In the early years of your small business, you struggle to find a foothold in a competitive industry. Then, you find your ground and enjoy success. But what few entrepreneurs ever bother asking themselves a few years down the road is: Is my business still relevant? Do I still have a customer base that will support me for years to come? Am I in an industry that is growing or shrinking? Are there any new competitors or technology that are changing my industry?
Apple is a great example of such a competitor. Before the iPhone, we had cell phones with no features other than the ability to talk and text. There were also MP3 players so we could listen to our tunes on the go. But the iPhone killed both of these markets and created a new device that did what the other two markets did…only better. You should be constantly on guard for innovation that might change your industry.
Be Honest with Yourself About Your Brand
You may have performed a SWOT analysis when you first started your company — that’s your brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats — but the landscape has likely changed since then. Make it a part of your annual strategy exercise to look at your brand objectively.
- Where does it now stand among other competitors?
- What benefits does it offer over the others?
- Where is it weak?
- What innovations put your products or services at risk?
This activity can really open your eyes, if you’re not as well-positioned in your industry as you think you are. The purpose here is to get a measurement of where you are. The next step is to do something to improve your standing.
Be Open to Change
Being stuck in your ways won’t win you more market share. As digital cameras rose in popularity a few decades ago, the film company Kodak refused to adapt. And you see what happened to Kodak.
If technology is disrupting your industry, will your existing products be extinct? Or are there ways you can incorporate modern tools to make them even more competitive? Don’t stick your head in the sand and assume everything will be all right. Any business unwilling to adapt will be forgotten.
Ask Your Customers
If you’re simply not sure how relevant your company is, talk to your customers. Ask questions on social media. Try focus groups. Talk to your staff, particularly your sales people. Conversation can open the door to insight into what your customers want, and let you know whether you’re still delivering it or not. Your website analytics are also a help here. Pay special attention to which pages people are visiting the most and which they’re visiting the least. The latter may indicate that those products are no longer as relevant, and may be worth discontinuing.
We all face the potential of becoming irrelevant if we don’t continue to innovate and grow. Stay tapped into your industry. Let nothing come as a surprise. Be willing to take risks and try new things to remain a necessity for your customers.
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