If you want to take the lead in your industry and dominate your markets, you have to do more than just move ahead of your competition. Instead of trying to do what all the businesses are doing in your industry, you need to have a vision of what your industry will look like five to ten years into the future. You have to have a vision of what the industry leaders will be offering and then get there before they do.
Unfortunately, very few businesses compete this way. Instead, they wait to see what the leader in their field will do next and then they set their sights on doing next year what the leader is doing today. Meanwhile, the leader is already working on new ways to leave the competition in the dust.
You may think you’ve been doing just fine by reacting to each competitive threat as it comes. But this passive approach won’t work for very long in today’s competitive market. Technology is making new products and services available at such a blistering pace that any competitor can roll out something overnight that will put you out of business. Just because a new product or service may burst onto the market overnight, don’t be misled into thinking that you can catch up in a few days time. It takes years to build the skills you’ll need to match the revolutionary products and services that will soon come barreling down your competitor’s pipelines.
To be able to take the lead in your industry you must create a clear and detailed vision of the future of your market; then you have to be relentless in doing whatever it takes to get there first.
If you want to build leadership in tomorrow’s markets, it’s not enough to become better at what everyone else is doing. You must become different by doing what no one else is doing. Unfortunately, few business owners spend enough time thinking about what their industries will look like in the future.
To begin creating a vision for the future of your industry, start by asking yourself some very important questions: What percentage of your time is spent on outside issues, such as understanding the impact of new technology? How much of the time that you use to look outward is spent imagining how different the world might be in a decade? Of the time you devote to looking outward and forward how much of it is spent to form a consensus with colleagues about the future?
Studies have shown that the average business owner spends less than three percent of his or her time on building a view of the future and spends the rest of the time running the business. Whereas, industry leaders spend an average of twenty to fifty percent of their time on building a view of the future for their industry.
To create a vision of the future, you need to first construct a new kind of strategy. It needs to be a strategy based on the foresight to imagine tomorrow’s markets today. Your plan should incorporate a strategic architecture for building the skills you need to dominate the market. It must be a strategy that challenges you and your employees to stretch to achieve the impossible, and focuses on resource leverage to overcome limits. Concentrate on what your company does best rather than product leadership. If you focus on being the first to bring new products and services to the global market, you will find your company far ahead of your competitors.
One of the most important points to keep in mind when you’re developing a vision of the future is that it is more important to restrategize than it is to reengineer. This is because most business owner’s idea of strategy focuses on the tools needed to capture market share. But when the market does not even exist yet, the rules have not been written. And the traditional tools are of no help because they are powerless to analyze the future.
Competing for tomorrow’s markets means that instead of going after market share, you must try to capture opportunity share. This involves competing to get the biggest possible piece of future opportunity. First, ask yourself what unique knowledge and skills do you and your employees possess that have enabled your company to be where it is today. Then, consider what new knowledge and skills you will need to capture a larger share.
Before you can create a vision for the future, you need to forget about the past. You need to unlearn what you know about how to make money in your industry, who your competition is, and what you customers want. What you don’t know can hurt you. And what you do know can hurt you even more if it keeps you from introducing a new product or service before someone else does.
Seeing opportunities demands industry foresight. Industry foresight requires that you have a vision of the future and a strong sense of which skills will get you there. While most business owners believe that foresight is the easy part, today’s execution problems are often a part of yesterday’s foresight failures.
How can you develop industry foresight? Try to imagine what the future might bring for your industry. Speculate where technologies are likely to head. Think about the needs of the customers you could serve tomorrow, not just the ones you target today. It sharpens your foresight greatly if you think about your business as a portfolio of specialized knowledge and skills rather than as a collection of business units.
You can develop industry foresight by forgetting about industry beliefs about price and performance. If you can reduce the price of a product or service far below the competition, you can turn a small demand into a mass market. Finally, it is important to ask what would happen if you based your decisions on what you could do, not on what your customers want to do.
Once you’ve imagined what the future will look like, start building it in a way that puts your business at the top of its market. In other words, create a strategic architecture. A strategic architecture tells the company what it must do to intercept the future. You have to ask yourself some important questions: What new benefits will you offer to customers 5 and even 10 years from now? What knowledge and skills will your need to create those benefits? And how must the ways in which you interact with customers change to bring those benefits to them?
To become the leader in your industry you must be the leader in knowledge and skills. This will give you a tremendous advantage in making successful products and offering the best services in the future. Your specialized knowledge and skills must provide customer benefits, they must be unique, and extend beyond your current products or services to create an edge in future offerings. Your knowledge and skills, and those of your employees should be able to form the basis for entry into new product markets.
Once you’ve considered which unique skills will give you the biggest advantage, you can move closer to bringing your product to the market. To do this you can use traditional market research methods to find the best combination of price and benefits to gain the highest share of the market. But these tools break down when you are introducing a new product that is completely unfamiliar to customers. In this case, you need to learn what the customer wants faster than your competitors. The best way to do this is by expeditionary marketing, or a series of quick, low-cost launches of the product into the market.
Think of this approach as one you would use if you were shooting arrows at a target in the dark. You could wait for daylight when the target will be visible, but by then others may have already hit it. Or you can shoot a series of arrows and receive feedback after each one about what you need to do to improve your aim. Hitting the bull’s-eye right away isn’t the goal of expeditionary marketing; you simply want to learn more about it each time so that you can hit it before anyone else.
Whether or not a product is failure depends on what you expect from your first attempts. If you think the product will conquer the market as soon as it is launched, you’ll give up when it falls short. But if you see each new model as a work in progress, you can refine it until it provides everything the customer wants.
Most business owners can point to several ways in which their industries are different today from what they were ten years ago. Yet few of them seem to realize that everything today will change just as much in as little as five years. Fewer still have the foresight to see how they can make incredible profits from tomorrow’s new markets, skills, and strategies.
The choice is yours. You can follow someone else’s rules, or you can invent your own. You can try to copy your top competitor’s success, or you can make everyone else struggle to catch up to you.
But don’t wait very long to make your decision. The winners will be those who start to compete for the future today.
Copyright© by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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