Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What I do

The other day as I was chatting to my bro on msn, he made a remark which got me thinking...

"Actually, what is it that you do?"

Apparently a number of times some people asked about his family, and when it came to his sis, he was unable to explain exactly what my job was.

I understood where he was coming from. Many times when I am making small talk with people, and they ask me what I do... I need to decide whether I should really go into the full explanation or just give state my job title and be done with it... because sometimes it's hard to tell whether people are asking because they are really interested, or whether they are just trying to be polite. If its the latter, then it would be wasting my breath to give a full account when I know that they'll be just nodding their heads absent-mindedly as their minds start wandering off on other thoughts. Worse, I've even been accused of 'selling snake oil'! *shaking head*

So for the benefit of all my secret readers... haha! I know you are out there somewhere... I shall attempt to explain what is it I do in my job. And if it happens that you really don't care, you can simply skip the rest of this entry... easy right?

So...

When people ask me what I do, usually my initial short answer would usually be "Management Consulting" or "Business Consulting" or "Market Intelligence".

Quite often, the next question would be "So, what is that?" or "What does that mean?"

Weeeellllll...

Market Intelligence is a term that refers to gathering information and data about a company's market... what do customers want? what are competitors' up to? what are the new products coming into the market? who are my partners? what are the policies governing the market? etc.

Companies need to know this information in order to formulate business strategies to be successful... what to do to give customers what they want, how to defeat competitors, how to keep up to date with the latest products in the market, which organisations to partner with... etc.

Information doesn't just appear out of nowhere. Someone has to conduct research to gather this information. Through surveys to ask customers what they want, through interviews with industry experts, talking to different players in the market, keeping up to date with the news to find out the latest developments in the market... etc.

Companies spend thousands of dollars on Market Intelligence to be in the know. Knowledge is power. When you know something that no one else knows, you usually have the advantage.

So this is what I do. I work in a team with other analysts and consultants to obtain this information... running and managing surveys, speaking to ' industry experts', conducting mystery shopping, researching news articles and industry reports... then putting it all together to provide the client with a clear picture of what is happening in their space, and then giving some ideas on what they can do about it to improve their position.

However there is such a thing as having too much information that you don't know what to do with it. Or it might get lost in the sea of information that the company is swimming in.

This is also where we come in. We formulate tools and strategies to help clients harness their information to make it work for them.

So many customers... which one to target?

So many products... which one to sell?

So much information... which one to look at?

Etc.

It's pretty cool actually. And I generally do enjoy what I am doing most of the time. I'm grateful that I managed to stumble on this career because I can't imagine myself as a boring old bean counter (which was another career path I had seriously considered at one time).


If you want to know more, you can look up some of the terms mentioned on Wikipedia:

Market Intelligence
Management Consulting
Mystery Shopping


Other related terms you can also check out:

Market Research
Competitive Intelligence

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