Eye on the States: Top firms know how to foresee and create market trends

Thomas Davies

Every new state and local market opportunity has a unique adoption curve. Today, there are a number of emerging market opportunities that are on the cusp of something very big. Some with the greatest potential include managed services; business process outsourcing, especially human resources and social services; bioterrorism detection and prevention; and e-procurement.

What's in doubt about each one is the rate at which customers finally get on board -- if they ever do.

Getting the adoption curve right for each new market opportunity is the difference between success and failure. Correctly anticipating the timing and the rate of adoption enables a company to ride a hot market straight to the top. Get it wrong, and you can spend countless dollars and time chasing a market opportunity that never lives up to its full potential.

As companies put together their business plans every year, they implicitly place bets on the adoption curve for the market opportunities they will target.

Four different types of companies can be identified, depending upon their understanding of the curves in state and local government and their expertise in capitalizing upon them:

Pros: These companies are very aware of what drives market adoption in state and local government, and they intentionally act to facilitate it in a strategic, purposeful manner.

Whether it's changes in legislation, campaign contributions, custom market research, creating a market buzz or getting endorsement from key officials, they leave nothing to chance.

Sometimes they're so effective, they almost single-handedly orchestrate a bandwagon effect that results in dramatic shifts in market momentum. One thing they don't worry about is whose idea led to the market opportunity. This brings us to the second type of company.

Pioneers: While as aware as the Pros of the importance of market adoption dynamics, these companies often fail to capitalize on them. This is because they are primarily interested in pioneering new innovations, not exporting breakthroughs to broad segments of the market. It's as if the fun is in being the first to do something, not in replicating the new practice or technology across the country.

Usually quite capable, these companies typically take great pride in doing innovative work for their customers.

Consequently, they often see the market opportunities they helped create pass them by, as others reap the benefits of taking the new way of doing things to new markets.

Go-getters: These companies are tactic rich but strategy poor. They lead with their rich portfolio of marketing tactics, but have no sense of market adoption strategy.

You can often recognize them by the frantic nature of their high-energy marketing activities.

They sponsor every possible conference, place advertisements indiscriminately in all the standard publications, subscribe to every available marketing database, and have a revolving door of former government officials that never seem to last.

Novices: These companies are clueless about what drives the state and local market. They often spend their time mimicking the actions of the Go-getters, who are so visible and seem to know what they are doing. But Novices only succeed in spending lots of money chasing market opportunities that seem just beyond their grasp.

So as your company prepares for 2004, look at your plans carefully. What type are you?

Thomas Davies is senior vice president at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. His e-mail address is tdavies@currentanalysis.com.

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