By Gary Shawhan & Dan Watson Contributing Editors, The CHEMARK Consulting Group

        Market mapping is an analytical technique whose purpose is to provide a snapshot of the relationship between key variables present in a particular market. The basic objective for doing a market map is to provide management with a visual overview of a given business situation. It assembles key variables impacting a particular issue in on place. The goal of the market map is to assist managers in strategic decision making.

Market mapping, as an analytical tool, is very helpful when you need to compare differences that exist among a particular set of common variables linked to a specific circumstance or business issue. Market mapping should provide a graphic picture of the relationship between certain elements related to a specific set of conditions highlighting important differences that are present.

Within the CASE market space, there are many possible applications for market mapping. There is also a wide range of business objectives for which companies can utilize and benefit from applying market mapping as part of developing or altering their business strategy going forward.

Table 1 provide some examples of business situations where the use of a market map can be employed to help in understanding and assessing a particular market situation.

Table 1: Examples of Topics for doing a Market Map

Market Share of Competitors      by Country or Region

                                                          by Product Type, Technology

 Technology, Product Type           Channel-to-market by Segment

                                                           By Geography

 Pricing Trends                                by Market Segment

                                                          By Region or Country

 Alternative Markets                      by Technology Type

                                                         By Strategic Fit

                                                         As a Target for Growth or Diversification

 External Market Impacts           Environmental, Regulatory, H&S

                                                        Offshore Transitions

                                                        Available Capacity- Over vs. Under-Capacity

By incorporating multiple variables into a single graphic, you attempt to create a broader perspective on the elements that impinge on a particular business or market situation. This “picture” should include enough interconnected information to assist management in evaluating the merits of selecting different strategic options for their business going forward.

Figure 1 offers an example of a market map. In this graphic, the intent is to compare one company’s current market position (for a particular area of technology) to other competitors in particular market space. Also depicted in this chart is a representation of the relative size of each competitor. In addition, the example provides a visual projection as the expected change in their relative market position over a designated period of time.

 Figure 1. Example of a Market Map

In order for a market map to be really meaningful, additional constraints associated with this business situation should be incorporated into the plan for developing it.. These additional criteria or constraints are important to those doing the research and then doing the actual analysis. These criteria help sharpen the focus and increase the value of the output when creating the market map. These additional constraints should be identified prior to the market research and treated as prerequisites to the development of a market map,

Referring to Figure 1, the additional constraints that are applied to this effort will vary widely. Common examples can include such things as: Geographic region or country; Market or specific market segments: Product composition such as resin type or water vs. solvent-based formulations; Product attributes or performance features; Pricing; Manufacturing logistics; and many others.

The value of a market map, as a business management tool, is dependent on the quality of the inputs that are used to developed it. In this regard, the goals, and objectives for doing the work need to be well defined at the outset. When this done, the level of effort expected by those contributing to the development of a “market map” is much clearer. It also helps management decide who should be involved in the effort required to develop the needed data and background market information. You can extract a lot of information from even the most basic of charts if the effort behind developing the information is tied to a well thought out market research plan.

The market research effort required to gather the data and market information increases in complexity when the goals for this effort involve multiple variables. When the output is linked to key strategic decisions, it is particularly important to consider using both internal and outside resources to generate the needed information.

When deciding to rely on in-company resources there are several things to consider. The availability of internal resources to take on this effort may or may not be available. Sometimes the breadth of market knowledge obtainable from internal resources that is required to assess key elements of the market situation may not exist or be adequate to address the needs of the project. If certain inputs are critical to the quality of the research effort, it is important to make the call on whether or not to use outside resources before starting the effort. In some circumstances the perspective provided solely by company personnel can also be slanted and may not provide a sufficiently objective view of the actual market situation.

Engaging outside services including industry experts, specialty consulting firms or other external resources is an important option. This approach introduces an independent viewpoint into the process. It also brings into play the expertise of others outside of the organization that can add depth of knowledge to the market mapping process.