Small businesses sometimes need to think like large corporations if they are not going to fall behind their competition. This is especially true in the area of technology. Advances in technology are affecting almost every industry. Do you know what’s happening in your industry and how it is affecting your business? More importantly do you know how it might affect you; in say five years’ time?
There are many examples of major corporations who missed out on potential markets because they were focused on current technology. IBM for instance was very late entering the personal computer market because it was so focused on mainframe computers. Kodak never recovered from its lack of interest in digital cameras when the technology first appeared. Even Apple lagged behind when it came to entering the market for laptop computers.
Why is it that some companies are late to the party when new technology becomes available? Technology that would allow them to introduce new and improved products to their customers. Often, it’s because customers show no interest, they like tried and trusted products they know and love. At least until that shiny new product is introduced by your competitor and they take their business across the road.
That’s the challenge; if you listen too closely to your customers’ conservative views, your competition might take a leap of faith, use the new technology and come up with a bigger, better, brighter, more effective and ultimately more attractive version of what you sell.
Successful companies are those that follow technology advances in their industries. In fact, the truly successful ones develop and commercialize new technologies and constantly bring the next generation of whatever they sell to their customers to address their current and future needs; even if they don’t know it at the time. The secret, of course, is in the timing.
Small businesses on the cutting edge, take this one step farther and look for new technologies that will allow them to develop products that don’t necessarily meet the needs of their mainstream customers today, but which do appeal to emerging markets. In this way they use new technology to grow their market.
None of this is to say companies should lose focus on existing customers and current products. It requires a balancing act between servicing existing needs, while being fully aware of what is coming next in your industry.
A good example can be found in the typesetting companies of the mid 1990’s who ignored the new technology that allowed people to design page layouts on their computers. Almost overnight phototypesetting was redundant. Those that were ready to offer their customers computer page layout won the day.
There is a great deal of skill required to identify which technologies are going to change your business; which will make what, or how you sell more attractive to your customers and which will be ignored. Unfortunately, the more forward thinking, or maybe psychic entrepreneurs will win the day.