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What are the market trends and competitor market positions in the test and measurement equipment industry?

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Research background: QuantiMart, a manufacturer of test and measurement equipment, is reevaluating its product line, so the marketing department is interested in learning more about the market, including market trends, market size, market share, market positioning, and competitor strengths and weaknesses.

Research budget: Only a $1,000 – $1,500 budget can be allocated for research at this time.

Realizing there is a trade-off in fast versus cheap, a member of the marketing staff familiar with online research is given as much as one month’s time to collect company literature, perform telephone interviews, do background literature and market research literature searches, and summarize results.

Research strategy employed: Both the nature of the information required and the tight budget will require extensive primary research.

As in most market and industry research exercises, the first step after planning the project is to collect background information, examine trends in the overall niche industry, identify major market players and technical experts, and follow general market trends by performing a literature search on both Factiva and LexisNexis.

Once the background work is complete, the plan is to “fill in the blanks” by looking at financial databases such as Investext and market research reports from aggregators such as IMR Mall (now incorporated into the ECNext Knowledge Center)

Research Results: The following results were obtained in a multistage, parallel research process to achieve the desired data within the time allocated:

1. First, the researcher performs a literature search on Lexi-Nexis to cull background information and leads, using databases such as Trade & Industry Index, Newspapers, Newsletters, RDS, and PROMT.

He also searches for market reports on market report systems such as Investext and IMR Mall.

2. Then he consults the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers on the Internet to aid in identifying key market players and obtaining telephone numbers.

After he verifies six to eight key market players, both in the literature and with the client, marketing staff members telephone all the companies on the list and request product literature by mail.

Trade magazines often publish buyers’ guides, and in this case, the Test & Measurement World Web site has a helpful one (http://www.e-insite.net/tmworld/index.asp?layout=buyersguide).

Typing a keyword in the search box and clicking on the Search button retrieves a list of suppliers.

Similarly, with the Thomas Register, you can search for a product by simply entering the word(s) into the search box and then clicking on the find It button.

3. Next the marketing staff phones appropriate trade associations, magazines, equipment distributors, and technical experts to verify trends and garner opinions on market trends and individual product producers.

4. As product literature arrives, the researcher plugs data into an EXCEL spreadsheet for comparing instrument data, features, and variety of models.

5. As opinions and rankings of the players are received, he records information in a table format.

Summary of solution: Although the literature has provided some very good background information as a springboard, the real treasure comes from speaking to the technical experts and trade literature editors.

In addition to finding that many new and more sophisticated products are entering the market, the marketing team has discovered that sophistication comes at a hefty price tag, one that not all potential buyers in the target marketplace can afford.

In speaking to several individuals, it has also become apparent that QuantiMart is considered to be “off the map” – the company has not been exhibiting at trade shows lately, and distributors are thinking it has simply gone out of business.

Not only has the company become aware that it needs to step up its marketing efforts, but it has also discovered where its strengths lie vis-à-vis its competitors and how it can use that to its advantage.

Useful tips
• Individual company Web sites often lead you to the associations and distributors with whom they are associated.

They can also point you to key market trend articles where they are mentioned or included in a ranking.

• Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Trade magazine editors are a treasure trove of knowledge: they have a finger on the pulse of the industry, can often refer you to others “in the know,” and are often eager to share their opinions and insights.

• Annual surveys in trade journals can often be purchased for a low fee and are well worth the wait to get the hard copy by postal mail.

• Taking the time to plug data into tables or spreadsheets as you get it saves you time later on and keeps you focused on what you really need to know by helping you cut down on the “nice to know” but irrelevant information.

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