Identifying New Opportunities

Are you pre-emptive in identifying new opportunities?
A. We follow the crowd.
B. We informally monitor trends in our market space.
C. We research emerging customer preferences’ and needs.
D. We research emerging customer preferences’ and needs, including imagining entirely new opportunities and markets.
E. We are pre-emptive in identifying new opportunities, new markets, new customers, new products and services, and the benefits customers will value in tomorrow’s products and services.
[Score:  A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3 and E=4]


Why is this question important?

New and modified products and new and modified markets . . . they’re the life blood of any business.   With increasing competition, more customer prospects, and shorter product life cycles, expansion into new markets combined with a regular flow of new and modified products and services into the marketing stream is essential for continued growth and business.

To more effectively identify new business opportunities, you have to dig deep and ask lots of questions.  Take a step back, and use these questions as a guide to help you create or adapt business strategies to meet the changing needs of your market.

  • What frustrates customers or users of this industry?  Some of the best ideas come from looking at things that bug you, including not having enough options or selection, not getting the product or service quickly enough, and poor quality.
  • What should businesses be making, providing, selling in this industry that many are not yet doing? What do you believe customers will want three, six to twelve months from now, two years from now, that they can’t find today?
  • What have you experienced as a consumer of this industry?  How would you do business differently? What would you change based on what you experienced?
  • What does everybody think “won’t work” in this industry?  Asking questions about what others have thought impossible is a great way to get new ideas.
  • How do we go about identifying these new growth opportunities?  One of the obvious means is to conduct research among existing customers and prospective customers.  However, there are other means that can be just as effective and often quite inexpensive.

One source of new product ideas is in our customer orders.  Retrieve several months of recent orders and examine them.   Is the product mix changing?   Are you getting more special orders than for standard products?  What features seem most important in these special orders?   Do these special orders imply new needs in the market that you are not meeting with your standard offerings?   If so, it’s time to dig deeper into the reasons why.

Are you experiencing an increase in orders from new customers or, perhaps more importantly, are the orders coming from new types of customers?  Are you getting more orders from new geographic territories, which may indicate a new untapped market?

Another source of new product ideas can be found in your customer service and sales departments.  What are your customers and prospects telling them?  What questions are they asking about product and service features and benefits?  What are they asking for that you currently don’t offer? Customer service and sales are your first line contact with the market.  Talk with them.   Stress the importance of information feedback about market needs.  Then, most importantly, listen to the feedback and use it as part of your opportunity analysis.

Once you have identified new business opportunities, narrow the list down to those customers that you think are potentially the most lucrative. Using a more targeted approach will prevent you spreading your marketing budget and time too thinly.

Any opportunities you identify need to be managed.  Carefully examine the action you plan to take – you need to make sure the opportunities fit in with your business objectives.

Be careful that you don’t develop the business beyond your means – make sure that your capabilities match the opportunity.  There is no point securing too much new business if you can’t then successfully deliver your promises.

Take advantage of new opportunities

Monitor your competitors.  Identify areas you don’t operate in and find out who they sell to – these are potential customers for your business as well.

Examine their product range or the services they offer, check out their marketing and investigate their pricing.  A competitor’s poor performance could create an opportunity for your product or service.

Look for events or changes that could trigger a need for a new type of product or service.

Look beyond your current market.  Looking further than your sector or established market can open up business opportunities.  By looking to other sectors and businesses for inspiration and ideas you can combine existing ideas to produce a more effective product or service and take a renewed approach to meeting an identified need.

Always follow-up on lost orders.  Often, you can lose an order because of pricing, delivery, terms, quality, or a number of other reasons.  But, if you are losing orders because your products and service don’t meet the needs of the customer, it’s time to re-evaluate your offerings against those needs.

Listen to customers and prospects and follow-up.  Listen on sales calls.  Listen at distributor meetings.  Listen during purchasing negotiations.  Listen at trade shows.

Identifying new business opportunities is an on-going process.  You still will need the market research to further evaluate the ideas, but frequently many of the best ideas also can be found right in your daily business operations.