The Art of Predicting Demand

Stephen Walker is the Managing Director of Colborn Morrison, a boutique business strategy, research & advisory, and project-based consulting services firm, based in Richmond, VA.

There are a variety of components that must be in place to create and execute on a B-to-B revenue growing marketing strategy; differentiation from competitors, the ability to reach your targeted audience, and a clear, well articulated message to simply name a few.

However, on an almost daily basis I’m exposed to companies – of all sizes and across all industries – with marketing strategies that inevitably erode into failure because they lack the cement that holds together a successful marketing strategy: a baseline understanding of what the market in general, and their current and potential customers in particular, will need 3, 6 & 12 months down the road.

Two quick clarifications about the previous sentence:

  1. Although I’m fully aware that no one has a crystal ball that shows them the future, there are a number of overarching themes and trends that marketers can leverage to develop a baseline, or general, understanding of future market demands
  2. I’m emphasizing the word need because it is entirely different from what all too many marketing plans focus on – want. Especially true in the current uncertain economic climate, characterized by budgetary freezes on most everything not essential and directly revenue-generating, what your corporate customers want has virtually nothing to do with what they buy.

Sharing this notion just last week with the V.P. of Marketing for a risk management and compliance software and service company lead said V.P. to exclaim something along the lines of: “Well Stephen, that makes sense and all but a marketing strategy doesn’t happen overnight.”

Of course, forming and putting in place a timely, well-directed, and ultimately successful marketing program does not happen overnight; that’s why building out a marketing program on the foundation of understanding what your customers will need at the time when that program is up, running, and firing on all cylinders is so important!

Although obviously each company’s marketing strategy will differ according to their size, product or service, current and target customer base & audience, etc., there are a number of overarching themes and trends that can, if studied and correctly contextualized into the overall thrust and goals of the marketing program, serve as predictive barometers of market demand.

Two of the more prevalent overarching themes and trends today include:

  1. Those induced by Government – good examples being significant legislative, policy, and regulatory trend changes
  2. Those induced by the private sector – one good example being the rapid evolution of technological advancement.

I know, that sounds pretty general; because it is. However, as mentioned before, the key is putting these overarching trends into context and translating:

  • How that trend will eventually impact the market and what type of demand it will create
  • How your company’s core capabilities and offerings can already be positioned as a leader in meeting that demand.

To quickly illustrate the conversion of general trends to demand predictions, take the notion of what I call “Mobile GRC” – applying relevant corporate compliance and risk management policies & controls to the countless millions of corporate PDA’s, smartphones, and other un-governed mobile devices containing sensitive, confidential, business-determinative information.

How might this create demand in say, the healthcare sector? Well, consider the potential market impact of this phenomenon in light of recent HIPPA crackdowns and President Obama’s pledges to tighten regulatory requirements, modernize healthcare information systems, and both strengthen and stringently enforce patient confidentiality requirements – when hospital personnel can already access patient information from their mobile devices.

During a two week period this year, I personally found 3 “company” Blackberry’s, with no password protection, in the back seat of taxi’s; and I don’t even ride the taxi that much! It’s just as likely to assume that one of those phones belonged to a doctor as it is to assume that it belonged to a stockbroker – which is a completely different, but perhaps even more valid argument for Mobile GRC we’ll save for another day.

In the ridiculously (and ever increasingly) competitive technology and services market, timing is everything; market share, revenue growth, expansion, and ultimately success will accrue to those companies who master the art of predicting demand.

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