Market Share: When Comparison Is a Good Thing
By: Brad Johnson
“How large is your market, and what is your share of it?” If you haven’t been asked this question yet, you can certainly expect it if you ever consider any sort of transaction. This is one of the most common questions from both strategic and financial buyers, yet we typically find that business owners have not spent sufficient time on this topic to develop a data-driven response.
Market share is usually defined as the percentage of total market sales that is earned by a company over a defined period of time. It is a commonly held belief (and nearly proven fact) that profitability and market share go hand in hand. Whether you are operating in a high-growth industry or in a market that is on the decline, it is critical for business owners to understand the dynamics of the market in which they operate as well as the share which they have amassed.
Based on our experience as transaction advisors, here are four items to keep in mind when investigating market share:
1. Define Your Market and Your Segment
Many owners will simply lump their companies into the top-level industry they operate in. While overall market dynamics are important, potential buyers will want to go deeper on the key nuances related to the company’s specific market segment it serves. Keep in mind, there are also cases in which certain sub-markets are performing well while an overall industry is struggling, so owners should understand and define both.
2. Security of Market Share
The defensibility and long-term security of a company’s market share is a key driver of value. The market’s competitive landscape and customer contract terms are two primary characteristics that contribute to the protection, increase, or decrease in market share. These components can provide a moat around a company protecting its market share from competitors. Generally, if a company has the ability to execute long-term agreements with customers (or demonstrate consistent renewals or re-use) with minimal interruption from competitors, buyers are more willing to pay a premium. While most companies have some level of competition in the markets in which they operate, one way for owners to mitigate this risk is to clearly articulate what distinguishes their company from competitors.
3. Where Do You Go From Here
In order to gain market share, will it require takeaways or is there still a significant number of potential customers who have no solution in place? As most owners will agree, selling to a first-time user is generally easier than unseating the incumbent player. Consumable product companies have more opportunities to convert new customers. However, excluding some markets such as pharmaceuticals, this high usage may lead to lower switching costs.
4. “I’m Not Sure” is NOT an Answer
If it’s not particularly easy to compile the data necessary to define market share, we encourage owners to use disparate sources of information to triangulate an answer. While buyers certainly prefer explicit details, these groups will understand if the information is not readily available, yet they will value an owner that approaches the topic from various angles.
At the end of the day, it is typically impossible to have full information on market share, but an owner that has command over this topic will increase the value of his or her company. Keeping these four items in mind, we hope you’ll be better equipped to answer that inevitable question about the size of your market and what your share of it is.