Knowing Your Market

For a business leader, the worth of truly understanding your market cannot be overstated. Researching competitors, understanding what gaps are in the marketplace, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses – these elements are necessary for a successful venture. Read on to hear from local business executives and experts on how they work to understand their market.

 

Barry White President & CEO, Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau chattanooga businessman

Barry White

President & CEO,
Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

 

How important is understanding your marketplace?

Staying informed about other destinations across the Southeast and the country is a key part of knowing the differentiation value of Chattanooga and the unique qualities our community has to offer. We are rigorous about understanding the tools and contexts that potential visitors use in order to ultimately make their travel selections. Our daily work at the CVB also entails keeping a close watch on the types of experiences visitors are seeking. These are all constantly evolving trends to monitor, so we analyze data daily, weekly, monthly, and annually to optimize our marketing and sales strategies accordingly.

How do you engage in market research?

We refer to leading destination media and research groups to gather information about visitor and marketing trends, so their sources and analysis inform our tactics.  Everything from visitor and resident perceptions to visitor profiles must be surveyed and evaluated. Many times Google Trends and Analytics are useful tools. In another example, we recently adopted a software tool developed by Oxford Economics to evaluate the impact of major events.

How do you understand how your business truly impacts your clients?

No single measurement paints a full picture. We measure hotel room demand, attraction attendance, online analytics, and conduct yearly market research on economic impact, intent to travel, and visitor perceptions to measure the different ways our efforts help grow the economy in Hamilton County.

 

 

Guru Shah Founder & CEO, Shah Trucking LLC chattanooga businessman

Guru Shah

Founder & CEO,
Shah Trucking LLC

 

 

How important is understanding your marketplace?

Understanding your marketplace is vital when starting and operating a business. I started Shah Trucking with very minimal prior knowledge of the logistics industry when I heard a statistic that there were nine loads to each truck on the road. I used that statistic as a catalyst, but then I found mentors in the industry that pointed me toward industry organizations, online publications, and other resources that helped identify where my opportunities were within the market.

How do you engage in market research?

Not enough can be said about developing and maintaining quality relationships within your industry network. In-person and phone conversations with these contacts are vital in keeping a pulse on the market. A lot of times an email, text, or LinkedIn message may seem the most convenient, but in reality, these rarely amount to valuable market research insight.

What is your best advice for knowing your market?

Always be engaged, in good times and bad. It can be tempting to rest on your laurels when times are good, but you’ll regret it when the market turns and you’re not ready. Also, getting on the phone or going to visit a customer is the best way to judge how you are impacting your customers. Not only will this keep you on their minds, but it will also allow you to stay on top of your performance.   

How do you stay ahead of changing markets?

Continual reinvestment in your equipment and personnel is a solid recipe for consistent success. By staying in front of technological advancements and ensuring solid retention of your staff, you give yourself the best opportunity to stay ahead.

 

 

Hugh Morrow President & CEO, Ruby Falls chattanooga businessman

Hugh Morrow

President & CEO,
Ruby Falls

 

 

How do you engage in market research?

We have used various companies to conduct on-site research. These findings help us clarify specific feedback we get from our guests while they are on campus. With an increasing number of online ticket purchases, we can reconnect with
guests after their visit to gauge how well we met expectations.

What is your best advice for knowing your market?

It’s important to view your business from the guests’ perspective. Our personal desires don’t always line up with those of our customers. The book Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You by Kelly McDonald taught me a lot about standing on the outside looking into our business vs. standing on the inside looking out.

How do you make sure your business is meeting your market’s needs?

Today’s feedback with social media is almost instantaneous. With Wi-Fi in the cave, our guests can post comments during their tour. Every comment we receive offers important information to help us direct our decisions to improve guest experience and meet market needs.

How do you shift to meet the needs of changing markets?

Our product is a natural cave that can’t be changed or renovated in the traditional sense. However, we can make it relevant to today’s guests by enhancing their tour experience with high-efficiency lighting, the latest in audio visual technology, and Wi-Fi deep inside a mountain for sharing post-worthy moments. In 2018, we opened phase one of our 10-year facilities expansion project designed to strengthen our connection to today’s visitors by creating a reimagined guest experience with new venues and amenities.

 

 

Matt Hullander Owner, Hullco chattanooga businessman

Matt Hullander

Owner,
Hullco

 

 

How important is understanding your marketplace?

First, a company must know who their customer is. Who are you marketing to? For Hullco, knowing our market is crucial to generating leads and keeping marketing costs at bay.

How do you engage in market research?

Knowing the score of the game is vital, so great reporting is extremely important, especially in marketing to your customer. We track many variables to know as many details as possible about our markets. Studying lead sources, past data, and our track record helps identify more specifically who our market is and how to reach them. It also helps with decisions on how to best spend our marketing dollars and establish our budget.

How do you stay ahead of changing markets?

One of our core values is ‘adapt and change.’ As the market changes, we must change and adapt as well. We are always looking for ways to use technology to improve our processes. We use an independent company to survey all of our clients at the completion of the project. This helps us know our clients’ needs, where we excel, who to praise, and where we can improve. We always strive to make it better.

 

 

Susan P. Harris, SPHR, SHRM-SCP President & COO, See Rock City, Inc. chattanooga business woman

Susan P. Harris, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

President & COO,
See Rock City, Inc.

 

 

What is your best advice for knowing your market?

