“Of course it is easy to just keep on going the way you always have, but that is the easiest way to sabotage your own business.”
It isn’t easy for a business to stay open for the long haul. For a brand new startup, and even for those who have been around for a couple years—it all seems so simple. You have a great idea, an exciting vision, and you are even turning a profit. You managed to come up with a business idea that works, but that does not mean that you are immune to the perils of an ever-changing market. What works now may not always work. The bottom line is that if the market does not respond to what you are selling, then you have no choice but to discover what has to change, to retain the interest of consumers.
Keep an Open Mind
If you are not willing to diversify and change the focus, or possibly even the very structure of your business, then you may be left behind by those entrepreneurs who have decidedly moved right along with the flow of the market. 50 percent of every small business starting up right now will close their doors before they reach the 5-year mark, and though there are a variety of reasons for this, the inability or unwillingness to adapt to the desires and motivations of the market is one of the most consequential causes of a business’ failure. Though stubbornness is a factor, the real barrier to maintaining a high level of success is an entrepreneur’s ignorance of shifts in the market.
All business owners would do well to learn from something that many artists inherently understand—the Zeitgeist. Loosely defined, this term basically describes “the spirit of now”. In the case of someone creating art, they are actively reflecting and defining the values of our culture as much as they are following it, but as an entrepreneur—even though a small business may not immediately influence the spirit of our time—it is absolutely vital that you at least recognize the current condition of culture and what people are interested in.
This directly correlates to what consumers are buying, as it relates to the desires and motivations of the greater market. Smart entrepreneurs take this into account and redefine their business as it is necessary, to remain constantly relevant to the market. A business may be able to operate at a generally average level with an outdated business plan, but unless it has no ambition to grow, the business plan has to meet the needs of the current market.
Talk to Your Customers
Gaining an intimate knowledge of the current market translates to more than just subscribing to an abstract idea like the Zeitgeist; you can put your finger on the pulse by listening to feedback from your customers. Read the reviews, pay attention to comments and complaints, and to really get an honest picture of your business as it is viewed in the eyes of your customers, you will need to take the initiative and ask them specifically how you can improve.
Asking pointed questions to gauge whether or not you are reaching your target market is the first thing you need to do when you recognize that you are not attracting customers as much as you used to. While this starts a dialogue with your customers, which already contributes to creating a positive experience for them, you can find out exactly where to start when you begin to adapt your business. One caveat: Customer feedback is probably the best source of information for a business, but it can also be the worst. It is important that you are talking to the right customers, the ones that represent the silent majority. The remaining minority will always be the loudest when it comes to requesting new features, etc., but they may end up sending you in a direction that does not make sense for the rest of your customers.
It will not do you any good to be closed-minded or lazy when it comes to serving the market. Of course it is easy to just keep on going the way you always have, but that is the easiest way to sabotage your own business. To look at your profit margin and realize a drop-off in sales is one thing, but it isn’t always easy to understand exactly where you are falling short.
As long as you take great care to find out directly from your customers what they require of you, as well as learning as much as possible about the direction of the current market from others in your field—you are already well on your way to meeting the needs of today’s ever-shifting market. Consumers are increasingly demanding these days, and the market is a living organism; achieving longevity in business starts with being flexible and responding accordingly.
Follow this advice to keep your doors open for a long time:
How to Keep Your Business Open for Decades
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.