A Growth Strategy Without Market Data is a Hail Mary (Part 1 of 2)

Most of the OnStrategy Team lives in Nevada, so we know a thing or two about gambling (and sometimes you can get lucky!!). However, most leaders prefer to play it safe with the future of their companies. We suspect you feel the same way. The problem for most organizations, and many of our clients, is great market data is too expensive and time consuming to gather.

So what’s the solution? We’ve put together an easy-to-use summary of questions to answer and data sources to access for free (ish).

Pro Tip: Strive to be directionally correct, not decimal point perfect!

Questions You’re Looking to Answer With Data

We cover this in our Growth Strategy Guide, but internal and external data are required to inform and help answer key strategic questions as your team builds a growth strategy. Markets are the opportunities in your SWOT that are discreet and definable as you can go after them and they’re of a size that will make a difference to your organization.

Pro-tip: don’t forget to assess the markets you currently serve—there could be more growth from them!

Most importantly, data is invaluable in helping answer these four questions:

Question 1: “What is happening in your market/industry?”

  • How big is the market?
  • What is the growth rate?
  • What are the market’s trends?
  • What is your current share and position in the market?

Question 2: “Who are our competitors and when they win, why do they win?”

  • Who are the top 5-10 competitors?
  • What is their share/revenue and growth rate?
  • What is their competitive advantage?
  • What are their weaknesses or vulnerabilities?

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Question 3: “What customers do you (or can you) serve?”

  • What’s happening in your customer’s businesses?
  • What have we heard from our current customers – needs, insights, challenges?
  • What is changing in your customer’s behaviors?
  • Are there unmet customer needs that we are positioned to fill with the right product/service?
  • Are there new customers/segments emerging to serve?

Question 4: “How are we performing today and where are the external opportunities?”

  • How are current products/services performing? Do any need to be sunsetted due to poor profitability?
  • How are we performing across our channels?
  • Are there gaps in our current portfolio? Are there any obvious product/service adjacencies?

Pro-Tip: As a general rule, allocate a couple of weeks for gathering and synthesizing the data. To keep the scope from breaking any one team member, assign out gathering and synthesizing to different members of your strategy team, e.g., divvy up the work by market or business line.

Internal Data to Gather

Every organization has access to a unique internal data; what your organization possesses largely depends on what you do and how (or whether) you capture it. Here is a short list of suggested internal data you’ll find useful to your growth strategy work:

  • Past 3 Years Revenue & Next 3- to 5-Year Forecast – Revenue by customer segment, revenue by product line/service offering
  • Profitability – Operating costs, EBITDA by line of business or market
  • Marketing Performance – Web traffic analytics, keyword reports, earned and paid media performance and for a few share-of-voice might be a data point you capture
  • Sales Performance and Pipelines – Closed business, pipeline forecast, time to close
  • Staff Insights – including employee engagement/satisfaction, product or service delivery performance
  • Customer Insights & Customer Analytics – Log in sessions, time spent using product, average customer value, customer satisfaction/ratings and needs

Pro-Tip: Gathering this data can be delegated to the functional heads of your team.

External Data to Gather

Accessing and using internal data is easier than finding and leveraging external data sources for most organizations.

In fact, a survey from Gartner said nearly half use external data in their analytics activities. While that number is still increasing, it does mean that many organizations don’t leverage objective external data and information as they build their approach to growth. We think this is gambling with your future.

Examples of External Data – Adapted from McKinsey & Deloitte

  • Consumer Data – Demographics, media consumption, social media usage, consumer behavior
  • Labor Markets – Labor forecasts, labor market size, labor growth or reduction
  • Economic Forecasts – Market sizing, market growth, consumer spending forecasts
  • Marketing Data – Addressable search traffic, addressable audience sizes, industry CPC or CPA averages
  • Supply Chain Data – Lead times, availability of product for manufacturing, shipping routes or times
  • Local Data – Growth or reduction in metros, population by zip code, demographics by zip code
  • Real Estate – Forecasted commercial/residential values, market forecasts for rent, affordability indexes

Where to Find External Data for Your Growth Strategy

The reasons many teams skip gathering external data is it’s difficult to get and there’s the perception that the data will be expensive. We hear you; but before skipping it altogether, have your team spend some time looking at free (or almost free) sources of external data. Here are a few great sources we use when we work with clients to assess their market and build their approach to growth:

Pro-Tip: Do the math. if you stand to grow by $X million, is the investment in purchasing data worth a few thousand dollars?


This is one of our favorite sources to use! It is a database that aggregates tons of a valuable statistics, market reports, industry reports, trends, company reports, and market outlooks in a single source. It’s not free, but it’s really affordable with their single account currently on sale at $39/month.

SEM Rush, MOZ, Alexa

SEM Rush and MOZ are well-known search engine optimization tools that can provide valuable insight into how your business is performing in organic search, what trends are occuring in your search market, audience insights, and benchmarking your website against your competition. These are not free tools, but for around $99 a month, they provide valuable real-world data into how your website performs in the digital world.

Industry-Specific Associations

There is likely at least one industry association you can tap into that probably has relevant quantitative and qualitative data and reports that might be valuable as you build your growth strategy. Do a quick Google search to find national, regional and international associations in your industry if you’re not already a member of a few.

Bureau of Labor and Statistics

This Federal government agency is a treasure-trove of data that includes information about the labor market, the U.S. economy, state-level data, and other information on major economic indicators that could be valuable as you assess your current market condition and are looking for mega trends and even growth rates of a market.

U.S. Census

The census provides information about the population of the United States, including information about demographics, health, education, employment, housing, income, and more.

Higher Education Institutions (Academic Papers)

Depending on your industry and field of play, there may be academic papers with valuable information and data you can use for your strategy. Google Scholar is a great tool to use for academic paper research.

You Need the Data!

The cold truth is you cannot build a great growth strategy without a holistic view of what is happening in your macro and micro environment. That view can only come from digging into the data that is available to your organization from internal and external sources.

In our next newsletter, we will help you use your internal and external data as you begin building your growth strategy for 2022 in the next few months.



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