In this current blog series, we’re walking through 20 Clarity Questions (see the 6 questions we’ve covered *below) that every company should answer in order to set a clear business focus and direction. Today, let’s begin to think about your Target Market, starting with the 30,000 foot view.
Clarity Question #7 – What are the Important Marketplace Trends Shaping the Future?
Think of it this way – when you’re at the beach, is it easier to fight your way out through the waves, or to surf in with the waves?
(Bonus question: And just how easy is it to create waves where there are none?)
By and large, you want to surf incoming waves – not fight them, and not try to whip them up. You want to go with the flow, the current, of marketplace trends. It’s hard enough to build a business – why choose to go uphill?
For instance, Netflix foresaw long ago that streaming video would (over time) replace physical disks, and they shaped their strategy accordingly (Blockbuster didn’t, and…well, we know how that ended).
Uber saw that smartphones and GPS were becoming ubiquitous, and that a free agent economy was underway. Voila – a ride-sharing service that has re-shaped the marketplace, because it was built on pre-existing trends.
Is this the time to jump into the FAX market? That’s a wave that’s come and gone. But 3-D printing of medical devices? Huge incoming wave.
Some of those who saw the upcoming explosion of social media a decade ago – and it really was an inevitable wave – moved quickly and profitably to develop platforms and services.
In fact, one of my great regrets, looking back, is that I saw the early promise of the World Wide Web, but I didn’t connect all the dots, borrow $100,000, and buy up juicy URLs that could then be re-sold when the rest of the world caught up. Lost opportunity. The Internet rage was just getting started and I didn’t recognize the greatest real estate opportunity of all time. Boo!
Therefore, as you consider your target market, take a big-picture look at marketplace trends and be sure – even if you are trying to create a fresh market – that your endeavors are in line with powerful, inexorable trends.
-In pharmaceuticals, we have declining sales rep access, and growing government (and large organization) control of medicine. These trends are changing the face of commercial operations.
-In the liquor/beer/wine industry, we’re seeing an explosion of micro-operations, craft approaches, localization, and decentralization. This is overturning older sourcing, distribution, and customer expectation models.
-In the broad world of work, we have a growing free-agent economy and disintermediated access to people and information. This is re-shaping hiring, HR/privacy issues, management structures, retention, etc.
All of these disruptions mean that some business models are going to dry up – but others are going to replace them, in line with the larger trends altering the marketplace.
Here’s a technology trend I’ll put in front of you – we now have an ever-increasing overload of information. Advertising, digital content, unlimited publishing, devices everywhere 24/7. One huge and enduring market opportunity is the curation, filtering, and automated finding of “stuff”. I’ve written about each of these in the past (pro tip: some of the strongest thought leadership you’ll find on content overload is from Mark Schaefer). Want to make a ton of money? I (and millions of others) will pay for simple, voice-activated, AI-powered sifting and finding that will rescue me from the tsunami of information and help me get to precisely what I need to know, or find, or buy.
(by the way, this “overload” need described above also opens up a whole new realm of concierge service offerings, where a personal/expert touch is needed.)
Of course, you could fight the waves by opening up a chain of book store/post office/wagon-wheel-repair shops. But that’s looking backward, at dead or declining markets. No matter how talented (or passionate!) you may be at wagon wheel repair, that’s not a forward-moving wave.
Are you trying to prop up a marketplace that’s shrinking or dying? Take a look around and see what is disrupting your market, then find a way to get in front of that wave.
*Here’s where we’ve been thus far in this series:
- What are your Company Strengths?
- What is Your Company’s Domain Expertise?
- Who Loves You?
- What’s Your Company Culture?
- What is Your Company’s Big-Picture Goal?
- Defining (and Doing) Your Best Work
Need to define your goals and direction? I’ll help you get clarity. And, while you’re thinking about getting clear, go ahead and subscribe to the weekly Clarity Blend e-newsletter here.
Photo credit: Waves via photopin (license)