Seven ways to create a market-place of opportunity
An opportunity is not a guarantee. It may be a possibility or a probability, but it is not a guarantee. Everyday we ‘trade’ in opportunity, for example by applying for jobs in the hope of being recruited, by extending our networks in the hope of making valued new contacts, by shopping in a high street sale in the hope of picking up a bargain, or by making an investment in the hope of securing a financial return. That’s opportunity for you. It is a free-market trade in hope. The hope of gaining an advantage, a benefit or a competitive edge.
That brings me to the ‘market-place’ of opportunity. Much as that might sound like a catchy sound bite, it is not. The market-place is a genuine place of opportunity and an opportunity carefully cultivated can create a vibrant market-place. Like any other trading space, the market-place of opportunity is both actual and virtual allowing us to exchange ideas, acquire skills, take risks, explore and venture out. You don’t even need to be awake to trade in the market-place of opportunity. How many times have you read testimonies of people who have come up with truly great ideas whilst asleep? With all this in mind, set out below are seven ways to create a market-place of opportunity.
1. Map your market-place
You cannot maximise opportunity in your market-place until you understand it and you will not understand it, until you have mapped it. Find out what drives sentiment and preference in your chosen area of interest. In addition, start to develop an understanding of where the market gaps are and think about things that you can do to plug those gaps and meet unmet need. The time and effort that you put into market-place mapping will help you to better understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of the market. This will help you to determine whether any of the opportunities that you have identified, will be sustainable in the longer term.
2. Test your market-place
Market testing is the practice of assessing or evaluating the range and suitability of products and services in the market-place, to determine whether they meet your specification. For example, a space rocket and a skateboard are both modes of transportation, but only one of them will take you to the moon and as such, only one will meet your need. In addition, to help you determine whether products meet your requirements, the practice of market-testing will also help you to discover whether there is ‘value’ in the market. For example, when consumers purchase certain products, do they also routinely purchase other products? The existence of an ‘eco-system’ within your market-place can provide good evidence of ‘value’ and where there is ‘value’, you will also find opportunity.
3. Target your market-place
There is more to targeting your market-place than deciding where best to focus your efforts. You also need to know when to target your efforts as well as how. As a case in point, it is reasonable to assume that a T-shirt and sandals wholesaler would understand the impact of ‘seasonality’ on their business (ie: that T-shirt and sandal sales will be higher during the summer months compared to winter). As such, their entire business model is likely to be focused or targeted on a specific window of opportunity (ie: the summer). However, given the narrow window of profitability associated with seasonal markets, they may also choose to target their products in markets where there are mono-climates, with brief periods of seasonality. The point being made here is that a targeted approach will enable you to maximise the opportunities that are available to you.
4. Navigate your market-place
Navigating your market-place essentially means two things; firstly, that you have a good knowledge and understanding of the market dynamics, business climate and prevailing economic conditions, impacting upon you. Secondly, it means that you use the insight gained, from scanning your operational environment, to fully maximise opportunities and realise potential. Those able to navigate the market-place effectively, are not just able to absorb information, they also actively utilise that information to prioritise action and formulate real-time responses to emerging opportunities and risks. Someone able to navigate their market-place doesn’t just ask their customers what they have, they find out what they need and give them what they want.
5. Influence your market-place
The ability to use influence in the market-place obviously presents you with potentially game-changing opportunities. With influence, the greater your reputation and the higher your standing, the more influence you are likely to have. In particular, influence enables you to engage those who are already loyal or who might be pre-disposed towards you. But what happens if you do not have a reputation or standing upon which to draw or tap into? Well, for those who do not have access to this sort of opportunity, the ability to ‘read’ customer sentiment or create customer curiosity can often provide the best way forward. The point to note, is that influence is ‘active’ in as much as it empowers you to make choices and decisions, that can create opportunities and with access to opportunity, you are better able to achieve outcomes that are more desirable.
6. Customise your market-place
A customised market-place is one that is defined and designed by you. The way in which a market-place is customised or configured could be dictated by a wide range of factors. In a market-place saturated with products that look alike and sound alike, a product that looks different and sounds different, will attract attention. Therefore, make yourself identifiably different to others. If you do, you will be indispensable. For example, a ‘boutique’ market-place will appeal to a particular type of audience with discerning tastes or preferences. The point about customised markets is that the opportunities and benefits that they offer are predicated on a point of detail, distinction or difference that may not necessarily be considered of value to most consumers. Let’s be honest, not everyone will appreciate the usefulness of a dog-walking service, but that does not mean that a dog-walking service isn’t valuable or useful to someone.
7. Leverage your market-place
To operate effectively within any market-place, irrespective of its composition, you need to be able to leverage it and to leverage it, you need to have something to ‘spend’. In the market-place of opportunity, there are ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ currencies. Assuming that ‘hard currencies’ need no explanation, let’s focus on ‘soft currencies’. By definition, ‘soft currencies’ comprise the wider capabilities and competencies that enable you to interact with others and gain access to opportunity. Your ‘personal brand’ is an example of a ‘soft currency’; particularly so as it relates to trust, integrity, credibility, accountability and reliability. In the world of ‘soft currency’, the stronger your brand, the more you will have to spend. Having a stronger trading currency gives you significantly more leverage and bargaining power as you access and operate within your chosen market-place.
In conclusion, your market-place is wherever you trade or transact business. It could be a commercial or a social construct. The lessons described in this blog can be applied equally to either. The specific point here is that to make the most of the opportunities that exist within your market-place, you need to be an active participant, not a casual observer.