Friday, February 17, 2012

The Window of Opportunity

A window of opportunity can take many shapes and forms and can have impact on a company’s destiny regardless of where that company is in its lifecycle. As businesses we are always seeking to take advantage of some opportunity either through an innovation in a product or service, a trend in the marketplace or a change in the forces that regulate the marketplace.

Each of these can have a ripple effect and catapult a company to success but as with any window, the opening is narrow and the opportunity brief. To benefit from the “Window of Opportunity” we first of all have to be looking for it – ready to change and rise to meet the challenge of that opportunity. This means in part that we have to ensure that we are scanning the horizon (this is where your SWOT Analysis “comes in) . This simple SWOT chart provides us with the parameters for scanning that horizon.

By embracing change and understanding that a company has to evolve in the marketplace just as its customers must evolve we can begin to evaluate the potential windows of opportunity. Equally important is that we also have to understand that as people it is our natural tendency to avoid change and to embrace clear predictable patterns especially in business given its turbulent nature.

The most important component in the process in scanning for these “Windows of Opportunity” is understanding how your company, product or service can evolve to respond to marketplace demands. You must have clear understanding of your current company, products, services - features and benefits and how they meet the needs of your clients. This coupled with a change in the forces that shape the marketplace can offer ideas and unique solutions that can be adopted into your product or service design.

Some clues to identifying "Windows of Opportunity" can often be seen in some of the most obvious places. These can include traditional news media, online trend magazines and directly from the mouth of your client. A combination of these and other indicators will provide you with some insight into changes affecting your clients and how they use your product or services.

In more than 25 years of marketing I can’t say I have ever witnessed a client directly advising a provider or supplier to change a product or service to better respond to their needs. This may occur but only when the client/supplier relationship is so integrated that it become more difficult to supplant the existing supplier. Often, there is an alternate provider who has already seen the opportunity and is only too ready to fill the client’s requirement and displace your company as the supplier of choice. To take advantage of the "Window of Opportunity" you have to be ready to change your business model (and in some cases dramatically) to respond to those changing needs.

The idea that the "Window of Opportunity" is short is very important, since it suggests that you have a very limited time frame in which to act. Developing a plan, incorporating good advice from business advisors, gauging the client’s appetite for the evolution of your product or service and actually making changes that will affect company production and personal at the ground level in your organization all take time. This usually suggests months rather than weeks or years to take advantage of the "Window of Opportunity".

This applies to new and innovative technology even more so. New technologies today are eclipsed very quickly and the new technology that was a “have-to-have” just a few months ago could be old hat tomorrow. One final point, don’t over consult about this – rapid change usually is a result of one person’s vision because they have their finger on the pulse of clients and they have to champion the idea through the process. This is where the old adage of “no pain – no gain”, can be applied very effectively but it can be the difference between closing a business down and becoming a viable business in a very difficult business climate.

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