To succeed in business, you need to be constantly on the lookout for opportunities that can help advance your business and improve your bottom line.
Unfortunately, one of the common mistakes of small business entrepreneurs is the failure to recognize opportunities that their customers demand, or those that can help expand their target market. Many are too focused on doing what they need to do everyday that they fail to recognize signals that can significantly grow their business.
Take for example these two small business owners:
- A virtual assistant who frequently receives questions from both existing clients and email inquiries from website visitors if she offers creative document production, including newsletters. She doesn’t currently offer this service, yet fails to see that this may be an opportunity for her to generate more business from existing clients and gain new customers (hint: repeat inquiries about the service).
- Or consider a lawn care business owner, who gets asked by his clients whether he can help with tree cutting, a service that he has considered but never ventured into. He dismissed the idea just by looking at the insurance implications (insurance for employees cost differently when the person is on or off the ground) and additional equipment that he will need to purchase, without even doing a cost-benefit analysis whether this new service can surpass the extra costs it will entail.
There may be ways your business can still find on a hot new product or service that can even give your business a competitive edge against your competitors. Innovation can happen in your small business – even without inventing the hottest new gadget or creating the most talked about social marketing site. As long as you have an open mind, you can definitely find new ideas to use for your business.
The worst thing you can do as a small business is to not change. There are accidental business breakthroughs waiting to happen – if only you’d recognize it and be willing to change your business mindset:
- Are your customers constantly asking about a particular service or feature that you don’t offer? There may be a big market awaiting you if you consider adding that product or service in your business?
- Are customers telling you about a problem they have with your business – e.g. your home accessories retail store has inadequate parking space, or that your tax consulting business is closed on weekends when they need your tax advice the most. By listening to the complaints and problems of your customers, some creative thinking may give you insight on what to add or change to your products or services.
- Are your competitors doing something that you think you can do better?
- Is there a niche that no one has captured in your area or among your other small online businesses?
For example, when I was still very active on Yahoo Answers, one of the frequently asked questions involves: “How can I start a business in [state?]” To answer the question, I typically go to the Secretary of State or governor’s website to find out information on how to start a business in that state. But when the questions were asked again and again, I decided to write my answers in Word so I can more easily provide the answers when asked again. That Word file turned into our State by State Guide to Starting a Business . Today, this is one of the most visited pages on our site and generates significant ad revenues for us.
Listen to your customers carefully. Are they telling you something that could add to your bottom line?