If you are thinking ‘Well I am successful today, so I do not need to do anything different’, there are many examples of successful companies who did this and got passed up. You cannot let that happen. Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business sights companies like Motorola, Sony, Sears and Microsoft as examples of successful companies who became complacent and lost their market position. These are big companies with talented and smart people. How do you as a leader of a smaller business avoid these traps and pitfalls? One of the ways to stay on top is to keep expanding to new adjacent markets. And from my experience, the easiest way to find these new markets is to start with your current Customers and look for the products and services you are already providing to Non-Traditional Departments, Geographies and Verticals.
By Non-Traditional, for example, I mean you traditionally focus on three verticals and yet you have one implementation in an odd vertical that you do not traditionally target. Or you traditionally target the VP of Marketing in your sales and marketing efforts and for some reason you have an implementation with the Director of HR. I want you to search and find these ‘Non-Traditional’ relationships and ask yourself: ‘Can we do this for other Customers?’
‘Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers.’
Jack Ma, Founder Alibaba
Are you in Non-Traditional Departments?
As you go through your Customer analysis, pay special attention to the departments that you are in and the traditional departments that you target. Are there any implementations that land in a non-traditional department with a different decision-maker? Although this may reveal a potential growth path, the opportunity to move to other departments within the same company is not as easy as it sounds. Typically, from my experience, it takes a new or modified product. But at least there is a relationship there to build from – and that’s what you have to leverage. In some cases, you strategically have to move upstream to position yourself for the future. In other cases, you may have been pushed by your Customer to solve another problem.
Look now at where you have been successful. What conclusions can we draw from the non-traditional departments that are using our products and services. What can we do to expand to those departments in other Customers? What if you did this for all your Customers – what is the size of this opportunity? The key is to identify those active Customers that are different – where you have expanded out to another department, most likely with another product. What is the potential growth for your company if other similar Customers did the same thing!
Are you in Non-Traditional Geographies?
If you are only involved in a portion of the US and want to expand nationwide, or if you have the US and you want to expand globally, this should present a nice growth opportunity. You have probably traditionally pursued certain targeted geographies more aggressively than others. But where do you go next? I have an answer that is so simple it will surprise you: Why not start with where you have already landed? In the geographies where you already have a small presence but there is high-potential? What if you took some time to evaluate and quantify the opportunity in that geography? If you only have 1 or 2 implementations, why not leverage those and expand in that local area. It is always more difficult to get the first sale in any new market because you may not have the reputation or product developed yet – so if you have already have done this, you now have the opportunity to work on leveraging a referenceable Customer and a product that’s already working in that non-traditional area!
Of course in addition, in geographies where you have not landed yet, work with your team on what the potential could be in a completely new territory, and what is the related investment. What are these numbers?
Are you in Non-Traditional Verticals?
A vertical industry analysis is very important. What verticals do you focus on and where have you succeeded? Why is that? Do you know? I would hope you will tell me that your company has deep expertise and thought leadership in that vertical. If that is true, you have significant growth potential. If you are only involved in several verticals and want to expand the business, start with adjacent verticals where you have already landed that fall within your thought leadership strengths – what is this opportunity within those verticals? Quantify it.
In addition to developing plans for vertical markets in which you are already playing, work with your sales, marketing and product management teams about other potential verticals that should be targeted, especially those in adjacent markets.
‘Without change there is no innovation, creativity or incentive for improvement.’
Bottom line: You have to proactively look for new adjacent markets by focusing on your current Customers and the non-traditional activities you already have going – that can be expanded. If you can keep pushing yourself to change and reinvent by expanding to new markets, and learn how to execute on the ideas you uncover in this process, you can take your business all the way to the top!