Archive for April, 2010

A Series on Forecasting Sales for Your Business’ Success

April 22, 2010

Trying to predict what sales will be like next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow is as much an art as it is a science.  Because the forecasting process is often difficult and tedious, and because there’s no guarantee that a forecast will be precise, some companies and businesses don’t even bother to do it, resigning themselves to what Hamlet would call “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” that the business world can certainly hash out.

Yet forecasting, if done properly, can be a great tool to reduce uncertainty about the future, as well as risk: it can make it easier to manage staffing and inventory levels; decide when to tap credit lines, step up marketing and sales efforts, or  acquire new equipment; and/or determine whether a new product will be worth launching.  In short, forecasting is intended to facilitate better planning.

These next few posts will introduce you to the different kinds of forecasting methods available, how to determine which method is most appropriate for your project, what information you need to generate the forecast, how to generate it, and how to test it for effectiveness.

This post serves as a roadmap for what is to come on Insight Central.  For the next few posts, you can expect to see (in this order):

  1. A high-level discussion of the different categories of forecasting methods: time series, causal/econometric, judgmental, artificial intelligence, and other.
  2. A deeper discussion of the more popular forecasting methods: regression analysis, exponential smoothing, moving average, ARIMA (Box-Jenkins), as well as some of the judgmental methods like surveys, composite forecasts, scenario building, and simulation.  Each discussion will also include a section on how to know if it’s one you should use.
  3. A discussion about the data you use to forecast; and how to prepare it for forecasting.
  4. How to determine if your forecast model is valid, reliable, and good for predicting.
  5. Some (nontechnical) case studies in which Analysights applied forecasting methods, and the results.

The next several posts will give you the pointers you need in order to forecast your business’ sales more effectively, and I believe you’ll find them to be informative, interesting, and exciting, not to mention beneficial to your top and bottom lines.  Let the voyage begin!

Conducting Market Research Without an Underlying Business Purpose Wastes Time and Money

April 21, 2010

The other day, a question was directed to me on the AllExperts.com Website, where I am a participating market research expert.  A student from the Netherlands was preparing a graduation thesis based on a large scale market research project he was doing for a manufacturer of water cooling systems for power plants.

His thesis topic was, “What does the northwest European market for cooling water systems in power plants look like?” 

While the manufacturer was good with the topic, his thesis advisor was not.  The advisor felt the topic wasn’t strategic.  And the advisor was right!

Market research has no value if a company can’t act on it.  Market research findings need to be taken to the next step – a recommended course of action for the client.  If the power plant water cooling system manufacturer knows what the market looks like, that’s great, but what does it do with that knowledge?  Many companies, for this very reason, end up suffering from “analysis paralysis.”

So I advised the student to reformulate the thesis topic into a strategic initiative, something like, “How can Company A achieve an X% share of the power plant water cooling systems market in northwest Europe?”  From there, he would still answer his research questions to understand what the market looked like, but then the findings would lead him to determine the strategy he should recommend to the manufacturer. (See his question and my response here).

Knowing what initiative the client wants to achieve is the starting point.  Once you know the business purpose, you can then determine the research questions that must be answered.  Once those questions are answered, you can then come up with the recommendations that lead to achievement of the business purpose.  Insights that can’t be acted on waste everyone’s time and money.

Take our Job Interview Survey

April 15, 2010

Yesterday’s blog post opened the floor to readers asking them what they considered to be their most difficult job interview question. And we had a whopping response rate of ZERO!!! So, we thought we’d instead invite you to take a brief, 4-question survey on the topic. Completing it shouldn’t even take 2 minutes. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Click Here to take survey

What ONE job interview question is most difficult for you to answer?

April 14, 2010

With so many people seeking work these days, Analysights is asking the readers of Insight Central the toughest job interview questions they face.  So, we are opening this post to readers and would love to read your comments.