By Marsha Lindquist
When most professionals think about getting new business, they think about brand new markets to penetrate and focus on, or launching new initiatives to appeal to a new crowd. They attempt to identify potential customers they have ignored or those who have not been apparent to them in the past. They look for the new and different—for the proverbial “shiny penny.”
What these people fail to realize, though, is that getting new business is not about veering off into a new market or following the hot new trend. Rather, it’s about looking at the big picture of your business and having a strategy that penetrates all the markets that make sense for you. That’s when you have a strategy that “goes all the way.”
As you identify the new business you want to capture, keep the following three guidelines in mind.
1. Keep the big picture in sight.
When thinking about new markets, you first must have a clear picture of what business you’re in. Remember, this is not about the shiny penny, the latest craze, or hot innovation. Look at your entire business structure and ask yourself, “What business am I really in?” Answer honestly and thoroughly. Do you sell sofas? Or do you sell home décor? Do you provide plumbing service? Or do you do complete home maintenance?
The problem is that when going after new business, many people suddenly forget what business they’re actually in. They inadvertently ignore the very aspects of their business that made them successful in the first place. So if you’re a plumbing company and have a loyal clientele for your services, you don’t want to drift into doing home additions just because that seems like a growing market.
Realize that just because someone says you should go after a new market, or just because a new product or service appears in high demand, doesn’t mean that suggestion makes good business sense for you. So look at the entire picture of your business, and then determine what move makes the best sense for you, given your current strategy. Look at the entire story and see everything.
2. Gather the correct puzzle pieces.
Once you fully realize the big picture of your business, you can start looking at the individual pieces. Remember that all of the products or services you provide must fit the whole puzzle of your business. For example, you wouldn’t call in a decorator to re-upholster your sofa in a sophisticated new pattern when the rest of your living room looks like a throwback to the 1970s, complete with lava lamps and beanbag chairs. That simply wouldn’t make sense, because the new sofa pattern wouldn’t be a good fit for the overall room.
Your business strategy is no different. Before going after new business or offering a new product or service, you need to look at all the individual aspects of your strategy and decide if the new piece you’re throwing into the mix matches and fits. If it doesn’t fit, your business will be disjointed, and your company’s overall image will look less than ideal to customers. Therefore, keep your decisions logical, not emotional. What does your whole business strategy say you’re going after? If this new aspect matches that and complements the other parts of your business, then you likely have a good fit. If not, then this new area may not be territory you want to venture into.
As you analyze what business you’re in and whether this new market or offering fits into your entire strategy, you may come to the realization that your old business model no longer suits you. If that happens, you may need to throw out your current business model and start over. Should this revelation occur, don’t be afraid to discard what is just not working for you anymore.
If your products or services have evolved to a different place—a place that doesn’t fit into your current business strategy—then maybe it’s time to completely change your strategy. Realize that everything, even businesses, evolve over time. So as you look at your business with fresh eyes, be willing to throw out what you’re currently doing if needed so you can do something different. Even though this step may be scary, it’s a bold move that will enable you to enjoy future success.
3. Get feedback.
To really get an idea of whether a new market, product, or service will fit your business, talk to your current clients, past clients, and even your competitors. Go on a fact finding mission. Ask them, “In your opinion, what am I doing that works for you, and what am I doing that doesn’t work for you?” Really listen to what they say and compare their responses to your business strategy.
Why is this step important? Because if you’re looking for new business, or if you want to make a new offering, you need to know the pains of your clients or potential clients (which is why you talk to your competitors). Your clients and past clients can tell you what they’re reaching for, and then you can know if you have a chance of attaining that business. If you don’t have this key piece of information, then you don’t have a clear idea of whether your new strategy will work.
Go All the Way…And Then Some!
When you have a strategy that goes all the way, you don’t leave any stone unturned. You see the big picture of your company, and you know, with certainty, how every aspect of your business fits into that grand scheme. The more you stay true to what your business is really about and avoid the “latest craze” that can easily take you off track, the more you can leverage opportunities that best serve both you and your customers.
About the Author:
Marsha Lindquist is a successful business strategist, author and speaker. As CEO of The Management Link, Inc., Marsha has over 20 years experience as a business consultant who works with her clients to transform their organization through her Value Advantage formula. She has enhanced communication, facilitated change management, and improved overall strategies with companies including BP Amoco, Fleishman Hillard International Comm., and Northrop Grumman. For more information on her speaking and consulting work, please visit: http://www.themanagementlink.com or email her: Marsha@TheManagementLink.com