Time-tested practices around strategic planning are critical to understanding your market, and involving the correct team members in that process is required for success. The primary keys for us involve truly understanding our own identity, the experiences we provide, and then learning how our guests interact with our places and our products.

How do you make sure your business is meeting your market’s needs?

Building a team that is engaged in critical learning and innovation has been foundational in our evolution as a company, and supporting the educational development of leaders and teams is essential. Relationships within the industry and traveling to learn from others enable us to view the market from a different perspective. Lifting your head and stepping away from your own world is important.

How do you stay ahead of changing markets?

You have to be willing to try new things and be willing to fail to stay ahead in changing markets. Building that willingness into the system allows us to respond to changes as they present themselves and be truly innovative as an organization. Our mission-centered approach allows us to build on our legacy to grow, change, and remain competitive.

 

 

Brian May President & Executive Creative Director, Maycreate chattanooga businessman

Brian May

President & Executive Creative Director,
Maycreate

 

 

How do you engage in market research?

We start by understanding our client’s product or service in as much detail as possible. We then develop target audience personas before engaging these groups in formal studies. Once we know what we’re selling and who we’re selling to, we begin the research process by engaging our audience for feedback. Feedback is then organized, analyzed, and acted upon with the client.

What is your best advice for knowing your market?

Hire a professional. But if you can’t, do the following: Read. Listen. Watch. Read as much as you can about your audience and your industry. Listen to everyone in your organization, to your customers, to your competitors, etc. Watch social media, television, and market influencers; there’s a wealth of information to be gleaned by keeping your eyes peeled for trends. Most importantly, you must be willing to respond to what you’re learning by applying a healthy dose of common sense and divorcing yourself from personal tastes or feelings.

How do you understand how your business truly impacts your clients?

You understand by measuring as many data points as possible. Sales and revenue data are the easy ones to look at, but the real impact can be seen by looking at brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisitions, audience engagement, and customer loyalty, to name a few. These require experience and a more intentional approach to assess data points you can act upon.

 

 

Terri Holley Owner, Embellish chattanooga business woman

Terri Holley

Owner,
Embellish

 

 

How do you engage in market research?

When I decided to open Embellish, I visited every single local boutique and department store to be sure that I knew exactly which lines were already being represented. Then I decided what our product mix would look like. I still stay in regular contact with other local merchants in an effort to support each other by not overlapping with the same lines. 

How do you understand how your business truly impacts your clients?

I am continually asking shoppers their thoughts on our store related to location, product mix, customer service, and promotional activity. Many times, I will ask a client who I know shops in other boutiques what they like about shopping there. I even ask them what they think of out-of-town and online merchants as well.

How do you stay ahead of changing markets?

Staying ahead is one of the most difficult aspects as a boutique owner/stylist. I have always believed that it is better to be ‘on trend’ rather than ‘trendy.’ Most clients are interested in making good investments in their wardrobes. They want to understand many options for using a garment or accessory. I try to help them use their buying history to make better future purchases.

How do you shift to meet the needs of changing markets?

You have to be willing to take calculated risks. You have to know when to stop buying into a product that has been profitable historically and when to move your investment into something new, even though there might be some risk associated with making that change.

 

 

Jimmy White General Partner/Owner, Urban Story Ventures chattanooga businessman

Jimmy White

General Partner/Owner,
Urban Story Ventures

 

 

How important is understanding your marketplace?

Understanding our marketplace is crucial to how we conduct business. Recognizing the relationships across different elements of the market as trends that could create opportunity is the cornerstone of Urban Story Ventures. We need to understand where rates are going and what incentives are out there to attract new business, as well as acknowledge benchmarks set by similarly sized cities.

How do you shift to meet the needs of changing markets?

Anticipating the market is part of what we do. We are in the business of providing space, yes, but also of anticipating and understanding the demands of our client base – locally, regionally, and nationally, even internationally in some cases. The adaptive and creative philosophy we’ve implemented sets us apart from competitors not only by understanding the market better, but also by grasping the changing needs of our clients. The office landscape is drastically changing (as is retail), and we are constantly developing ways to elevate the experience for our tenants. After all, many of us spend more time in our workplace than our home.

How do you make sure your business is meeting your market’s needs?

We pay attention to retention to make sure we are meeting our market’s needs. Retention of quality jobs and tenants is vital to a sustainable marketplace.

 

 

Charlie Hunter President, Hunter Oil Company, Inc. chattanooga businessman

Charlie Hunter

President,
Hunter Oil Company, Inc.

 

 

What is your best advice for knowing your market?

Get out and talk to your customers and talk to your employees. Stay engaged. It’s so easy to think you are connecting digitally, but really, you will lose touch without face-to-face communication with your customers and employees.

How do you engage in market research?

We listen to our customers – we have quarterly reviews with our larger customers. We ask how our service is and what we can do better. We make sure these are face-to-face so that we get honest feedback. We also track data. We look at Google Analytics weekly to see what people are interested in, and I read a lot of articles and participate in two different advisory boards in our industry. We are also partnered with two large Fortune 500 companies, and their market research is second to none. We have a lot of data at our fingertips.

How do you stay ahead of changing markets?

We’re pretty focused on diversification in our product line to prevent a shift disrupting us, and we also experiment by adding in new products to see if they work. We are part of a study group with peers in the same industry who distribute in other regions, so we are able to share ideas and research with each other. We have the opportunity to hear about new products that are doing well in other markets and may fit into our repertoire.

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