As entrepreneurs already know, finding clients can be a long, frustrating and expensive process. When you have little or no brand recognition, you have to work so much harder to get noticed in the market. I recently read in Entrepreneur Magazine, that “it is so important to prioritize future-minded strategy over short term opportunism”, and I completely agree with this.
So what does this mean for a young woman who wants to set her business apart? To me it means that this is the time to look for new business opportunities which typically haven’t been as welcome or open to women. While we may be more familiar with industries like beauty and fashion which are easier to start from home, developing a future-minded strategy requires us to look at opportunities beyond ourselves such as construction and heavy industries. It is with such opportunities that we must understand that the only limitations we now have, are those we hold on as truth in our own minds.
Being in the industrial sphere does not even always mean that you would have to get dirt under your fingernails; the takeover of technology in almost every business sector has opened up so many doors that the line to what is possible, and impossible has become almost invisible. Many entrepreneurs and CEO’s know that competing head-to-head with other entities can become daunting and cutthroat, more so when markets are slow and quite flat. All leaders in any business would agree that if there’s an easier alternative to get out of the head-to-head competing, and instead find a clear opportunity that has not yet been tapped; they would opt for that direction. In a world with hundreds of thousands of different products & services, innovation has become central to the survival of any new or mature business.
Creating new markets for your entity requires just that, INNOVATION’.
An article published some years ago by Harvard Business Review titled ‘Creating new markets’ stated that,
‘Most companies focus on matching and beating their rivals, and as a result their strategies tend to converge along the same basic dimensions of competition. Such companies share an implicit set of beliefs about “how we compete in our industry or in our strategic group.” They share a conventional wisdom about who their customers are and what they value, and about the scope of products and services their industry should be offering. The more that companies share this conventional wisdom about how they compete, the greater the competitive convergence. As rivals try to outdo one another, they end up competing solely on the basis of incremental improvements in cost or quality or both.’
So, the first thing to understand about creating new markets is that it requires a different pattern of strategic thinking. Instead of looking within the accepted boundaries that define how we compete, entrepreneurs should look systematically across them. By doing so, you can find unoccupied territory that represents a real breakthrough in value.
Let’s have a look at the very popular UBER, a company that, instead of buying a fleet of cabs and competing head-to-head with other cab companies, decided to do something completely different. The founders of UBER could have innovated and stopped at how they could get hybrid cars as part of their strategy or maybe even offer more comfortable vehicles with WIFI connection and well-trained drivers. Instead, the founders looked at how to make the process easier for customers and developed a tech friendly solution that provides lower costs through accurate monitoring of the distance travelled and drivers trained to a standard level of service.
By looking at the problem and the industry from another angle, they have created an entire market for themselves and disrupted an entrenched industry that had little innovation over the past 50 years. I doubt any of the UBER founders had ever driven a cab for a living or dreamt of being a cab driver. However they were able to capitalize on this opportunity because those who had been in that industry were very comfortable with the same old way that they had been operating for years. They couldn’t see the way technology could disrupt the industry and they missed the opportunity.
When thinking about creating a new market the popular question “What are my competitors doing?” should immediately be followed by the question “What should my competitors be doing?” Or more bluntly, how can I bring those who could be my head-to-head competitors to my mercy?
If you already have a product line, maybe look into a second generation product to help the financial standpoint of the company by creating a new market altogether. Finding secondary marketing can be as easy as adjusting packaging. Look at Coca-Cola or Kellogg’s, these companies have an array of products which aren’t worlds apart where taste or ingredients are concerned. Exhibit A would be the much loved amongst women market, the Special K cereal. Special K promises health benefits & sells fitness indirectly to us and what woman doesn’t want to be fit or at least healthy? Then have a look at Coco Pops, same company, different branding, a bit more sugar and even a cartoon character to attract the kiddies market.
All these have proven to me that as an entrepreneur, your perspective seldom matters above that of the market. You may as the entrepreneur see things ‘Ok as they are’, but one thing you should always bare in mind is that you’re not selling these to yourself, so get into the mind of the market. Think the unthinkable.
Now here’s the challenge: Go back to your businesses. Identify your ‘old ways of doing things’ and see how you could catapult yourself to being an industry leader by offering an entirely new way of doing business. Don’t lose sight of your original product or service but explore ways that you could make a similar product that’s targeted at a whole new market.
A new market demographic could be a simple as age group, gender or even race. Start innovating. Research how you could infuse technology into your new or existing business. Technology is on the rise, you may just be a tech pioneer in the industry you’re in; simply by understanding the challenges faced by your sector counterparts.
Remember that in order to adjust your perspective, you must see through the eyes of the consumer. Seek to address a problem and people will pay you for solving their problems.
Article by Pearl Maphumulo