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Market Trend Monitoring: How to Avoid Competitor Surprises

Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.

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November 1, 2018

The ability for a company to stand the test of time relies on their agility. Large cultural and technological changes are occurring faster now than ever before in history. Developers alter the world regularly with innovative apps that have rippling effects into a myriad of businesses across many industries. Certain brands that were explosive ten years ago seem like anachronisms today. For example, Hummer SUVs spoke to the over-consumption of the early 2000s, but as the population became more and more concerned with fostering lower impact lifestyles that were better for the planet and their wallets, the Hummer fell quickly out of fashion and went defunct in 2010.

The reality is that there isn't a lot of time to truly adapt to these market changes, especially when they occur as surprises. In order to buy more time, you need to keep your eyes on the horizon for developing competitor, cultural and political changes that might impact your business. These changes occur first with indicators, followed by warnings that eventually develop into trends that cannot be ignored. Business as usual, usually means little business in the future.

Understanding Your Key Differentiators

The first step in planning and watching out for competitor surprises is to identify the factors that make your business model unique from your competitors. Craft messaging and strategy around these differentiators. Identifying key value propositions and differentiators provides a scope for monitoring your market.

Using what you've identified, try to understand how competitors could threaten those differentiators. When you've gone through the hypothetical, possible and probable methods your competitors might use to threaten your success, you can then keep your eyes on the market for the indicators, warnings and trends that would prove your hypothesis correct.

What are Indicators, Warnings and Trends?

Indicators are quantifiable metrics that you can use to measure and predict movement toward disruptive competitor activity. Common, early indicators of market changes include:

  • Unique investments
  • Facility acquisitions
  • Hiring certain types of employees
  • Patent applications
  • New alliances
  • Certain research endeavors

This type of information can be gathered from:

  • Competitor profiles
  • Pattern analysis
  • Supply chain analysis
  • Financial analysis
  • And more

Warnings are higher up the chain of concern in competitor developments. Warnings compile indicators to a head where there is distinct communication about a potential threat. Warnings require a stronger sense of urgency. The strategy when there is a warning for dangerous developments is to then formulate a counter plan to combat those potential threats.

Trends are an underlying current built from cultural, political and competitor changes. You should remain up to date on and work to understand the potential implications of developing trends. Using again the Hummer example, trends that would have indicated a loss in popularity might not have been obvious, but were building in strength and importance. An aging population, advanced technology and increased environmental consciousness were some trends that led toward more products being developed that were sustainable, lower impact and generally more affordable. Had GM identified the growing intensity of these trends, they might have altered their strategy with the Hummer, developing a newer model that better spoke to those trends.

Stand the Test of Time

Ensuring your product and your company are always relevant requires paying attention to the indicators, the warnings and the trends that might indicate market changes or competitor surprises. Monitoring these trends regularly will buy you more time to react in the best possible way, and will ensure your company is more agile to change to stand the test of time.

Watch Now: Competitive Strategy Best Practices

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Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.
Fred Hoffman, D.Sc.

Following a 30-year career as an intelligence collector and information operations practitioner in the US Army and multiple civilian intelligence organizations, Fred now draws upon his broad experience in worldwide intelligence collection, information operations, corporate personnel and intellectual property protection to support both government and commercial clients.

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