Many successful businesses enjoy longevity because they periodically conduct and invest in market research. That way they stay tuned to changing market trends, are able to size up business opportunities and to improve on competitive nature of their businesses. Whether you are a startup or looking at expanding an existing business, understanding the critical characteristics of your target market creates potential for increase in sales revenue, your profit, and return on investment (ROI). In essence, data and market research is vital for smart decision-making, business planning and overall success of your business. How this critical aspect of the business is often overlooked, yet far too many business ventures fail as a result of poor market research, or lack thereof!
What is market research?
In its basic definition, market research is merely an information gathering exercise to determine the viability of something.
But more importantly, market research is a continuous process of collecting data, investigating and interpreting information about a particular market your company operates in, a product or service you offer for selling in that market, other companies competing with you in your market space and current and potential customers who purchase and consume the product or service you offer.
Analysing all of the above means continously investigating possible ways for the company to successfully operate in the market, sell producs and services, attract and retain the target audience, as well as gain competitive advantages.
Market research is therefore an invaluable business tool that helps you reduce the risk that a business idea will fail, essencially reducing the risk of being in business.
Types of market research
The scope of the market research you’ll undertake is influenced by your research objectives, i.e. what you want to learn about your market and factors influencing it.
Your objectives will also determine the types of market research that you need to undertake in order to be successful.
There are two main categories of market research:
The first one is primary research, which typically covers monitoring the effectiveness of sales, ascertaining the quality of services provided by competitors, understanding the channels of communication used by competitors, and assessing active competition within the market.
An example of conducting this type of research is to talk to customers, suppliers or competitors in the market.
The second one is secondary research, usually conducted by other people or organisations, but whose results you may be able to use yourself.
Secondary research typically covers published company reports data, existing surveys and studies, newspaper reports and Government data.
In turn, the nature of research is, broadly speaking, either qualitative (as a result of actually talking to people, asking for feedback and/or opinions) or quantitative (sourced through surveys from which figures and numbers are generated, analysed and presented in the form of meaningful charts, statistics, graphs and tables).
So what are some of the main business areas that data and market research have major influence on?
l Business model design & strategy
Having a greater understanding of your marketplace will enable you to create a sound business model and strategy to establish and grow your brand into one surpasses competition.
Through research a business is able to spot or anticipate market trends or changes, test viability of a business idea. More significantly, market data will help drive the development of sound a business model and strategy for product or service design, pricing, distribution and logistics, advertising media usage, amongst others.
Keeping one step ahead of your competitors is essential for business survival. Research can provide you with valuable information about existing competitors, their adopted strategies, and how those strategies impact on target consumers. Such insights reveal existing gaps in terms of untapped or underserviced markets, threats and new opportunities in the market place, facilitating smarter decision-making.
It is often said that “being a customer-centric organization is the Holy Grail towards unlocking the true potential of customer value”. Today’s best performing organisations are those that are customer-centric, meaning that their strategy and culture is based on putting customers’ needs first, and at the core of the business (Deloitte and Touche conducted a study recently and found that customer-centric companies were 60 percent more profitable when compared to companies that were not focused on the customer).Their way of doing business is such that it provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits. These companies do not just provide great customer service; they are deliberate about creating a great experience throughout the customer journey — from the awareness stage, purchasing process and finally through the post-purchase process. To succeed in being a customer-centric company, your can use market research as a tool to gain insight into your customers thinking; understanding your target customers’ buying behavior, interests, satisfaction levels with your products and services and how they prefer to be engaged. Through market research you also get to understand changing market trends such as population shifts, education levels of your target market, their social status, buying power and more.
With that information, you can segment your customers and identify opportunities to create products and services that match their needs.
You and I have seen too many products die a slow market death due to the lack of customer understanding and, quite frankly, market arrogance. Philip Kotler, the father of Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to Human Spirit, rightly advocates for putting the customer on a pedestal. He argues that the days of customers being treated like mere consumers are over, but should be treated as complex, multi-dimensional human beings that they are. Their level of sophistication and assertiveness has increased exponentially over years and they are able to choose companies and products that satisfy deeper needs. As the year draws to a close and you put business activity on pause or slow motion, reflect on your business — your successes, challenges, and next steps in your business growth. Be remindend that the business evironment is ever evolving internally, at competition level and broadly at a macro level, and that market research is critical in closing information gabs to enable sound business decision making.
Ensure that your business processes and disciplines (from marketing, logistis to supply chain management) are all geared towards responding to this new generation of customers, which is not waiting to be told by sales and marketing people about their needs. The development of technology, access to internet and social media, amongst others, have empowered your customers to make sound comparisons of products and services and eventualy make prudent buying decisions based on options at their disposal. Research can help eliminate business complecancy by anchoring the business offering on expectations and peculiar needs of customers that you serve.
l Fundisile Serame is the owner of TechnoFundis, a research and innovation consultancy
Why invest for the future
AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.
Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.
“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.
Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.
He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.
Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.
“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.
Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.
In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.
He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.
Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.
He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.
“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.
Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.
He says each provides different financial products and services.
Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.
Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.
“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.
Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.
Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.
However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.
Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.
Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.
Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.
When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.
They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.
Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.
Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.
“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.
“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.
Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.
In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.
Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.
The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.
In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.
Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.
He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.
He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.
LetsGo and Win!
LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.
The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.
“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.
“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.
Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.
“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”
He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.
“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”
Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.
“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.
He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.
“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”
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