What’s Your Market Telling You?

Every market is constantly speaking. The question is, “Are you listening?” Sometimes markets speak through silence. Sometimes they speak through outright rejection of an idea or product. Sometimes they speak through feedback and comments, often suggesting adjustments they’d like to see in a product. Sometimes they speak by fully embracing a product. And sometimes, very rarely, they speak through mass hysteria and viral adoption.

But regardless of what they’re saying, they’re always saying something—even if their only statement is silence (which rarely connotes anything positive).

Now, the reason why I’m asking you this question is because I’m frequently in conversations with business owners and entrepreneurs who don’t know what their market is saying—even worse, they’re not even asking the question. Instead, they tend to have an idea in their heads about what they want to execute on, “Come hell or high water,” … and that’s almost always a mistake.

Just because an idea sounds good to you (or good to you and your team) doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The people in your market determine if something is a good idea or not. Are they buying it in mass or not? Are they recommending it to others or not? Are they willing to be inconvenienced in order to obtain your product or not? Do they connect with your marketing copy or not? Do your marketing efforts drive more sales or not?

Your market is always saying something to you either by the way it acts or by what it says, so what is your market telling you today?

I. One Way I Had to Learn This Lesson

Several years ago I had to choose a name for my consulting company. Since one of the things I did (and still do) is help business owners and entrepreneurs figure out how to grow their businesses faster, I decided to name my company “Accelerated Growth Consulting.” Sounds pretty obvious, right?

A few years later I was listening to a “blogging expert” who said that you and I should host our blogs on a site other than our primary business site (something I don’t agree with anymore, but I did back then). Since I blogged about business growth issues I tried to find a domain name that used the word “Growth” or “Grow” in it.

I spent hours and hours on GoDaddy one evening trying to find a domain name I liked. I was even making up words. I would dissect parts of Latin root words and then combine them into new words (and yes, even those made up words were taken already. Ugh!). So, I went to bed that evening kind of frustrated.

Then I woke up suddenly around 2:30 a.m. that morning with a new idea, “Wired To Grow.” I liked the idea so much that I literally got out of bed and grabbed my laptop (which was in our bedroom because of my earlier search) and searched GoDaddy for “WiredToGrow.com.” Fortunately it was available so I immediately bought my domain name right then, in the middle of the night, and then went back to sleep.

Once I switched my blog name to Wired To Grow something interesting happened. Almost everyone who heard the name said the exact same thing to me, “I love that name!” What made that so interesting to me was that I had NEVER heard anyone say that about my current business name at that time (Accelerated Growth Consulting). After the 10th or 20th time of hearing that statement I thought, “Maybe the market is telling me something. And maybe I ought to listen.”

So, I did. I filed the paperwork and changed the name of my company. And guess what, still to this day, when someone asks me the name of my company and I reply, “Wired to Grow” I frequently hear people say, “I love that name.” The market spoke and fortunately I chose to listen.

II. A Couple of Ways You Can Implement This Lesson

The key to hearing is always listening, and the key to listening is always desire. If you don’t really desire to listen, no one can make you. If all you want to do is do what you want to do regardless of what others think, you’ll never really listen or hear what someone, let alone the market, is telling you.

However, if you actually do desire to listen, the simplest way for you to do this is to set up some routines that put you in a position to listen on a regular basis. For example, when Lou Gerstner came to IBM in the 90’s, one of the first things he did was to require his top team to talk with five customers per week and to report back what they were hearing to the rest of the group. In other words, creating a weekly metric of listening isn’t a bad idea. The more you listen, the more you’ll hear what the market is saying.

Of course, this presupposes that you’re clear on who your market is. If you’re not, chances are you’ll tend to listen to what you or your top team think—which probably isn’t your wisest choice (or what your spouse thinks, if you’re married, or your friends), Unless those people happen to be in your target market, their perspectives probably aren’t the best for you to listen to. Instead, you want to make sure you’re listening to people who are actually in your target market.

Another option is to listen to what the data is telling you. If you’ve just launched a campaign and it’s not gaining traction, the market is telling you something. If sales are down, the market is telling you something. If a product that’s been selling well for the past year has leveled off and buzz is down, the market is telling you something. In other words, you might want to set up a routine of reviewing sales and financial data on a regular basis (every Monday morning or Friday afternoon) to see what the market is saying (i.e. to track the trend lines).

Or you might want to visit a number of customers and do customer interviews. Or do a customer survey. Or hire a company to do some focus groups. Or listen in on customer service calls. Or review the support desk contacts.

Or you might want to study your competitors and notice how the market is responding to their product and service offerings, as well as their marketing. Is the market telling you something in relationship to your sales vs. their sales? If their sales are taking off and yours aren’t, the market is saying something. Are you listening?

The market is always speaking. So what is it saying to you right now?

If you want to be wise, make sure you’re always listening.

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have an experience where you listened to what your market was saying, make sure you add your story below in the comments section (or click here >> if you’re reading this by RSS feed or email)