“As an executive team’s priority lists grow, the company’s revenue in fact declines.” - the Harvard Business Review.

Unlocking new opportunities and evolving your offering plays an unarguable and fundamental role in keeping competitive, but, there are only so many openings you can explore and not all of them will be worth pursuing.

So, to help you get under the skin of what does and doesn’t warrant your time we’ve come up with eight strategies to uncover opportunities - that have legs.

1. Speak to prospects you’ve lost

...or potential prospects full stop. Ask what deterred them from taking out your product or service and if a trend emerges see if it’s a gap worth exploring.

But, and this is a big but, remember to do your research first. Just because you know there’s demand for something (whether it’s a little or a lot) it doesn’t mean it's feasible or profitable in the long-run.

2. Talk to current customers

There’s no such thing as perfect and just because current customers chose you once before it doesn’t mean you can’t be better. So, send out some surveys, grab the phone or arrange a few focus groups to pick their brains.

Think about asking questions like:

  • Is there anything you think our product or service is missing?
  • Could any of our current features be enhanced?
  • Are there any complementary services you’d like to see from us?
  • What do you think our competitors do better than us?
  • What caused you to buy our product or service?
  • Where did you hear about us?

The latter two questions in particular can help effectively steer how you market and position yourself.

For the what, why, and how of customer + market feedback, dive in here.

3. Competitor analysis

It’s good practice to regularly keep abreast of your competitors so hopefully, you’ve already got a list ready and rearing to go - if you don’t, know’s the time to make one.

When you’re looking through their websites and collateral keep the following questions in mind:

  • Which competitors are noticeably growing? And why might this be?
  • What do they offer that you don’t?
  • What’s their value proposition?
  • Who are they targeting? And how?
  • Which suppliers and partners are they working with?

While you’re at it, list their strengths and weaknesses to see if any differentiation opportunities arise.

And remember, this shouldn’t be a one-off exercise. You might check-in to competitor X’s site today and see nothing, but they could make a significant change tomorrow. Make a point of auditing your direct competitors around once a month - at least.

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4. Understand the market

Getting under the skin of your customers, prospects and competitors is great, but the insights they derive are only a snapshot of the whole market and you need to get a sense of the bigger picture… so do just that.

Commission some market research to learn things like:

  • How big the market actually is,
  • Whether it’s growing or shrinking,
  • How many people in the market buy,
  • What’s stopping people from buying,
  • How tight the competition is,
  • If new competitors are around the corner, and
  • Whether alternative solutions are likely to enter the market.

5. Explore indirect opportunities

Sometimes, there’s only so much you can grow within your current model so consider casting your net a little wider by expanding your offering; while remaining relevant, of course.

For example, if you’re an online photo printing service you could also sell picture frames, canvases, keyrings and cushions. Or, if you’re a chiropractor clinic you could add physio, massage and personal training services to your repertoire.

All the options are still relevant to your core product or service but they open the door to a whole load more customers and occasions too.

Before you add an adjacent product or service suite just remember to:

  • Measure the demand,
  • Calculate the profitability, and
  • Understand the framework.

6. Look at environmental factors

By this, we mean business environment factors and, generally speaking, they can be split into six categories:

  1. Technological developments
  2. Scientific advancements
  3. Government regulations
  4. Trade policies
  5. Social and cultural norms
  6. Economic shifts

So, how do these unlock opportunities? Using technological developments as an example, the rise of smartphones in recent years gave way to companies like Airbnb and Uber taking their markets by storm. Had they not proactively identified and filled that gap they wouldn’t be where they are today; someone else would’ve beaten them to it.

The moral? Look often and seize early.

7. Analyse foreign markets

This one can go one of two ways (or both):

1. If you’re currently domestic-only it might open up overseas opportunities.

Suffice to say, there are lots of considerations to mull over before taking the plunge, like:

  • What’s the size of the market in said country(s)?
  • How mature is their market?
  • How much competition is there?
  • How will it work logistically?
  • Will there be any additional costs?

2. Businesses operating in the same industry but a different country might have strategies and ideas you didn’t consider but could employ.

Remember though, different cultures have different tastes, habits, and norms, so just because something works in, say, France, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will for you.

8. Investigate other industries

If you want to pioneer the way things work in your industry you need to do something no one else is doing and to do that you need inspiration from outside your industry’s box.

So, see how other companies are leading the way in their sector and decide what, if anything, you can replicate within your own to create something new or better.

For example, let’s say you’re a personal trainer and everyone else in your field takes bookings by texting their client or scribbling something down in their diary at the gym.

You see how easy your dentist makes it to book appointments online so you add an online booking system to your site.

Then, to take it one step further, you take a leaf out of Easy Group’s rate management model and start selling last-minute sessions at 30% off the usual price because you realize a discounted session is better than no session (unless you were planning on using that time wisely by marketing yourself, maybe).

Just like that you’ve revolutionized your model based on two very different industries’ ideas.