Questions to Ask When You are Jumping into a New Ecosystem or market

February 23, 2015

Our planet Earth exists in the solar system, and your company is part of the system as well. Call it an “ecosystem”. Before you can determine which partners to seek, or which channels to target, you first need to figure out which ecosystem you’re in, what other companies are in that ecosystem, and why those companies are behaving as they are. Third, you need to figure out your role in the system and think about whether or not there’s another ecosystem that would be a better place for your company to be. If the latter, you will need to develop a strategy for breaking into that other ecosystem.

Let’s say, for example, that you manufacture natural food bars of nuts and fruit. Your product is currently on the third shelf of the grocery store section labeled “muesli bars”. You have several different kinds of natural food bars. Some are quite similar to other muesli bars; you may think they are different, but if the customer doesn’t see a difference that matters, then there really is no differentiation. But you have made a conscious effort to make some bars as a healthy alternative to chocolate bars. They cost more to manufacture, and you’d like to charge more for them. In short, you’d like to take these particular nut and fruit bars from the Muesli ecosystem to another eco-system of differentiated, higher priced products and position them as a healthy alternative to luxury chocolate bars.

Or perhaps you have developed an app that’s useful in tracking mining blueprints, but now you want to sell it to architects, engineers, and building contractors. In other words, you want to move into construction, a new ecosystem.

Here are five sets of questions you need to answer before trying to jump to a new ecosystem:

Question 1: Current Ecosystem: Where are you in the current Ecosystem? The low cost provider of a luxury brand, or a high cost provider of an undifferentiated brand?

Question 2: Competitors: Who else is in the current ecosystem and what’s your competitive position in that system? What are your differentiators? Are they ones that matter to your customers?

Question 3: New Ecosystem: What ecosystem do you want to jump to and why? Where will you play in that ecosystem? Will you be perceived as higher cost or lower cost, as providing a higher end or lower end product vs. others in that ecosystem?

Question 4: New Competitors: Who else is in the new ecosystem, and what will be your competitive position if you make the jump? What are your differentiators in this new ecosystem and do they matter to your prospective customers or do you need to come up with a new set of differentiators to distinguish your company for the competitors?

Question 5: Your Organisation: Do you have the right people, systems, and strategies to be able to compete in the new ecosystem? Will you need to replace people now working for your company with people who have different experiences, knowledge, skills and expertise? Do you have the products, the marketing and sales muscle, the information systems and financial war chest to compete on the new playing field?

These are all questions that are best asked before you jump to the new ecosystem. You don’t have to have answered all the questions, or have made all the changes before you jump.   You can do some of this concurrently, but what you definitely need to communicate is that we cannot assume that what worked in the past will work in the future. We need to be willing to change in order to grow. And in answer to the question, “Are we there yet? Have we reached ‘nirvana’?” the answer is “No – so we need to get joy from the journey and celebrate our successes along the way!”