SCORE

Change is an inevitable part of life and business, and success depends largely on being able to adapt to it. But it takes more than just “going with the flow” to thrive after changes occur in the marketplace.

To stay ahead of the curve, successful companies must stay ahead of the trends affecting their industries before big, sweeping changes take place. And while adapting is important, a brand can’t lose its identity or stray too far from its core mission.

The best way to meet the changing needs of customers is to diversify your product lines.

Maintaining your company’s identity while diversifying your line of products can feel overwhelming—especially when you’re unsure about what changes are coming to your industry. However, staying ahead of the curve is actually simpler than you might think. All it takes is consistent, effective research, as well as a keen eye for “snowballing” or “bubbling” trends.

Staying engaged with a changing market

The more engaged you are with the world at large, the more likely you’ll catch trends before they happen. Most market changes aren’t sudden or surprising; most bubble up slowly, gaining popularity as they go. The trick is to catch one of these changes while the bubble is still small.

Pay attention to what your competitors are doing.

Ideally, you’ll always be miles ahead of your competition. Sometimes, though, you can learn from them! Have they done something out of character for their brand lately? It might have something to do with a new development in the industry.

Read newsletters, magazines and newsfeeds.

Most publications want to be the first ones to tell you what’s going on, so let them do the heavy lifting for you. Subscribe to company newsletters, actively read articles posted by your peers and scroll through your newsfeeds a bit more mindfully. You might just find the direction where change is headed.

Don’t forget about human interaction.

Recent studies show that business owners still believe word of mouth is the best way to generate leads. Even with all our fancy technology, nothing can replace people power. Talking to customers, employees and other entrepreneurs is simply the best way to stay on top of your industry, because regardless of what the internet says is “trending,” the only way to truly gauge what people care about is by asking them!

Adapting your product line to changes in market conditions

Brand loyalty is no accident, and your customers are often just waiting for you to catch up with the rest of the industry before moving on to another company’s product. Reward their patience by responding to market changes appropriately and with sensitivity.

Take, for example, a small granola bar company that specializes in creating delicious, nutrient-dense snacks for the active outdoorsman. They use healthy grains and grapeseed oil to bind everything together, which their customers love. But it’s late 2017, and they begin to notice something interesting happening: the ketogenic diet boom.

At first, they respond to this trend by doing nothing. After all, would it be worth the money and time to invest in such a niche demographic? But as the trend takes off, the company starts seeing the word “keto” in their local supermarkets. Next, they see it trending on Twitter. Finally, someone overhears a personal trainer discussing it with a client at the gym.

It soon becomes clear that the interests of the granola bar company’s target demographic are now intersecting with those participating in the ketogenic diet. This trend dictates the company’s next logical move: to diversify its product line.

Before moving forward, however, there is more work to do. The company must:

  • Assess the current product: Both grapeseed oil and grains, which they’ve used in their original granola bars, are not allowed in the keto diet. The ingredients must be replaced.
  • Conduct thorough research: Protein, fat and carbs are a major component to the diet. The new recipe must be sensitive to this.
  • Create a marketing strategy: Those who engage in the ketogenic diet are encouraged to exercise regularly, and research shows the majority of participants have gym memberships. This could be a new market to explore.
  • Evaluate trend longevity: Just how long will people stay interested in the keto diet? Research shows that low carb diets have existed since the early 1920s under a variety of different names, so this new product might not be a temporary one.

Diversifying your product line may seem like a big risk, but with proper consideration, business owners can increase the likelihood of success. There is no such thing as too much market research or data analysis. The quality of the research can mean the difference between a successful new product and one that completely misses the mark.

If you’re looking for help diversifying your product line, reach out to a SCORE mentor today.

About the Author(s)

Bridget Weston

Bridget Weston is the Acting CEO of the SCORE Association, where she provides executive leadership and works directly and collaboratively with the Board of Directors to establish the vision and direction of SCORE.

Acting CEO, SCORE
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