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Markets continually change. Keeping up with what's going on in the marketplace is part of running your small business. In today's fast-paced world, it ain't easy.
The key is simple. Always give the market what it wants. Customers and clients give you the clues. It's up to you to find ways to be successful.
Example: Alex is a struggling artist. His large abstract paintings have attracted attention, and he has made sales. But buyers are few and far between. He is confident that in the long run he will be successful. The problem for Alex was how to get through the time it will take until he sells enough of his work to support his family. The answer came unexpectedly at a show he was attending. He overheard several people saying that there was nothing inexpensive enough to be considered as gifts for friends. It was a clue to a market segment Alex had not considered. He began turning out small paintings, quickly done, framed, and at reasonable prices. These began selling on his website, at shows, and to gift shops. Now he doesn't worry about income while he concentrates on his larger, more expensive, abstracts--still his long-term goal.
Example: Nicole is a Pilates expert. She has her own studio where she sees clients. To exploit people's growing interest in fitness and wellness, she got her instructor's certification. She now teaches Pilates to others interested in the field while still seeing private clients. It is an extension of what she was already doing, but the teaching sessions bring in additional income and have resulted in referrals of more private clients.
Example: Mary inherited her mother's small consignment shop. It was long-established and filled with vintage collectibles, games and toys, jewelry and small antiques--no clothing. Mary expanded the shop's market reach by using eBay and Etsy to sell long distance. With an eye to the marketplace, Mary turned a local destination consignment shop into a healthier business. Consignments still come from a wide, but local, area. But sales are to customers far and near. The marketplace Mary now serves is very different from her mother's pre-Internet days.
A big part of managing your small business is staying on top of the ever-changing marketplace. The market is not stagnant. Sometimes, the change is in what people want. Other times, it's technology that is changing the marketplace.
Your clients and customers move with the times. To keep up, to stay on top of it, to get ahead, you must be willing to take a step beyond today.
Your clients and customers tell you where the market is headed. They usually do not say it outright. You must read between the lines. Watch. Listen. The clues are there.