Look both ways before crossing the street.
That cautionary lesson has drummed into us since childhood, and with good reason. You should always be aware of yourself and your surroundings before stepping off the curb.
When kids do this, it’s called basic personal safety. When businesses do it, it’s called environmental scanning.
What is environmental scanning?
Environmental scanning is a business process in which managers search for, analyze and evaluate any factors that may affect the success of their business or marketing strategy. These factors may be internal, like manpower or budget limitations, or external, such as competitors or industry trends.
Environmental scanning can either be done on an ad-hoc basis, such as when you’re about to launch a major marketing campaign, or it can be scheduled at regular times throughout the year. Scanning only when you need to does take less overall effort, but you risk missing out on crucial developments. On the other hand, regular environmental scanning keeps you up to speed with the rest of the market, yet costs more to do—both in dollar amounts and in man-hours.
How does environmental scanning work?
The first step in any environmental scanning campaign is to collect as much information about the market as possible. You need information like industry trends or issues, and new ideas being formed, and anything else that may affect the business’ long-term plan. Competitor activity also counts, since their actions clearly impact your own progress.
Once that information has been collected, it needs to be vetted for strategic value. Only use information that impacts your marketing strategy. The rest can safely be ignored (for now). Formalized programs for collecting and analyzing data, where dedicated analysis teams and a motivated C-suite work together, usually generate the most useful results.
Now comes the most challenging part: you now have to find a way to apply your learnings (assuming they were good ones) to the existing process or strategy. This is where the excitement really begins, as managers discuss the implications of the scanning results and how best to incorporate them without being too disruptive to existing campaigns.
The net effect is a marketing strategy that is grounded in facts. This makes it easier to come up with highly targeted content, events and assets that have a better chance of converting. Also, you can streamline marketing campaigns as you trim the excessive or unnecessary parts of the strategic plan, and reallocate the funds to better reflect our current work loads.
So the next time you get together with your business partners or fellow managers, discuss ways you can use this campaign leadership project to further your own goals.
Don’t jump blindly into traffic. Look left, then look right.
Icasas,B2B Blogger, Copywriter, and Content Marketing Consultant