The Challenges of Growing a Business - 6 Steps to Keeping Up with the Market
Growing businesses face a range of challenges. As a business grows, different problems and opportunities demand different solutions - what worked a year ago might not be the best approach today. All too often, avoidable mistakes turn what could have been a great business into an also-ran.
While it’s important for you to be on top of everything that’s going on inside your company, you should also realize that what’s going on outside is just as important, if not more so.
Keeping pace with market trends is never easy – day-to-day you’ve got a business to run, after all. But market research isn't something you do just when you launch your business.
Business conditions change continually, so your market research should be continuous as well. Otherwise you run the risk of making business decisions based on out-of-date information, which can lead to business failure.
It’s important to acknowledge that your industry is ever-changing and in order to stay ahead of the curve and avoid competitors passing you by you need to be able to move with the times for the benefit of long-term business planning.
Here are 6 key steps to keeping up with the market:
Listen to your customers
It pays to talk to your customers. After all, they are the ones that keep your doors open. Don’t be afraid to have a chat with them and learn more about their pressure points to discover what more your business can do to help them.
You should be able to build up an in-depth picture of what customers want, how they behave and which of your marketing approaches work best.
Taking the time to talk to key customers pays off. Your suppliers and other business partners can be important sources of market information. You should encourage your employees to share what they know about customers and the market. Effective IT systems can also make it easier to share and analyse key information such as customers' purchasing behavior and preferences.
Keep track of industry influencers and publications
As a busy CEO, it's no surprise that time is a luxury. We don’t always have the time or head space to be able to read through every interesting thought leadership article within our respective industries, or even this blog post, so how can we keep track of industry developments?
Social media is a powerful tool to keep track of industry influencers, their points of view and ensure you remain part of the conversation.
Absorb up-to-date industry research and trends reports like a sponge
To get a real picture of your industry landscape and determine the direction it is heading in, you really need to be reading up on the wealth of industry reports readily accessible to you. In the technology space, Gartner publishes the Magic Quadrant report for a number of sectors. Whether you agree with them or not, and I've had my own issues with their positions, it's good to understand their perspective. Your customers pay attention and are influenced by these reports.
Make the most of digital tools and analytics to assess industry behavior
There is a wide variety of analytical tools and systems available at your fingertips. It’s great because you can let these tools do all the legwork for you to help you understand the bigger picture of your marketplace much more quickly.
Digital analytics can help you discover trends increasingly searched for by consumers online.
For instance, Google Trends displays a long-term overview of niche trends while Google’s Keyword Planner allows you to search the most popular keywords used by your target demographic online and the potential scale for using and bidding on them for your business as part of a digital advertising campaign.
Most successful businesses don’t follow the crowd; they innovate and break new ground in order to stand out from the noise.
However, observation of your competitors can often give you a good picture of their market positioning and whether they are reacting to what could be seen as an emerging trend.
Competitor analysis doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. By simply reviewing their website, customer reviews and social media channels it is possible to understand how you compare to your competitors.
Improve and innovate both in the short and long term
Ask yourself these questions, and ask them regularly:
Based on what you know of your competitors and the industry as a whole, what small improvements and innovations would you expect to come up in the next one to three years?
Based on what you know of your competitors and the industry as a whole, what major developments to the product or service should you and your competitors be aiming for in the long term?
Be aware of what’s going on in the industry. Know which improvements to your product actually address the immediate demands of your market.
Don’t limit yourself to addressing current limitations, though. You have to have a vision of where the industry is going in the not-so-near future. Your innovations and improvements should all be moving towards delivering that vision.
For help with the Challenges of Growing Your Business, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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