In the first article in this series – Ask Yourself This Important Question: Is Your Business Growing Or Dying? – I talked about why the ‘be the best’ mindset is so important and why it has been the ultimate success factor for many businesses.
There were, however, a number of misunderstandings, prevalent in the comment section, which I would like to clarify. A business, just like a person, is either growing or dying. Our bodies begin by making us bigger and stronger, we then reach optimum performance, which we maintain for a relatively short time before our body gradually begins to decline.
It’s a natural process, or ‘life cycle’.
Business also has a life cycle. It is created because we see a gap in the market or an opportunity for potential revenue creation. We work hard at growing this market, but naturally it reaches a peak and then starts to decline. The reasons for the decline can vary, but most commonly it is simply due to changing habits or technological innovations, which make our existing businesses less relevant.
The key message thus from my first article was perhaps that we must always understand that our business has a shelf life. In business degrees we are taught that this shelf life is an average of just seven years, however in modern times that is even shorter. There will come a point, sooner rather then later, when the needs of your customer will change, and unless you are helping educate them on their changing needs, you are likely to be left behind.
Please do not confuse this with an industry as a whole. Blogging is really an industry technique and not in itself a business. WordPress itself is perhaps a business, but as we have seen, the constant WordPress updates are not just keeping up with the times, sometimes they are perhaps guiding the industry.
Which brings me nicely to a reminder of the second key message from last week’s article; unless you are striving to be the best and push your industry forward, you are likely to be left behind and fighting for space in an ever decreasing market.
In my Online Marketing coaching program I strive to give the very best business knowledge to Internet Marketers, so that they can grow their businesses. I use multiple tools and techniques to ensure that I am at the very forefront of my industry, and that I am creating new and innovative products. I will share many of these techniques within this article.
These tools and techniques can be adapted to almost any industry and to almost any business. But my advice comes with a warning. Being at the forefront of your industry, can at times be a lonely place.
Very few people are ‘early adopters’ of new thinking. Many more people tend to follow on once the idea or product has become established, with more following very late in the product life cycle.
My advice is sometimes seen as somewhat radical within Internet Marketing circles and thus I know it is currently not for everyone. I firmly believe that all Internet Marketers will need my knowledge, but I am also aware that not everyone is currently ready for it. I am catering to the early adopters for improved business education and understand that many of the haters/sceptics will turn loyal followers in due time. The masses will follow, but the early adaptors will still be more then profitable for me.
When you consistently lead your industry, then you begin to form religious followers – people who follow you and your brand as if it were gospel. Think about Apple, people questioned what we would do with the iPhone, but now it is a household name. Even the iPad, which is limited in it’s use, is a major hit because people believe in the power of Apple to bring us products that will one day become our future.
We must aim to be just as innovative, or at least ensure our businesses are innovating along with the times, or we will find ourselves on the wrong end of the product life cycle.
I must digress a little here just to make one more point. Yes, there is plenty of room for other companies within the growth and maturity period. This is when we see a lot of copy cat companies and products. However, the profits and loyalty you develop by being at the forefront of your industry are unparalleled. Increased competition is great for the consumer and not so great for business profits. Do what is good for your business and ensure you are ahead of the competition and enjoying unchallenged profits.
How To Ensure You Stay Ahead Of Your Industry
1. Surround Yourself With Industry Leaders
So many people always talk about surrounding yourself with successful people, but nobody ever seems to discuss how it is done. Well I’m more of a practical advice person, so here are some things that have worked well for me and my clients:
Conference and Mastermind calls
Thankfully as Internet Marketers we are always welcome to join conference calls where Online Marketers help each other out. I founded and currently run such a call at the European Marketing Network.
There is no way that I can know everything that is happening within the Online world and run a great business at the same time. With conference calls, however, I do not have to. In these short one hour weekly calls I get to hear about the latest tools and techniques being used by a group of top class marketers. Gaining this information alone may take me all week, but this way I am able to gain just as much within one short hour.
I thoroughly recommend you find a conference call related to your niche. You can check out popular Internet Marketing forums for conference call sections or even check out our European Marketing Network calls. My advice is to always join at least two calls, that way even if you do not feel you are the most knowledgeable person in the world, simply recommending one or two of the top tips you learnt from the other call (or simply connecting people together) will make you a valuable asset to any group call.
Many of the top marketers have private mastermind groups. I’m invited to many of them as successful people appreciate that nobody ever makes it alone.
