New Markets Hide in Plain Sight
December 1, 2018
New market opportunities often hide in plain sight. Find them by asking provocative questions that challenge your assumptions.
The greatest new market opportunities are not the ones you have not yet found, but rather the ones right in front of you that you do not yet see. The best opportunities are often hiding in plain sight.
A salesperson at a chemical manufacturer client company of mine once pulled off a sales coup. He fielded an out-of-the blue enquiry for one of the manufacturer’s products from a company in an industry that the manufacturer had ignored. Meeting with buyers from the company, the salesperson sensed the value of product to the new prospect. The buyer bought the product for 10 times the normal price without compunction. Clearly, the product had much greater value in an industry and for an application that no one at the manufacturer had ever considered.
Business people frequently think of new markets only as where else they can replicate the business they have now. Yet it is by doing things differently where businesses create the most compelling value.
Finding new markets is less about where you look, but rather how you see. So how do you see differently? Begin by habitually asking provocative questions that challenge your assumptions about what you think your market is and the value you believe you have to offer.
What if the salespeople in the example above had habitually asked: “Which other untapped markets would value what we have to offer?” Would that not have enabled salespeople to proactively identify such new customers and markets regularly rather than relying only on serendipity?
Below are two other provocative questions I frequently ask when attempting to change the way a business person sees his/her market.
- What are the most pressing challenges of customers that would have value if we could address them?, and
- What types of options could we offer with our products that would create unique additional value for our customers for which we could charge?
I recently asked these two questions while running a workshop in Japan with regional sales directors of a company that develops, produces, and sells vegetable seeds for use in agriculture. The sales directors are under pressure to achieve financial growth targets, but feel their target market is limited and saturated, and there are no new prospect buyers or additional markets to target. The group was resigned to what they perceived as an immutable state of affairs—that was until I asked my questions.
Among the biggest customer challenges was availability of additional seed supply mid-season after initial orders have been placed and stock was secured. The company was simply often out of seed stock when customers wished to place such orders. Seeds are not the kind of product that can be produced simply by turning on a machine. Significant advance planning was required.
I asked about what offering and charging for an option to buy additional stock mid-season would look like. The consensus was that the option would conservatively result in no less than a 20 per cent increase in top-line revenue growth most of which goes straight to the bottom-line. Growth in net operating profit for the business would likely be no less than 60 per cent. The costs to the company and effort needed to make the option possible would be negligible.
The mood of the room shifted from pessimistic to excitement. The new market opportunity had been hiding in plain sight. They just had to see it.
The salesperson of the chemical company in the previous example got lucky. A customer in a completely different industry found him, and opened his eyes to a whole new market, and the real value of what he has to sell. You however don’t have to rely on serendipity like he did. Your best new market opportunities are often hiding in plain sight in the same way. You just need to ask the right questions to see them.
What are the most provocative questions that challenge assumptions about your customers, market, industry, product, and business? Don’t be afraid to ask them. The answers they come up with might surprise you.
Copyright © 2018 Singapore Institute of Management
Article Found In
Issue 4, 2018