The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that around a fifth of business start-ups fail in their first year, increasing to half by the end of their fifth year. There are myriad reasons for business failure, but one of the more common ones is an inflexible approach to navigating their market landscape.
With an ever-increasing number of start-ups embracing the constantly shifting digital space as the foundation of their model, the negative effects of an inflexible strategy are set to be amplified. But how can you defeat the curve with your business plan and outlast the competition?
In order to take a truly flexible approach to your business growth plan, you need to have a firm grasp on some foundational things. You need to understand your business fully – both in terms of your existing footprint in the industry, and your ideal direction for growth. Indecision is the enemy of growth, even when change is a core facet of your strategy.
With this in mind, sit down to define your business’ present situation and the goals you would like to achieve. You might want to expand your business’ reach, and in so doing grow your audience organically.
Alternatively, you may be happy with your existing platform and hope instead to grow engagement within your target demographic. Defining your aims in advance enables you to alter your strategy. Your metrics for success remain more or less the same, but your approach to achieving them becomes fluid.
Next, you should endeavor to quantify your goals. What does success look like to your business? Are you aiming for rapid profit growth, or do you hope to establish brand recognition within a demographic? Some of your answers may be informed by your next step, but there are many pertinent questions it could benefit you to answer before you begin committing resources to your strategy.
Research and Inspiration
With your goals largely defined, you can begin making forays into understanding methods of achieving them. The most powerful tool in your arsenal in this regard is research. There are two principal kinds of market research you can employ: primary, and secondary.
Secondary research is the gathering of pre-existing research and data collected by other businesses or organizations; this is where you begin. You can use external studies and information to gain a better understanding of the market landscape and find useful patterns early on.
Having learned the lay of the land, you can now apply your knowledge and search out more specific answers in line with your business goals – which is where primary research comes in.
Primary research is the active gathering of your own data and information – and can also be a font of inspiration for your chosen direction. One practical form can be found in competitor and market analysis. With specific regard to digital products and services, research into other digital platforms can yield interesting insights regarding the adaptability of products.
One major example exists in the online gaming industry, with gaming platforms operating in Canada offering themed slots and games that leverage popular culture. Bingo games and video slots are often themed in relation to cultural phenomena, from acclaimed TV and movie tie-ins to popular gaming IPs.
Seeing which titles constitute the biggest draws on gaming platforms can reveal key information about their demographic, and also make for an important lesson about flexibility. Being able to switch your offering to cater to present demand can protect against customer churn.
For understanding an existing demographic, you could also give questionnaires to current customers, with tailored questions to gauge their opinion on your brand, products, or processes. This is another approach that can be well-observed in other online platforms, whether direct competitors or operating via the same model.
Market disruptors Airbnb and Uber have similar business models, leveraging intuitive digital interfaces to facilitate on-demand services. Both use that same technology to canvas for user feedback immediately after their transaction – meaning real-time data on consumer opinion can be generated and applied.
Having conducted your research, you can now synthesize the results into a set of actionable steps within your budget. What were the chief lessons you learned from the data you collected, and which way do they point with regard to your growth strategy?
As an example, you might have discovered that competitors are targeting one customer demographic less than others, indicating a potential opening for cornering a new audience.
Once again, flexibility is the core mechanism of your strategy. Drawing up multiple lines of attack and focusing on a small package of specific actions at a time enables you to change tack at will, moving your focus to other options that may yield better results.
Iteration and Feedback
The real effectiveness of a flexible growth strategy makes itself known at this point. In the rolling-out of your growth strategy, multiple iterations of that growth can be rolled out simultaneously.
For example, changes to your online platform’s UI could be rolled out to a subset of your active customer base, with different changes rolled out to another sector. This is called “A/B testing” – reviewing feedback from customers in either group enables you to evaluate the better end result and roll out a superior product.
In the research phase of your strategy planning, customer feedback will have proven to be indispensable for forming your plan. So why stop there? Canvassing for regular feedback even after a successful launch of a product or service enables you to react to new information, staying light on your feet when it comes to changing up a strategy that no longer works.
Change is a crucial quality to possess as a business in an ever-changing digital landscape. Adopting it as part of your philosophy early on and applying it to every stage of your growth and development will ensure your readiness to deal with all manner of upheavals – and stand you in the best possible stead for long-term success.