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Earlier this year, Gartner published a report entitled Marketing Essentials: Marketing Activity Cycle for High-Tech and Telecom Providers. In the report, Gartner outlines the five phases of the Marketing Activity Cycle to guide for high tech and telecom providers in their major work activities. The five phases are: examine, plan, execute, communicate and evaluate.

craneWhile the 19-page report is full of useful content, the “examine” phase caught my eye. This stage is critical to success, as it’s where marketers lay the foundation for all other marketing activities. Essentially, this is when marketers assess the market and competition, and understand their customers. Gartner points to valuable resources to help marketers in each of these areas.

Assess the Market

According to Gartner, “Market analysis should at a minimum include a continuous review of market trends and dynamics, and the identification of discontinuities, risks and opportunities.”

Gartner recommends the following resources:

Here’s another resource I came across:

Assess the Competition

When performing competitive analysis, marketers should, at a minimum, understand competitors’ strategies, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and identify new and emerging competitors, according to Gartner.

Gartner highlights the following resources:

As a former competitive analyst, I’d like to add suggestions for how marketers can collect information about their competitors:

  • Tap insider sources, such as sales reps and pre-sales engineers
  • Set up Google alerts on competitors’ names and offerings, as well as keywords associated with the competition (e.g., “antispyware software”)
  • Follow the competition on Twitter and via other social-media channels
  • Peruse annual reports for insight into competitors’ strategic plans
  • Check out competitors’ job listings to get an idea about potential new directions
  • Search Google using terms such as “[competitor name] strategy,” “[competitor name] roadmap” and “[competitor name] outlook” to find both competitor-authored and third-party pieces
  • Visit conference sites to access presentations given by the competition

Understand the Customer

When it comes to understanding the customer, Gartner advises identifying buying trends and dynamics, analyzing current customers’ needs, wants and behavior, and identifying potential new customers.

Here Gartner says marketers should mine and analyze their databases. Further along in the activity cycle, marketers can extract additional value from this exercise by developing buyer personas that keep everyone focused when developing sales tools and communicating with prospective buyers. Adelle Revella, who has been using buyer personas to market technology products for more than 20 years, provides lots of advice and ideas on her blog.