There are opportunities everywhere
For anyone in business, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. To thrive, what businesses need is a lot of knowledge. That way everyone understands just which opportunities to go after (and why) and which to ignore. Knowledge takes many forms, of course.
There are the external realities to grasp but also work that needs to go into understanding the business better to ensure it's delivering just what customers need (and preferably that the competitors don't).
- What is the big picture?
- Do you really know your market?
- Are you ready to look in the mirror?
What is the big picture?
Doing some hard thinking about the context that your business inhabits in order to protect it against what's around the corner, shouldn't feel overwhelming.
Snakes and ladders
Just like the children's board game ladders refer to any opportunities that could help to jump-start the business by opening up new areas for sales or helping to improve profit margins. Snakes meanwhile, are those changes in the social, political, economic and technological space that might restrict the business in some way, perhaps by taking away a problem that the business was solving or by introducing competition that radically cuts or even removes margins. In the most extreme cases, you might end up analysing a threat with the potential to wipe out the business in its current form. It can, and does happen.
When working with clients, we often call this an exercise in FUTURE-PROOFING and those four headline factors we tend to work with - social, economic, technological and political - are well used when looking at the external or (macro-environmental) realities though there are plenty of variations out there too.
Do you really know your market?
Your business has opportunities to grow and develop that are right there already, waiting to be taken.
Many of the best opportunities for a business are easy to see with even some basic analysis. Start at the beginning, then by looking at the current mix of businesses across the company. How many different revenue streams are there and how are they best broken down?
Here's a simple checklist of areas you might like to explore for starters:
- Customers and customer strategies
- Market forces and trends
- Market segments
- Products and services
- Pricing and value
- The supply chain
- The buying process
- Key drivers affecting demand
This can be broken down into the market segments most relevant to the business. This would include suppliers, customers, products, competitors, services, strategic partners, market forces and market trends. Finally it's a question of evaluating the buying process and determining the 'critical success factors' (CFS)
- What markets are we in?
- How big is the market?
- Is the market growing, constant or in decline?
- What's our current share of the cake - how much do we need to succeed?
- Where are the opportunities for growth?
- Who are our most valuable customers?
- How, why and when do they buy?
- What is our share of their spend?
- Do they buy across the full range of our products and services?
- Do they buy from our competitors?
- Why do they spend with our competitors?
- How much more could they spend with us?
- Can we sell to a different market segments?
- What is critical to our success in this market?
Are you ready to look in the mirror?
The outward-looking process of trying to understand your customer and your market opportunities better will undoubtedly reveal where you can win new business and evolve the company across the board.
We have developed a methodology for approaching the challenge that we've found to work exceptionally well:
- Where are we . . . . . . GREAT?
- Where can we . . . . . . IMPROVE?
- Where are we . . . . . . VULNERABLE?
- Where is our business . EDGE?
These four headline questions are aimed squarely at unlocking the reality of your current capabilities and opportunities as a business. Answered constructively and systematically, they will give you an understanding of how you can achieve maximum growth with the least risk.