Market Opportunity Assessment: Why You Need One & 5 Key Steps
Jan 16, 2019
How effective is your organization at identifying and prioritizing opportunities in the market you serve or in new markets you would like to enter? Is there a formal process of gathering and analyzing data or is it 'based on the gut' of someone that likes to loudly share their opinions during meetings?
Well, for those of you that prefer data-driven decision-making...please read on.
A market opportunity assessment is a data-driven process that identifies opportunities for your organization to serve the unmet or under-served demand of consumers in the geographic market you currently serve or are considering as a potential new market to enter with existing or potential products and services.
An assessment is important for many reasons but two of the most important include:
- An assessment helps you more accurately estimate the size of demand in a market so you can determine accurate goals and objectives for the near and long-term.
- An assessment helps you identify opportunities that offer your organization the greatest potential return with the least potential risk.
Basically, a market opportunity assessment helps your organization use quality data and analysis to focus your existing resources on unmet and under-served demand with a target audience(s) in a target market (geographic area served).
Performing a market opportunity assessment requires focus on the following:
Step 1: Audience Insight
In a geographic market, you need to identify and understand the target audience(s) and segments.
Be as specific as possible with defining the audience(s) because, as you can see from the following questions, the more specific you can be in answering “Who are they”, the more specific you can be in gathering more accurate data for analysis in other key factors.
- Who are they?
- Demographic factors
- Psychographic factors
- Behavioral factors
- How many are there?
- Are they increasing in number or decreasing?
- What are their wants and needs?
- What have they been purchasing and how much over the past 2 to 5-years?
- How do they pay?
- What do they pay?
- Who do they view as your competition? Why?
- What are their current education requirements?
Again, having accurate data on the audience(s) and segments in the market is key to determining the size of opportunities so you can establish realistic goals and objectives as well as budgets.
Step 2: Competitive Insight
Based on your audience insights and your own knowledge of the industry and marketplace, you can identify competition – and then you need to gather and analyze data so you can determine the competition’s strengths and weaknesses as well as potential threats they may be able to bring to life against your organization.
Every institution will have their own list of key competitive factors they prefer to monitor, but here is a list of key factors and data points you will want to address:
- Cash flow
- Primary Reserve Ratio
- Net Income Ratio
- Return on Net Assets
- Viability Ratio
- Human Resources:
- Compensation and benefits
- Selection process
- Training and development
- Employee retention and turnover rates
- Offerings (Product, programs and services):
- What products, programs and services do they offer,Features and benefits of each
- Performance such as sales, services by product, program and service
- Pricing strategy:
- Premium pricing or everyday low pricing or other
- Finance/payment options
- Target audience:
- Demographic, psychographic, behavioral factors
- Budgets, strategies and tactics
- Expenses and results
- Messaging and offer strategies
- Brand positioning, unique selling proposition
- Marketing calendars
Insight into areas such as those listed above can help you identify the competitions' strengths and weaknesses so you can capitalize on your strengths and minimize the impact of your weaknesses.
Step 3: Indirect Competition
The prior step tends to focus on primary competition – but you also need to understand indirect competition because it has an impact on your performance.
For example, for our higher education clients, we recommend looking outside community colleges and 4-year institutions. What about corporate training? Or MOOCs such as Coursera and Udemy?
Step 4: Environmental Factors
The next area to understand is environmental factors – those factors outside your organization that can provide opportunities and threats for your business. Environmental factors include:
When you look at these areas, look for ways these areas can help (opportunities) or hinder (threats) your business.
For example, what is currently going on in government (local, state, federal or in international markets) that will help you achieve your goals or hinder you from achieving them? Tariffs are a good example that is impacting many businesses today. And when it comes to higher education, what is going on in the Department of Education?
Technology - is there new technology that could help with manufacturing or distribution? For higher education, check out this article on the potential impact of VR and AR.
Then, based on the data, determine if what you thought were opportunities, based on this data, are real opportunities. Are they substantial in size to warrant the investment? What environmental factors might hinder your ability to turn those opportunities into a profitable reality?
Step 5: Analysis, Recommendations & Testing
With the data discussed above, your analysis should produce very targeted recommendations, as well as realistic estimates of the potential market opportunity. Depending on your organization’s culture, resources, financial standing, tolerance for risk, as well as the behavior of competition in the target market, testing before investing your resources in new course/program development might be a wise next step.
One way to accomplish this is to create the course/program overview with enough detail to address basic questions. Then promote the new offering in the intended market to the target audience and measure interest – perhaps to the point of charging a fee to reserve a spot in the initial class (and maybe lock in a special tuition rate). This level of commitment can help determine if the demand is strong enough to make the investment into developing the entire course/program.
The obvious risk to this approach is that the competition is made aware of your plans before you fully roll-out the course/program to the target market and audience(s). But that should be weighed against the larger expense and risk associated with skipping a test and moving directly to full market roll-out.
As you can see, conducting a market opportunity assessment is an important endeavor – one that can increase your potential success while dramatically reducing your chances for failure. Some will argue that this assessment process can cause untold delays that lead to missed opportunities; but, by conducting a thorough assessment of the market opportunity you increase your chances for launching a more successful entry into the market.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.