How to Find, Assess, and Act on New Business Opportunities
“Winter’s are some of the best wealth-building opportunities… [they’re] challenging, but they’re followed by spring.”
Brands that thrive—even in the face of unexpected downturns—all have one thing in common: they know how to act on the right opportunities.
These brands take steps to seek out new opportunities and crisis proof their business when times are good… they don’t wait until they’re in the eye of the storm to make survival decisions.
Economic downturns and times of social disruption don’t have to be scary times for your business. In fact, when there are more apparent problems that need solving, there are more opportunities for your business to connect with your brand fans and be the solution. And if you plan for down cycles and diversify your business in times of health, you’ll be in better shape to act on the opportunities that arise when times are tough.
In this article, we’ll share our framework for finding and assessing new opportunities, as well as our tips for creating your own opportunities during times of crisis. As you consider opportunities for growth, use these frameworks to make sure you’re growing in the right direction!
Framework for Pursuing New Opportunities
1. Focus on Your Brand’s Purpose
As you consider new opportunities, don’t lose sight of the purpose of your company. Bright, shiny opportunities may appear that are not in your wheelhouse and don’t make sense for your brand. Knowing your company’s purpose will help you assess if opportunities are right for you. If they are, pursue them wholeheartedly regardless of the obstacles that may be presented.
Since you can’t pursue every open door, it’s helpful to filter opportunities by considering your brand’s objectives and mission. To do this, try writing out your brand’s OKRs (Objective & Key Results). Setting objectives and determining the key results that you are trying to drive will help guide you in your decision making.
Remember: Your business is not your “what.” It is not simply the products that you make. It is your “why,” your mission. Don’t get distracted by the wrong opportunities out of desperation.
2. Weigh the Value and Cost
For every opportunity that you want to pursue, assign both a value and a cost to it. To bring this opportunity to life, what resources are needed? How much money? How much time? And what value will it bring in return?
It’s important to ask yourself these questions up front to ensure the investment is worth the return (and that you’re able to fund it without overextending yourself). That being said, we’re not necessarily saying you should play it safe. More on that next…
3. Take Risks, Cover the Downside
“Make sure your risks are calculated, that you manage the downside and there is reason to your decision making, but as I’ve always said, no one ever reached for the stars from the comfort of their couch!”—Richard Branson
“Covering the downside” is a fundamental rule of entrepreneurship. If you want to grow your business, you’re going to have to take some risks. The key is to make sure you can cover the downside—no one risk should have the power to ruin everything you’ve built!
Protecting the downside is simply about taking smart risks. Here’s how this could look in practice: When you are considering a new opportunity, examine all of the possible outcomes before you move forward. Determine the “worst case” scenario and identify how you would mitigate the fallout.
Calculating risks should give you the confidence to move forward in your plans. After all, if you’re confident you can cover the downside, what do you have to lose? Go for it!
How to Create Opportunities during a Crisis
1. Check Your Mindset
An abundance mindset is critical for identifying and acting on new opportunities. This is especially critical during times of disruption. When you’re walking through difficult seasons, it’s easy to get bogged down by limiting beliefs, pessimism, and fear. Remember to challenge these beliefs, focus on finding a way through, and know that opportunities are on the horizon.
Operating out of an abundance mindset does not mean you should throw caution to the wind. It’s important to secure the ship when a downturn happens and make sure your expenses are in check… but don’t live in this scarcity mindset! Once you’ve done what you can to minimize damage, cultivate an abundance mindset so that you can move forward and seize opportunities that come your way.
2. Help Your Customers
During difficult times, opportunities will arise if you brainstorm ways to be a part of the solution. As a starting point, consider how you can create content that uplifts your customers, as well as what steps you can take to make things easier for them. For example, can you waive shipping fees or provide some additional level of support?
Helping your customers in a downturn is a great way to build your connection with your customers and turn them into loyal fans. During difficult times, there is a greater need for emotional connection. Just imagine how you would feel if you were in the customers’ shoes! If you can brighten your customers’ day, their gratitude will last far beyond the crisis—you’ll have turned that customer into a brand fan for life.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may also be able to pivot your product line to help a new set of customers. More on that below…
3. Pivot and Repurpose Your Product
Along the same lines, take a look at your product line and consider ways that you can pivot or repurpose your products to make them more valuable during the downturn. Within your business, there is a ton of value in your systems, your processes, and your manufacturing that could be used for a different purpose. Get creative here. Think about the value you have and figure out how to repurpose that to offer something new, without fundamentally changing your business.
For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, one distillery started making hand sanitizer to help with the shortage. Some restaurants started providing food delivery boxes with their supplies that they were unable to use. Both of these are examples of taking advantage of new opportunities in the marketplace while also helping customers in need.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Fail
One of the benefits of a downturn or economic crisis is that it creates a “no-fail zone.” When everyone is trying new things and adapting to survive, “failing” at your new ventures is no longer shameful. Continuing with the example from above, if you are a restaurant that is now providing grocery delivery boxes, there’s a high probability that your first few weeks won’t go smoothly. Boxes won’t get delivered on time, items will get damaged in transit, and food will spoil. In a thriving economy, customers don’t have grace for these issues. You’d quickly lose your customer base, and it would be difficult to rebuild. However, in a crisis, customers’ mindsets shift. When the world’s expectations are turned upside down, your customers will accept a few bumps along the road.
Take advantage of these times to try new things. As an example, here at Metacake, we saw an opportunity during the coronavirus pandemic to create marketing education specific to ecommerce businesses. The result is our Ecommerce Bootcamp, a six-week course designed to help ecommerce businesses plan successful promotions (shameless plug: a replay of the course is available for you here!) It was so successful that we’re on our way to creating additional courses in the coming months! Take it from us—you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you’re afraid to fail!
5. Don’t Worry about Scale… Yet
When you’re considering new opportunities, it’s easy to write off those that don’t seem scalable. During times of crisis, we recommend throwing that concern out the window—don’t worry how a new initiative will scale at the outset.
For example, you may want to try connecting with your customers by sending handwritten thank you notes (or even calling them to thank them for their support!). If you’re in ecommerce, you may want to invest in offering live chat or local delivery within a 2 hour window to make sure your customers’ needs are met. These ideas may seem radical, but just try them! If it’s a booming success, a fire will be lit under you to figure out how to make it work.
6. Consider Partnerships
Instead of isolating your company during a downturn, look for opportunities to collaborate. There are a lot of opportunities to expand your reach by partnering with other brands (maybe even competitors!). For example, you could consider co-marketing with other companies in your space, swapping email sends with brands that have a similar audience, creating a product or service offering together, or finding brand ambassadors to partner with to extend your reach.
As you’re pursuing new opportunities, make sure you’re also examining and optimizing your current business practices. In the midst of a downturn, you may find yourself with more time on your hands. This is a great opportunity to examine your business’s foundation and invest in optimizing your current systems and practices. If you seek opportunities to optimize your business, you’ll emerge from the downturn with a stronger, healthier foundation.
For example, you may want to take a look at your website and make improvements to increase conversions. You could also consider ways to optimize your marketing calendar, email strategy, and content marketing. Improving these tools and channels will ultimately streamline your business, cut costs, and set you up for immediate growth.
Opportunities are Knocking…
The best way to act on new ventures is to keep this mental framework top of mind—especially when unexpected opportunities arise! Set a reminder to revisit this framework throughout the year to make sure you are taking steps to plan for healthy growth. If you are actively innovating your business and seeking opportunities that align with your brand’s mission, your business will be prepared to tackle anything on the horizon!