Exploring The Blue Skies for New Opportunities

Positioning your business for growth in 2012

Blue-Sky Thinking. —n. creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs.”
~ Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

The business outlook is shaping up for things to improve in 2012. There is positive momentum coming out of 2011, and businesses have cautiously optimistic plans to grow in the New Year. They may try to expand current operations, or explore the “Blue Skies” to create new growth strategies. What are your growth plans for 2012?

Blue Sky thinking explores emerging trends to look at how the convergence of technologies and capabilities can satisfy unmet customer needs. Blue Sky enables companies like Starbucks to sell a cup of coffee wrapped in a outstanding customer service experience for four dollars. But Blue Sky is also the local lawn maintenance firm that expands to offer high tech lawn lighting, or a start-up with a smartphone App that generates consumer data for brands.

Growth requires a different mindset than we have become accustomed to over the past few years, as the recession required companies to become leaner, shed costs and “hunker down.”  If you are now optimistic and envision growth, your strategic plan must entail setting some goals, such as: doubling volume, entering new markets, or increasing profits by 10%.

But isn’t Blue Sky thinking risky? A prudent approach to growth is to leverage your existing core competencies to address new segments of customers or to find new markets. Evaluating and testing those competencies with customers may open new horizons.

To find the Blue Sky in your company, a good place to start is by examining your current and potential customer base.  Do you see any patterns or trends?  Look for ways to create touch points to employ technology and increase customer service. With a handful of opportunities defined you must evaluate our capacity. Do we have the resources for growth, the technology and the marketing capabilities?  Do we have the employee skills necessary?  These questions will help drive your strategy.

One area you may find growth is in the convergence of media, communications and service delivery on your IT platform. Today, IT represents the way we communicate and transact with our internal and external stakeholders.  By leveraging 1) social media, 2) a “total web presence” approach and 3) associated marketing analytics, you may find the patterns lead to new and profitable customer experiences. These three areas are also a great research tool to identify blue sky growth opportunities.

Social media offers the opportunity to directly engage in your community with new customers — as well as to service and increase satisfaction of existing ones.  Success is dependent on how well your team engages an audience in an ongoing “brand appropriate” dialog. To improve, you therefore must be able to answer the questions 1) how effective is our message to our audience and 2) what progress am I making given the various social media activities my company undertakes?

A “total web presence” is more than a Web site. Managing content within search engines and social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook extends beyond the online efforts of three years ago. Today, you must employ search engine optimization, Facebook and smartphones as marketing platforms to engage your customers.

Analytics from your social media and web presence enable you to understand where new opportunities lie. In a world flooded with information, analytics provide the means to discern good from bad data and derive insights. In order to generate the returns from your marketing investments in 2012, you must put in place metrics and the data to monetize your marketing. Every branding opportunity must leverage information to enable quick reaction when there is a problem or a new opportunity.

Whether your intention is to use these tools to market more effectively, or to seek out truly Blue Sky opportunities, it is critical employees understand the firm’s core competencies and brand messaging.  With no editorial filter between you and the customer, your employees must be empowered through training to converse directly with audiences and stakeholders using the new media technology platforms.

By eliminating the boundaries of the present day in your thinking about your new strategic plan, the Blue Sky is the limit to what the future holds for you and your company. Good luck and good marketing in 2012!

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