Consider new opportunities to improve your business

Editor’s Note: Robert Granader is the founder and CEO of This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “7 Ways to Identify New Market Opportunities in a Changing World.

From supply chain bottlenecks to inflationary pressures, businesses across industries continue to grapple with a world defined by relentless change. In this unstable market landscape, business-as-usual approaches are nowhere near sufficient for survival or long-term success.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. corporate bankruptcies reached the worst levels in 10 years in 2020, and we aren’t out of the woods yet. Companies must adapt or risk getting left behind, but how do you find the right opportunities for business growth in a noisy, adrenaline-drenched environment? Here are seven strategies to help you pinpoint new market opportunities for your business.

1. Find customer behavior changes.

First, understand how your customers are using your product. Are they doing something different with it now than before? This is how makeup removing wipes and toilet paper alternative wipes came about. By talking to their customers, companies realized that there were other ways people were using baby wipes.

Consumer goods and food companies use this strategy frequently to create new product lines. To find ideas, you can start by scanning the internet and social media pages for people talking about “hacks” for your product, or creatively improvising to use your product in a new way.

2. Consider implementing sustainability practices.  

Sustainability is now a core concern to most demographics, including your customers. Can you innovate to reduce waste in production, transportation, packaging or at end-of-life? Can you make your (or someone else’s) product last longer? Can you make it modular so that broken or worn pieces can be easily replaced?

3. Find areas needing improvement. 

Understanding pain points is an obvious starting point for most businesses, but these gaps must be addressed because they can give your competitors a welcome edge.

Sometimes a pain point creates literal pain or added friction in a work process. Ask what causes potential injury or stoppage with the product or the workplace around it. For example, professional users began to adopt cordless tools at higher rates when they realized that they reduced job site injuries (no cords to trip over).

Another approach is to see where customers want to save time. Robots and automation show up where repetitive tasks can be reduced, freeing people to do other things. For instance, many people don’t like or don’t have time to mow their lawns, but they want to have cut grass – enter robot lawn mowers.

4. Analyze market trends.

Track general societal trends related to your industry and see if you can adapt a product line to take advantage of customer interest in that trend.

A recent example come from big changes in food packaging. Several years ago, food bloggers, especially in health food circles, started coming up with bowl meals. Grain bowls. Veggie bowls. All the ingredients put in one bowl for a meal. Soon it spread to restaurants, often healthy or Asian-themed. Then mainstream restaurants, even fast food like KFC, came out with their own versions.

Seeing the continued popularity, the trend finally moved into retail food with several brands coming out with frozen dinners in bowls. Now bowls are starting to move to other food products as well.

Take a larger trend in your market or an adjacent market and make it work for your customers with your product.

Young business people are discussing a project together. A glowing light bulb indicates a new idea.

5. Brainstorm related industries. 

Instead of duplicating your competitors, look at what the most successful companies in a functionally related industry are doing, and see if you can apply similar approaches to your business.

Wearable technology like Fitbit took off among consumers, and now pet companies have launched similar trackers for pets with products like FitBark and Whistle. Similarly, at-home DNA testing gained traction with 23andMe and AncestryDNA, and now several at-home DNA testing kits have been designed for dogs to provide information about a dog’s breed and genetic background.

6. Broaden your target audience.

Take a holistic approach to product development and sales by targeting the entire customer base for your product or service, not just the obvious or traditional one.

How does your product meet the needs of your entire potential customer base, not just a certain type of company or one job title within a company (such as the purchaser versus the end user versus the decision maker)?

Focus on the total benefit of your products to the company as a whole and not one customer group and communicate that to those involved in purchase decisions.

Take for example packaging machinery. Machinery producers may deal primarily with purchasing departments to sell new machinery. However, they could broaden their outreach efforts by targeting users and top executives:

  • Targeting engineers and production managers could provide supporting arguments on how new machinery could improve workflow and efficiency.
  • Targeting executives such as chief financial officers to promote the long-term cost savings of new machinery could help with approval of new machinery purchases.

7. Find complementing products.

What are your customers doing that requires your product, and what do they do after they purchase your product? Are there things you can offer that make that entire process better for your customer?

For example, movie theatres added in-seat dining with restaurant-type meals because they understood that many customers went out to eat before going to the movies. Some parking garages added car washes or car detailing services since customers were already bringing their cars to the location.

Seek new opportunities 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great re-thinking of so many things we did before. Take advantage of these changes that started so many movements, shot others forward and nipped others in the bud.

One of the gifts the pandemic presented to businesses is the chance to find new opportunities and new markets in old places.