I’ve created free content so you can create a business plan on your own… because if you do SOME kind of business plan, it’ll make your business more profitable in 2015. If you do anything different in 2015, don’t operate without a business plan.
If you’ve ever done a business plan (especially my favorite business plan, Verne Harnish’s 1-Page Strategic Plan ) then you’ve done a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (and/or trends). A couple of weeks ago I posted about how to discover your business’ strengths and weaknesses. Today, I’ll share how to identify opportunities, threats, and trends.
Anticipating the opportunities, threats, and trends facing your business helps you to be innovative and proactive. With most of my business coaching clients, we create a “future-focused organization”—its sort of a business plan in and of itself because its always a step ahead of where your business is now. It keeps you ahead of the competition, leading the industry, and able to adapt to market changes quickly.
Here’s what to keep an eye on—including some simple online tools to help you ID the opportunities, threats and trends…
- Industry trends. Stay on top of developments in the industry. Subscribe to industry publications, attend conferences, and follow industry leaders on Twitter. One of the best ways to stay up to date is using Google alerts—so that any time a news story is posted about a keyword or phrase important to your industry, you’ll receive a notification. This information can help you be at the front of cutting-edge trends, so that you can respond quickly to opportunities and threats that come your way.
- The competition. Know what your competition is doing. Make a point to subscribe to their newsletters, read their blogs, follow them on social media, and check out their websites periodically. SpyFu is a great way to stay on top of their online marketing activity, which can give you insights into their overall strategy. This will help you set your own market strategy, identify gaps in the marketplace that the competition might be neglecting, and discover where there’s room for improvement in your own offerings.
- The chatter. Stay connected to your customers via social media. Are there online bulletin boards where customers post? Are there Facebook groups, blogs, or folks you can follow on Twitter? This is another great time to set up Google alerts, so that you can follow the conversation. Pay special attention to complaints customers have about your industry generally and to things they feel like they need to make the most out of your products or services—this can reveal hidden opportunities to solve problems and innovate profitable ways to serve your customers better!
- Technology. As technology progresses, the world changes. Keep your eye out for technological innovations that could threaten or enhance your business model. For example, if Blockbuster had possessed the foresight to understand the role that streaming video would play, they could have become leaders instead of losers in the evolution of how we view at-home entertainment.