Commercial awareness can be a significant competitive advantage

Over the years, I have seen on many occasions, where a company is so closely focused on the objective that the obvious passes them by. In fact, I am sure we have all been guilty of this at one time or another. So for example, “we want to become the leading digital supplier of documents in our market”, or “we are award winning print providers” etc. Yet as a friend of mine once told me, “you can’t invoice an interesting conversation”, so I think it’s definitely worth exploring the concept of commercial awareness.

Commercial awareness is, “the knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want, and what problems there are in a particular area of business.”

In other words, commercial awareness is an understanding of what a company needs to do in order to be profitable, successful, and serve its customers well. With it, you do need to understand your own organization’s core values, how it makes money and its current business challenges. You also need to know your organization’s strengths and weaknesses so you can apply that information to make sensible decisions.

But get it right, and the planning and marketing offers all start coming together and making for a secure and successful organization.

In fact, commercial awareness is one of the key attributes cited by many companies as being essential to employability, but unfortunately one that many people seem unable to demonstrate. It comes up time and time again in recruitment and interviewing discussions.

So who needs commercial awareness?
The short answer is almost everyone. It’s not just those working in sales. With increasing levels of competition in the market, organizations need to be constantly seeking those who can show it, and demonstrate that they represent good value for money, not just for the company but for the company’s clients too.

What are the benefits of commercial awareness?
Commercial awareness focuses on what’s important and improves performance. When you understand the business in which you work, and know how you can help your organization compete, you make better decisions, manage risks more effectively, produce better margins, strengthen your reputation and increase the chances of referrals. Also, you’re more capable of meeting your clients’ needs.

Commercial awareness focuses on what’s important and improves performance. When you understand the business in which you work, and know how you can help your organization compete, you make better decisions, manage risks more effectively, produce better margins, strengthen your reputation and increase the chances of referrals. Also, you’re more capable of meeting your clients’ needs.

No matter what role you work in, production, sales or operations, commercial awareness is essential for you and your company to succeed. Even those not in the direct contact with the customer can benefit from developing understanding and building on it – in fact, commercial awareness is always a major advantage if you want to develop and strengthen your current job.

How to improve commercial awareness?
There are a number of things you can do to improve your commercial awareness:

Read the trade press of your and your customer’s market segments. In todays Google-search world of available information, everything you need is readily available online. This knowledge will give you a good grounding in the general financial and economic situation in the market and impress upon your clients your commitment to their success.

Brush up on your basic skills, especially your accounting knowledge as commercial awareness often takes the form of being able to read and understand return on investment, profit and loss, balance sheets and other financial information.

Take on concept projects that will help improve your commercial awareness of a client’s business. For example, a simple marketing campaign that can be scaled up if found to be successful. Speculative pitches like this will not only increase your understanding of how your client works, but clearly demonstrates that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is.

Apart from these general ways to improve commercial awareness, you need to research any company or organization with which you want to work, and preferably before you have any contact or do any work for them. At an International Printer’s Network meeting, about 15 years ago, I was amazed to find out how much time and awareness a member CEO put into every prospective pitch. He believed strongly that this level of investment in gaining a commercial awareness of a potential client paid dividends for everyone concerned.

Apart from the unwanted attention it can bring, the internet is a fantastic tool, and you should be able to research the structure of any organization, who is at the top and where people fit into the overall scheme of things, what the company does, who its customers are, what sector it operates in and any specific issues facing that sector or company. Don’t just look at the company’s website, although that’s important. Also research news sites and discussion forums for mentions of any problems, challenges or issues.

Conclusion
Commercial awareness is not just a highly valued skill in the current market, it’s one of the most important aspects that can set us apart from our competitors. More so than products, machines or even offers. With the printed graphics industry facing increased levels of competition from other media, and the tight budgetary controls of clients and prospects, we need to create a differential that is both beneficial to our clients, and advantageous for us. Commercial awareness achieves this and is a fundamental issue for any savvy organization to integrate into their approach to the market.

That said, commercial awareness is also a relatively straightforward skill to develop with application and thought, especially if you have some experience in managing some aspect of a business.

Tony Kenton

Tony Kenton

Tony Kenton is the original imagineer, one of the most experienced and exciting hands on consultants in the industry. His focus is on helping ignite business growth through marketing, sales and new technologies can be translated into tangible bottom line results.

Today Tony resides in London, UK and continues to ripple with new ideas and concepts. He is working with Brilliant Media, helping them deliver cross-media production to many of London’s leading corporates. Having joined Brilliant Media in late 2013, Tony’s expertise in branding, strategy and sales has helped Brilliant more than double in size and revenue while building a reputation as being one of leaders in the field. Tony’s ability to turn ideas into real tangible results sets him apart from the crowd and helps his clients achieve goals which they hadn’t imagined possible.

Contact Tony at tony@itiq.com.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share this post