Identifying gaps in the market

Winning new business is an objective for every firm with the ambition to grow.

To do this it is important to be able to identify gaps in the market. The place to start, initially at least, is with your own business and its products or services.

Set down what you believe to be both your strengths and weaknesses, separating out what encourages existing customers to buy from you and where your competitors may have the edge over you.

This will enable you better to position your business in the market and to highlight the type of customer who is likely to want your product or service.

Then research the market. If you operate locally this may only involve keeping an eye out for areas where competitors already have a foothold but may not provide the offering of which you are capable. If you operate in a broader field, you may need to carry out a market analysis that involves, say, trade body data on trends and developments.

Assess your competitors' own customer bases and their product or service range and their pricing policies. This may enable you to identify areas in which they are weak or failing to offer a strong business delivery.

Network, too, as much as you can. Attend tradeshows, exhibitions and conferences, not only to make new contacts but to discover what other parts of your industry are doing and to spot new opportunities for your own business.

If it is appropriate, consider forming alliances or partnerships with firms that are in similar, complementary areas but not in direct competition with your business. This will allow both partners to promote the business of the other.

Contact existing and loyal customers to find out if they know of others who may be interested in what you have to offer. And profile those customers who are already buying from you so that you can spot similar business openings in other areas.

Interrogate your current product or service to see if there are additional sectors, as opposed to geographic regions, where there is a potential new range of untapped customers.

When you have isolated areas and customers that could deliver new business, focus on those that are likely to be profitable. Targeting these will mean that you can take best advantage of the marketing budget available to you without depleting resources in pursuit of clients who won't deliver the sort of returns that would make the effort worthwhile.

In all this, though, do not forget the customers that matter the most to you: the ones you already have. Always ensure you look after them all of the time.