Forecasting The Future – A Strategic Imperative
Everyone knows that things change, but the most successful companies seem to know what is going to change before anyone else. Does that make their leaders visionaries with a crystal ball? Most likely not. In most cases, the companies that are able to anticipate the future are led by strategic thinkers who have taken the time to ponder what comes next.
Strategy is more than just a cool-sounding word. If you know the future and are able to act on it before any of your competitors, you have a major advantage.
Can any brand actually predict the future? “Yes,” – with qualifications, of course.
If enough energy is spent doing the critical work of thinking, then your business can indeed predict a reasonable facsimile of the future. Why is this important? Below, we’ve consider a few of the areas where your strategic reaction to your future forecast can directly affect your bottom line:
Preparing For The Future
You operate in a world beyond your control – but you can control your reaction to events, as well as the pace of these reactions. Keep an informal plan of what could go wrong, and what could go right – that way you can stay somewhat prepared.
- Think about potential world changes – how would major transformations in the economy, technology, and/or political stability affect you?
- Also think about potential industry changes. Is is growing or shrinking? What are the threats? How would changes in government regulations affect you? What about changes in suppliers, or competitors?
How are you prepared to react? What are the opportunities? And if applicable, how can you take advantage of them?
As you begin the hard work of figuring out what you think is going to happen, start testing your marketing around these assumptions.
Make Strong Assumptions, Though
Jeff Bezos of Amazon did this with the businesses key marketing advantage – free shipping.
He fought for years with shareholders who thought his insistence on customer service was eating into the company’s profit margins. But Bezos understood that long-term, happy customers were more important than higher margins.
Today, its dedication to customer service has allowed Amazon to grab and hold leadership of the e-commerce market despite thousands of competitors. And its higher marketshare has led in the long run to, you guessed it, higher profits.
For the marketing professional, this means it’s important to consider strategic assumptions about the future in addition to current conditions if you want to succeed. A proactive approach, rather than a reactive one, can help you catch a wave before it crests. Change is happening at an accelerating rate, but if you can recognize the future before others, you have a huge advantage.
Now You Can Adapt Faster
In the Internet age, making strategic assumptions in business have taken on an added importance. New technologies can change the way an industry works in the blink of an eye, and companies that are not prepared to deal with the change can quickly find themselves falling by the wayside.
Record labels and the publishing industry are still struggling to adapt to a world where most content is consumed online. Had they put long-term strategies in place before these disruptions occurred, they may have been better prepared to deal with them.
If you can target your resources and hone your message to a future you see first, you will get a lead that your competitors won’t be able to close, and one that will grow exponentially larger over time. Your customers, of course, will appreciate your efforts to stay ahead of the curve, and they’ll be impressed at how your inbound marketing reflects your prescient state of mind.
Your knowledge, having put in the hard work of thinking about and then acting on the future, will be justifiably rewarded. It will be almost like having a crystal ball.
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