One of the hardest and yet most valuable things you can do for your brand is to plan for the future of your brand. Yeah, I know. Just handling the day-to-day strain involved in keeping all your balls in the air at once challenges your resources and stamina. Future planning may seem like a futile thing to do in your business, especially if your industry seems to move at lightning speed, changing every time you turn around. Yet, without effective, thoughtful, fact-based plans for the future of your brand, you’re doomed to failure. Maybe you won’t fail today, but the writing is on the wall.

Future planning involves both plans for the near term, say the next 12-months, and long-term planning for the next 5 years or so. BTW, Japanese companies tend toward very long planning horizons and 50-year plans aren’t unheard of there. Obviously, especially in fast-moving industries like technology and healthcare, even near term planning offers many challenges but that’s where market sensing comes to your rescue.

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What is market sensing

The term market sensing traces its roots to academic research on long-term organizational success and was first used by Jaworski and Kohli in the mid-1990s. They define market sensing as:

a broad generation of market intelligence by an organization relating to present and future needs of customers, distribution of these knowledge across the organisation’s functional unit, and the organization’s responsiveness/reaction to the market.

Essential elements of a firm employing market sensing is that they are not only outward-looking, continuously gathering and analyzing data from a variety of external sources, but effectively transmit those findings throughout the organization and encouraging managers to adjust their strategies based on these findings.

Firms with effective marketing sensing are better able to learn, perceive, and respond to changes in their external environment, creating a market orientation within their firms that improves their performance vis-a-vis competing organizations. They’re also better placed to anticipate new competition from global brands or the introduction of new products to compete for their customers. A market orientation, for instance, anticipates changes wrought by changing technology, customers wants, and competition to adapt their strategies before they become untenable.

An example of market sensing

As an example, ride-share services like Uber nearly wiped out the taxi industry. Yet, the technology supporting ride-sharing was readily available and movements in other industries suggested consumers accepted such citizen services that upended the financial intensive industries where companies owned resources (like cars, hotels, etc) rather than the low-cost alternative of enlisting owners with idle capacity to profit from their excess resources. Companies like Yellow Cab were already in the taxi business and understood how that industry worked. Had they recognized the shift in technology and culture, their response to early competition from Uber and Lyft would have changed their business model and they would be the owners of the ride-share business. Instead, they dug in their heels, trying to force the future from coming (for instance using the courts in an effort to eliminate competition from ride-sharing services at airports) and lost their opportunity to capitalize on shifts in the external environment and their superior knowledge of the industry.

The future looks different for every company, but your business should use data and cloud ERP solutions to figure out what potentially lies ahead for your industry. But, don’t forget to scan what’s happening in other industries and the external environment to ensure you effectively plan for the future of your brand.

If you want to build a business that thrives in an uncertain future, we offer 4 insights on actions you can take to help ensure the future for your brand.

Invest In A Consultant

Hiring a consultant with experience in your industry, especially one who has diverse connections with consultants or high-level employees from other industries. A big part of market sensing comes from these diverse connections and a consultant brings this wide experience to bear on your planning. That’s why many large companies have board members with vast experience across different industries. A growth consultant commonly works with your company periodically to review your plans and offer suggestions.

You invest in excellent software to keep your business secure and keep your data protected, so why not invest in something to safeguard your brand even further by offering objective insights on the future of your brand?

Go Big With Digital

We have already mentioned how software helps your business to remain ahead of technologies related to the cloud and security, but digital platforms offer great opportunities to help guide your business toward its brightest future.

More and more businesses move to a digital platform every year, to supplement or replace their physical operations. In the midst of the Coronavirus situation, businesses had to think more creatively about core business operations, something that potentially pays dividends far into the future. Businesses who lacked an online operation were forced to move their inventory into e-commerce and restaurants found ways to sell meals and even alcohol in a no-touch environment. The experience they gained offered protection from a future that threatened the ability of their business to continue.

For other businesses, telecommuting replaced crowded, open office plans, with multiple benefits. First, hiring top employees is easier when they don’t have to relocate to high cost-of-living cities like Seattle and New York. Second, telecommuting exposed the waste and productivity drain involved in both commuting and working together, which was once considered obligatory, especially for innovation. In stark contrast to theories that telecommuting reduced productivity and concerns that firms needed tools to monitor the behavior of remote employees, telecommuting works while lowering costs.

Not only does digital positively impact your business operations, but digital listening strategies also help businesses discover changing consumer needs quickly. By listening to what consumers say, do, and show on online platforms like Facebook and YouTube, companies gain insights straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s like being invited to the dinner table with a billion people from around the world.

Think About The Environment

Unless you lived under a rock for the last few decades, you know that deterioration of the natural world escalated since the industrial revolution dispelling arguments that humans, as part of that environment, didn’t contribute to degradation.

Yet, industries felt no compulsion to do anything about the decline of plant and animal species, rapid declines in green spaces, like the Amazon rainforest, global warming, poor air and water quality, and the overuse of clean water sources such as the Colorado River. Instead, they fought against the efforts of environmentalists, seeing legislation as increasing their costs and limiting their profits.

Consumers force companies to re-think that philosophy by voting with their dollars. Companies, like Amazon, which announced its plans for carbon-neutral operations by 2040, with a reliance on sustainable energy much quicker, recognize consumers care about the environment and support companies with plans for sustainability with their dollars.

Look Toward Automation

You can take off the tinfoil hat: the robots are not stealing our jobs. Automation makes our working lives easier and our online marketing efforts more effective and efficient. Never forget a post again or drop the ball with a prospective buyer because you didn’t send sustained, valuable messages to encourage a purchase.

Start with menial tasks, like lead nurturing designed to drive contacts toward a purchase and work your way through other business operations with an eye toward automating as many repetitive tasks as possible.

Develop strategies for automating tasks but remember you still need the personal touch with some consumers. But, even tasks that appear resistant to automation efforts provide opportunities for the future of your brand. For instance, firms may automate their customer service, using sophisticated chatbots armed with state-of-the-art AI to address most customer service issues. Since these bots never sleep and don’t take a day off, their 24/7 availability counters complaints about automated responses. In fact, many digital users have no idea their chat doesn’t involve a real person on the other end.

Similarly, new tools allow content automation. Many newspapers in a time when profits don’t support large writing staffs use automation tools to write routine stories such as local school board meetings and sporting events.

It may seem overwhelming to plan for the future, but the future is coming. If you want your business to be alive and well by then, you need to plan effectively.