Spotting marketplace trends that will impact your business in order to develop products and services to address those trends
When the weather is bad, have you ever seen the drivers that continue to drive as though they are riding on dry pavement, thoroughly convinced that nothing will happen to them? Driving through Atlanta on morning as such I saw a car coming up behind me very quickly. In front of me, there were a number of cars spread across the lanes, leaving one lane open. I thought to myself “this guy is crazy,” as the car went flying past me. Unfortunately, the driver had to swerve around a slower moving vehicle, went into a tail spin and ended up crashing into a concrete barrier that divided the highway. Fortunately, the driver wasn’t going so fast as to actually get hurt, but she (as I later learned) ended up being extremely late for wherever she was going. Plus her vehicle was damaged.
Do you run your company like this? Do you continue to operate the same way, day in and day out, regardless of what is going on in the marketplace? Do you find that you are so busy “doing” that you sometimes miss the queues that might suggest to you that you need to make some change or changes in your business? Do you find that fewer people are paying attention to you or purchasing your products and services without any indication of why? Do you find that you are reactive to things that happen in and around your business?
Has it cost you?
Growth implies that a business is evolving into something larger or more capable than its present state. A child grows – gets taller and stronger, but also gets wiser, having greater capacity for thinking and processing information. The goal of business development is to develop new business opportunities for a business, or, essentially, to grow the business. The problem is that the growth (typically) isn’t happening in an incubator; rather, like a child, there are many external and internal things that impact that growth. Therefore, as business leaders, you must constantly stay monitor what is impacting your business!
There are a number of sources you can use in order to stay abreast of changes and some thoughts you may wish to consider when you look at how to manage business development.
- Do your own research. While industry publications may give you an idea of what is going on at the top of the food chain, they don’t always pertain to some of the smaller businesses which dominate the marketplace. Therefore, you will need to find a way to get closer to your market. One way you can do this is through social media and search services. Keep in mind that you may not specifically see changes in your industry, but you may see changes in technologies that may effect the way you or your clients do business. Think about the prevalence of social media applications. Someone could have seen this with the success of the iTunes store, wherein people were downloading thousands of apps per day.
- Challenge your audience’s thinking. While people may not be able to specifically answer a direct question that you have about a particular subject, seeing how people react to certain thoughts or statements about a topic. For example, you might build a case around the idea that a certain tool, such as YouTube, is obsolete for business. Obviously, it is not; video services like this are on the rise. However, you can get feedback from others in your industry who might be using it, planning to use it or moving away from it. Keep in mind that a narrow segment of people may not give you true answers, therefore, weighing their responses against other factors may help you spot the trend.
- Ask your clients and customers. Lots of people do surveys to see how they are doing, but by speaking directly with your customers/clients, you can find out exactly what they need, what they are seeing and what they might be looking for. Unfortunately, you cannot please everyone every time and you must weigh their responses against the others that you receive.
- Do an automated search on your industry, perhaps using Google Search or another similar tool. You may find that a majority of what you are seeing will not pertain to what you are looking for, however, by tracking the activities that seem abnormal over time, you may find that there is a pattern.
What is the benefit of all this? Why is it important? Your goal is to sell goods and services to your target market. By paying attention to the trends, you can anticipate their needs and have products and services developed to meet those needs. You will probably find that when you are reactive to the changes, or follow other businesses, you success might be mediocre at best. However, if you can lead your industry in the changes and properly “launch” those products or services, you will find that if you do it well, you will be able to charge more, longer, while the rest of the industry struggles to catch up. Think about Groupon…they started something very new (the deal of the day), and were able to build a billion dollar company. Over time, other businesses started doing it, which took away from Groupon’s market share, so they can no longer charge the premium that they could once charge for the service.
Build an extraordinary company. Stay agile. Focus on your niches. Be prepared to enter others that may be attractive (i.e., can be profitable!) and be proactive. Perhaps take a few hours over the course of the week to evaluate what is going on in your market, industry and with your competitors. Being reactive to change will cause you to miss opportunities or be caught unaware when what you thought you finally understood just changed. Consider this: if you were a boxer and you only threw punches, but never ducked to avoid your competitors, do you think you would win? Stick and move.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni Business Consulting, an Operations & Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated helping business leaders DESIGN | CREATE | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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