If your firm is like 99% of all other firms, your business in 2020 is not what you thought it would be when you were planning for it a year ago.

Clients are placing a ‘hold’ on projects or canceling them altogether. Some of your clients might have gone through layoffs and are not spending a dime. Perhaps you work in a certain industry vertical that has taken a real hit this year (travel, restaurants, etc.).

And when that happens, as business leaders and managers, we are obliged to take a step back and ask, “Should we be looking outside of our core business and considering other opportunities?”

As the saying goes, “It never hurts to look!”

But where do you look? What other kinds of opportunities should you consider?

Strategically, there are two broad opportunity categories to consider:

  • New industries/markets
  • New services/products

New Industries/Markets

Or asked another way, “Who else, outside of our current client base, would be interested in buying our services?”

Here, we’re talking about looking at new vertical industries or niches within industries, new markets, maybe even new geographies.

For the sake of explanation, let’s suppose your firm specializes in doing patient satisfaction surveys for hospitals.

So, the question you might ask is, “Our hospital clients love the work we do for them. Who else could we be providing similar services to?”

This might lead you to think of things like doing subscriber satisfaction for health insurance companies or maybe doing patient satisfaction surveys for non-hospital entities like large physician practices or outpatient clients. With those two examples, you’re looking at staying in the same industry – where you’ve built a great reputation – but exploring new niches.

You might leverage your US-based hospital experience to explore similar opportunities overseas.

Or even take your proven methodology and explore other markets, like doing employee satisfaction surveys for large employers.

Here, the key is to take advantage of all of the patient surveying experience and find new places where it can be successful.

New Services/Products

In this category, the conversation starter is a little different… “Our hospital clients love what we do for them? What else do they need that we can provide?”

Perhaps you can expand your ‘targets’ within a hospital to include employees, visitors, admitting physicians, etc.

Maybe there are other research-related services you can offer… focus groups or on-site IDIs, utilizing diary tools for patients to track their experience or maybe even do some secret shopping in the hospital cafeteria.

Remember this core selling principle, “Buyers won’t buy from you until they get to know you, then like you, then trust you.” Well guess what? You’re already there with your current clients. The bond is built. The key here is to ask them, “How else can we help you?”

Moving Forward

So, if pivoting is a serious consideration for your business, where do you begin?  You’re in the research industry… so do some research. Talk to your clients, pay close attention to your competition, track trends in your industry. Looking at new industries or markets? Find someone to make personal introductions for you in that space or start reaching out to people on LinkedIn. Also, check into the top associations and publications to help you learn more about the new industry.

Moving away from your core business can be a scary thing. But so can standing pat… perhaps waiting for the inevitable to happen. You don’t have to make a decision immediately, but you do need to start thinking about it and discussing it internally. Remember the old phrase, “If you keep doin’ what you’re doin’… you’ll keep gettin’ what you’re gettin’.