - Email Regis
Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.

A smart entrepreneur should maximize this opportunity

Money is being devoted to the stimulation of small business.  If you ever considered opening a new business or expanding your current business, the time is right.  Grants, loans and tax incentives are available from the public sector, to stimulate the private sector, i.e. specifically small businesses.

How important are small businesses to the US economy?

Small businesses employ about half of U.S. workers. Of 120.6 million nonfarm private sector workers in 2007, small firms employed 59.9 million and large firms employed 60.7 million.  (Source:U.S.Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau: Statistics of U.S. Businesses, Current Population Survey and Business Dynamics Statistics; and the Edward Lowe Foundation)

Small firms accounted for 65 percent (or 9.8 million) of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009.  (Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Employment Dynamics; Advocacy-funded research by Zoltan Acs, William Parsons and Spencer Tracy, 2008)

In many cases, the federal government is providing money to states for their distribution.  May 24, 2012 – “The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of $35 million in funds to develop, enhance and promote Self-Employment Assistance programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Programs exist in various shapes and sizes, depending on the state, but are consistent in the end goal of increasing employment and directing investment to certain geographies.

For example, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (http://www.njeda.com) offers –

To cover operating expenses – Loans up to $750,000; and guarantees up to $1.5 mill for a total exposure of $2.25 mill.

To purchase or renovate a building, machinery or equipment to accommodate business growth and expansion – Loans up to $1.25 mill; loan guarantees up to $1.5 mill for a total exposure of $2.75 mill.

To grow a business located in an urban municipality – Loans of up to $2 mill for fixed assets to businesses in one of New Jersey’s urban areas.  Loans of up to $3 mill with favorable rates for fixed assets to businesses in one of New Jersey’s nine designated urban areas (Atlantic City, Camden, East Orange, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Newark, New Brunswick, Paterson, Trenton).

To grow business by adding employees – Incentive grants to businesses creating at least 25 new jobs in New Jersey (10 jobs if in the technology or biotechnology sectors).

While the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (www.decd.org) offers –

Revolving Loan Fund – Loans range from a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $100,000 to assist with capital and operational needs.

Job Creation Incentive Program – Loans range from a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $250,000 to spur growth.  Amount may be forgiven if job growth achieved.

Creation Matching Grant Program – Grants are available at a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $100,000 to provide a dollar-for-dollar matching grant for specific job creation, capital investment and working capital goals.

What type of programs are offered in your state?

Author: Regis Quirin
Visit Regis's Website - Email Regis
Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “ObamaCare” Constitutionality

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010, by President Obama.  It is an extensive piece of legislation that will greatly alter the economics of healthcare.  The law impacts the four major industry constituents – providers of healthcare, providers of healthcare insurance, employers offering healthcare benefits and users of healthcare.

In March 2012, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Commission on Taxation estimated that the insurance coverage provision will have a net cost of about $1.1 trillion for the 2012 – 2021 period.  Excluding unauthorized immigrants, the insured share of the nonelderly population is projected to increase from 82% in 2012 to 93% in 2021.

Specifically for businesses, by 2014 – “Employers with more than 200 employees must automatically enroll new full-time employees in coverage.  Any employer with more than 50 full-time employees that does not offer coverage and has at least one full-time employee receiving the premium assistance tax credit will make a payment of $750 per full-time employee.”  (Summary Link – http://dpc.senate.gov/healthreformbill/healthbill04.pdf )

But, the future of this legislation is in question, in its current form.  Lawsuits have been brought by 27 states, questioning the constitutionality of some of the provisions of the law.  The Supreme Court of the United States heard three days of oral arguments at the end of May and is now deliberating.  A late June decision is expected.

At the heart of the issue are two elements, i.e. the “individual mandate” provision which requires all citizens to maintain health insurance by 2014 or be assessed a penalty on their tax returns; and the expansion of Medicaid which impacts states, that help fund the program.

So what is the likelihood that the Supreme Court declares aspects of the law unconstitutional?  It is hard to predict.  But if you are wondering how many times the Supreme Court has overturned Congress in the past, according to the General Printing Office database, the Supreme Court has declared acts of Congress unconstitutional 158 times in the past 213 years, from 1789 to 2002.

Please look for an update to this post within the next 30 days.

Author: Regis Quirin
Visit Regis's Website - Email Regis
Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.