How To Find Areas Of Opportunity In Your Industry

April 25, 2016By
Spotting Opportunity

Can you find the opportunity that others can’t?

It seems like more than a few entrepreneurs and managers go through stages where they’re wondering where their industry can go next.

It seems to happen in most industries. The cycle is that something first is new and fresh and exciting. People are excited about it and all is well.

Then the industry matures and goes through a period of profitability and kind of gets on auto-pilot.

But then things seem to reach a point of saturation. The industry continues, but things rarely change and that’s where things can become frustrating.

Entrepreneurs are competition. Many people are competitive. And when an industry seems to reach a point where it can’t be taken further it causes frustration. Everyone can seem the same and it can seem like there’s little room for change and improvement.

But it’s usually at this point when someone new comes along and throws a monkey wrench to the industry. The paradigm completely shifts and those in the industry are left wondering what the heck happened and why weren’t they the ones to make the change happen.

Here are some thoughts about how you can find opportunity in your industry when it seems like there isn’t any.

Tip #1. Go To The Dirty, Uncomfortable Areas

I loved the show Dirty Jobs. It was always fascinating to me to see people making money in ways that most would really shy away from. The host, Mike Rowe, was always flattering of those folks and really in awe of them.

Some of the people would get into work because they were really born into it. They never knew anything else. Others kind of stumbled into the work, but devoted their lives to it.

The common theme, obviously, was the dirtiness of the work. The majority of people would never do those jobs. And when most people aren’t willing to do something there is opportunity.

Just about every industry has a dirty or uncomfortable area. And I’m not talking about dirty in the sense that it’s illegal. I don’t want to tell you to do something illegal.

I’m talking about doing the dirty work that others don’t want to do. If everyone in your industry is doing the same or similar things the odds are good that it’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff or dirty stuff is probably not being done.

Tip #2. Go To The Boring Areas

I also think there is often opportunity in the boring areas of an industry. This was another theme in Dirty Jobs. You’d see these people doing something and it might not be that dirty in the sense of working in the mud and grease or whatever. It was unique because you would think to yourself, “You can make money doing that?”.

There is money to be made in the boring areas of life. Entrepreneurs and people in general can be attracted to the shiny things. It must be something in human nature. I won’t say that all people are attracted to shiny things, but it seems to be something that exists. Shiny, fast, exciting, etc. We’re attracted to those things.

But again, where most people are attracted to something there is competition. But once the excitement wears off people leave and things get boring. That is where opportunity can exist. When people leave it doesn’t mean that a demand isn’t there anymore from consumers.

If a boring area still has demand it can be ripe for an entrepreneur to step in and become successful.

Tip #3. Go Back To The Basics

Sometimes an industry can get very far from its roots. I read the book that Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, wrote about his life and he said that when they would build a Walmart that many local stores would suffer, but that some would thrive.

The ones that failed often tried to compete with Walmart by doing exactly what Walmart was doing. Low prices, lots of merchandise, etc. That strategy was doomed from the beginning.

The ones that succeeded often went back to the basics of what made local stores appealing. They would sell the things that customers couldn’t get anywhere else; even at Walmart. The stores would focus on becoming experts in niche areas and would offer upsell services that Walmart couldn’t really offer.

If a big competitor has stepped into the industry it doesn’t mean that you’re done. Many people will like what they’re selling, but even a big store like Walmart can’t offer every product and every service.

Going back to the basics can present opportunity.

Tip #4. Skip Ahead A Few Steps Into The Future

When things seem stale in an industry it seems like someone fresh comes along and changes everything. They flip the industry on its head. It can’t really be broken down into one thing, but perhaps it just takes an outside, fresh perspective on things in order to be able to see past what’s going on now and what’s been going on to see the future.

You can give yourself a boost in the game by stepping back from the way things have always been and looking at how things should be in the future. Skip ahead a few steps and look at the industry differently than you have been looking at it now.

That’s how the newcomers view the world and your industry. They are looking into the future, a different future. They want to do things differently. You can be the one to do that, but it’s a challenge because you’ve been so encased in the way things have always been.

Tip #5. Talk To Your Customers

Sometimes it can really be as simple as talking to your customers. Ask them questions about why they choose your service or what they were thinking when they came to you. Gain as much insight into their lives as you can and really figure out what the basic need is that led them to your company.

Through this discover you might find opportunity where you didn’t see it before. You might find that you’ve been solving one problem, but leaving others unsolved and if you change your offering you could do even more for your customers and make your business even more successful.

Conclusion

I don’t want to say that there is always opportunity in life. I don’t know for sure, but it sure seems that opportunity is all around us. The frustrating part is that it’s not always easy to recognize.

It’s weird to me that the times when we do have moments of clarity are when we’re out of our comfort zone. We’re alone with our thoughts and our minds wander. We can think about things differently.

But I guess that makes sense.

Recognizing opportunity requires a change in perspective. You have to change the way you approach things in order to see something new.

Do that with the tips above or with your own approach and you should find opportunity where others won’t or at least where they aren’t right now.