“If I knew I could adjust my strategy but I can’t identify the root cause. That’s what’s frustrating me.”
• • •
“I’ve been marketing this way for years and it’s always produced results. So why has the response rate dropped?” asked Gordon, during a break from his print shop. “I have a great staff but if sales continue to falter, I may have to let someone go. That’s doesn’t sit well with me.”
“Have you sat down with your staff and asked for their input?” I suggested. “They are often an excellent resource. After all, they have a stake in the outcome.”
“Hmmm not really,” he replied. “I don’t want them to know the business is in trouble. That would just add to my problems. I’d rather talk with you; you’re not involved.”
• • •
“I want to start a new business with the money from my severance package but I can’t find the right product or service to sell,” complained Doug, a 20 year veteran of the corporate world. “What profitable trend can I get on board with?”
“Are you looking for a trend that will make you money or a business that will make you happy?” I asked. “There’s lots of ways to make money but you better do something you really like otherwise you’ll be toast in no time.”
“Good point. So, do what I like. But can I make money at it?” he asked hopefully.
• • •
Leanne, Gordon and Doug represent many business owners that are trying to come to grips with the dynamics of a changing marketplace. While each situation is unique they all feel the stress and frustration of trying to grow a business in a market that’s under constant change.
The arithmetic of life used to be simpler: one marriage, one income, one house, one neighborhood and one crop of kids. Today, these things are multiplied over and over. We scramble to keep up. We scramble to keep track. We’re stressed out. We’re exhausted. What we really want is to buy back time.
Emerging technologies and the impact of the Baby Boomer demographics are exerting enormous pressures on the marketplace. As these forces converge, the traditional time frames to which we are accustomed collapse. The luxury of time is forfeited in a mad rush to just keep up. Is it any wonder that the business community is under duress?
For business owners, this chaotic marketplace is of concern. Never mind that the big guys have been victims; what about small business, the economic backbone of our society? How will they survive?
Luckily, many of the trends that will dominate the economy as the boomers charge to retirement are well served by small business. Without the politics of a corporate structure, small business is more agile and responsive a changing environment.
Understanding trends give managers a clear profile of the marketplace, both what is beginning to happen now and what will happen in the future. They serve as predictors of how people are feeling and what products and services they will be seeking. Trends and fads are often confused, but think of a trend as being big and broad and having staying power. The Beatles were – and still are – a trend. The Monkees were a fad. Gardening is a trend. Bell bottoms are not.
If future trends can be identified based on changing habits and lifestyle, developing a business strategy based on those trends makes sense. Take the aging boomers for example. They’re beginning to change the health industry with their concern over food quality, lifestyle issues and eating choices. And with a huge amount of disposable income and leisure time, travel, hobbies and social activities are of great interest. Since there are many more boomers on the way, it would be safe to assume that the market demand for health-related products and leisure-time activities would also substantially increase.
The future is serious business and if your customers reach the future before you, they will leave you behind.
(Next month: Changing Hindsight Into Foresight.)