We all have Linkedin or similar networks throughout the world. These professional networks are a great way to meet not only new clients, but also interesting people for an informal mastermind at a social event. Check to see if your town or city has a regular meet-up, and if it hasn’t, why not start one yourself?
I regularly join professional meet-ups, just so I can understand common business problems and what the changing needs of the general market are. I’ve picked up some greatly successful friends along the way, which is always nice.
I’m also a local ambassador for a large professional meet-up organization, meaning that at events people actually come and talk to me.
I do not just give advice to you, I’m practicing it myself. To be successful you have to get out there.
I cannot state enough, just how important meeting people within your industry is. We should always be keeping one eye on the competition and know who our competitors are. I try to attend many Internet Marketing events, not just to see my old friends, but to really see who the new generation of leaders within my industry are.
I mentioned earlier that the average product life cycle is seven years long. Facebook was born in 2004 alongside perhaps the big surge in Online Marketing. 2011 could therefore represent the age for a new era in Online Marketing with many new faces taking the limelight. If you believe it is your time then get out there and get yourself known.
Organize your own meet-up
Why not find an excuse to organize your own meet-up with people within your industry? It does not have to be on a large scale. One of my groups, which has over 500 members, started with just three people who met monthly for drinks. Three years later the idea snow-balled, partly because the industry grew. We were at the forefront, so reaped the benefits of being innovators. You can easily do this too.
2. Educate Yourself
If for some reason you haven’t already realized, I’m the continuous education kind of guy. Here are my favorite methods to educate myself:
Top Notch Blogs
There is a reason why you come to this blog regularly (I hope you are coming to mine too). It’s long been a source of really good, relevant information for bloggers. Make a list of at least five leading resources within your chosen niche and ensure you visit those sites regularly. Never rely on one source, that means you are a follower. Innovators like to see what the industry is doing as a whole, and by using at least five key resources you can ensure you are regularly up to date with most things within your industry.
I do not know why more people miss this, but it is the first thing I do when exploring a new industry. I search online for ‘free’ magazines for professionals within my chosen industry and request subscription. Simple.
The information within these specialist magazines is legendary. It comes direct to your door and it is free. Not to mention the respect you gain when you approach someone mentioning an article they were featured in, within this somewhat exclusive magazine.
Some of my work is even due to be published within such a magazine, which will bring me somewhat greater respect within corporate circles. It all started with a request to join a free magazine, which is reserved for leaders within the industry.
Email lists may be similar, but I have never found one that carries the same value as a magazine.
Many marketers including myself run great coaching courses. I truly believe (and have even been humbled) by finding out just how much I have to learn from others. My conference calls never fail to surprise me. It is impossible to know everything, and I would happily pay someone for top class knowledge.
When I wanted to start blogging many moons ago, I came across Yaro’s course and paid him without thinking twice or ever looking back on the decision. Find the best person for your particular need and learn from them, even if you have to invest in the education.
3. Stay Close To People Who Need Your Skills
Do not forget to stay close to the changing needs of your target market. Thankfully this does not always involve costly market research, sometimes we can use a few tricks:
Search Job Boards
Search Job Boards to see what recruiters are looking for within your niche. When I first started doing a little Social Media Marketing I had no idea what the client would really expect. I then starting monitoring job boards, both online and within newspapers, discovering the job descriptions were very similar. I could then use this as the basic premise of my offering, and ensure that I was never left behind by their changing needs.
Agreed this may not keep you ahead of the industry, but it may help ensure you are never too far behind.
Read Forums related to your niche
Like the above point, this may not keep you ahead of the pack, but it will definitely keep you in touch with the consumer. I actually use a forum to pick test candidates for my new products. They gain free access to my course in return for blogging about their experience or giving me direct regular feedback. This way I gain new followers and do not disrupt my paying customers.
I do not have too much time to participate in forums, but I do make time to browse them regularly.
I sincerely hope the ideas on how to stay in the lead in your industry did not distract from the key message, which is: you must ensure that your business is continually growing.
I often go back to the example of Apple, and I will again here. Apple have an amazing feedback method as they have stores in major cities, where the customer comes along and tells them their problems. Apple listens, fixes their problems in store, and then relays their feedback up the line of command. It is a simple yet amazing way of ensuring that they understand their customers’ changing needs, long before their competitors.
Keep these key lessons in mind, and maybe one day I could be writing about how your company is a great example to follow.