Business owners need to adapt to market conditions and evolve, or risk becoming irrelevant
What does owning a successful business mean to you? There are a lot of ways to recognise success, but one of the most important is longevity. Being truly successful goes beyond sustaining a few years of growth. It requires keeping one eye on the market and a lot of experimenting behind the scenes.
In business, people talk a lot about product market fit. What it refers to is whether there’s a customer base for your goods or service to tap into. But one thing people forget with market fit is that it’s not static, it’s dynamic. So while you might have the perfect offering one day, you’ve got to constantly be thinking and validating how you serve your customers going forward.
Just because you have the best product at any one time doesn’t mean that it will be the best product in your space in a year, month or even week. The key to sustained success is making sure you stay relevant and are innovating to serve your customers’ future needs. That requires research, thinking and testing.
You and your team should be regularly looking at the market and staying in touch with your customers. Are you touching base enough, asking for feedback on platforms like Trustpilot, or reaching out directly with surveys or interviews? These forums and the responses you get should inform your experiments and ideas.
When you’re running experiments you have to run a lot for one to work. Perhaps you’ll start with 50 ideas and then you’ll whittle it down to maybe ten that you want to test. Of those ten, two might work, and you can take them to the next stage. The main thing to remember is that you’re simply generating ideas and finding out which ones work. It doesn’t matter if the majority don’t come to much, the important thing is to find one that does. Just like a venture capital fund has to invest in lots of businesses to find the unicorn, if you don’t do the testing, you’ll never find the winners.
At MarketFinance, invoice finance was our core product when I started the business back in 2011. When I started the company the market was totally different ‘ we were one of the first to launch in the FinTech space. However, I know that the market has changed and that our customers have different expectations from their banking services now. So we adapt, we innovate with new products and we constantly ask ourselves how we can offer something that we know people need.
You see successful companies doing this all the time. Think about Netflix. When they started out, their mission was to deliver a brilliant at-home movie experience to their customers. Their entry point was mailing DVDs to their customers through their letterbox. You’d watch them at home and then return the discs. For a while this worked well, but when high speed internet rolled out across more and more homes, the market changed.
This was their opportunity to pivot, and they saw that they needed to expand and update their offering. Now you can stream from your living room or even from your phone in a train carriage. But it’s the same long-term vision of getting great content delivered to people in their own environment. It’s just the method that has shifted. You can’t say the same about Blockbuster, who didn’t capitalise on the future of home content being in streaming. This isn’t exclusive to film and TV, it’s true across many industries. Just think about how we consume music nowadays compared to even five years ago.
In business, you adapt when the market changes, or you die. Having a clear understanding of your mission or North Star will help you never lose sight of your overall goal. Your methods will change but as long as you keep asking how to package your offering to win demand, you’ll stay one step ahead.
Experimentation is the key to long-term business survival. But remember that with experiments, many don’t succeed. That’s not a failure; it’s learning. Keep testing and evolving to stay relevant to your audience and your mission.