How to identify business opportunities

Every company needs to know how to identify business opportunities. There are no prizes for those that stand still in the business world. Become complacent, and prepare to wave goodbye to the standing you’ve established in your industry; if you do not take the available opportunities, best believe your competitors will gladly scoop them up for themselves.

Of course, it is not simply a case of finding a business opportunity and going with it. You need to identify the right opportunity. Some pose greater rewards and fewer risks than others, which can be dependent on your business, industry, and current resources.

Man asking "how" in an animated gif.

That is all well and good – but there is just one question: How do you actually find a market opportunity for your business?

If you are scratching your head and struggling to identify business opportunities, we have you covered – no matter if you are a business owner, budding entrepreneur, or manager of an existing company.

This guide will highlight a wide range of methods to identify business opportunities, as well as explain what this aspect of commerce is and showcase examples of different types of opportunities.

What is a business opportunity?

How to identify business opportunities? This image shows a "Opportunity Knocks" message on a mobile phone - that is one way LOL.

It might seem self-explanatory, but before getting into how to identify business opportunities, it is important to know what one actually is. Known as a “biz opp” to those who hate normal words, it is an opportunity presented in the current market – in the commercial sense.

Business opportunities can be found in various forms; they range from new product opportunities to expanding into other markets. Plus, these opportunities do not just exist for big cheeses that currently run an enterprise; aspiring entrepreneurs looking for their entry point into the business sector, perhaps to launch a startup, can also scope them and seize the chance to put them on the market.

Without trying to sound melodramatic, business opportunities can sometimes be the difference between an organization succeeding or failing. Those successful in identifying and capitalizing on profitable opportunities have a significantly stronger foundation to grow upon, stay relevant, and stand ahead of the competition.

An example: Amazon Prime

So, we’ve covered the market opportunity definition – but let’s take a quick look at an example for further clarification. Amazon became the premier online retailer for a reason: the company took advantage of the opportunities that saw it continually grow its brand visibility and its customer base.

One such opportunity the company seized was its Amazon Prime service. However, offering just next-day delivery was not enough for the marketplace giant; Amazon bundled in other benefits such as video, Kindle, and music services. The result? The mega-corporation has over 200 million global Prime subscribers.

Types of business opportunities.

Notepad and coffee cup in front of laptop computer.

There are various business market opportunity examples. Some opportunities are more helpful than others, depending on your company’s current situation. Let’s narrow down a few universally helpful ones:

Product diversification.

Whether it is McDonald’s or Adidas, every business is on the lookout for ways to diversify its product range. While a company might stick with a core collection of products, it is important to adapt to customers’ changing needs and tastes. That means updating and adapting products within the said core range, as well as adding more.

Moreover, diversification also allows a business to target new markets. For instance, if your enterprise currently only focuses on summer footwear, you might decide to create boots for winter, which may see profits continue consistently year-round rather than just before and during the summer months.

Revise and refine.

Opportunities are not necessarily aspects to add to your business; they can also be presented by revising what you currently utilize. A certain aspect could be the technology you use. If there are new solutions on the market that greatly improve productivity and automation, you may wish to revise this area of your company.

As mentioned, this notion also extends into your product range; while you may have a core selection of goods – perhaps signature items for which your brand is known – incorporating updated products that are better than their predecessor models is part of the revising and refining process, which is a lucrative business opportunity in itself.

Look at Apple’s iPhone range as one of the most iconic market opportunity examples in this case; the mega-brand is famed for its original smartphone range, which it has updated year after year to keep up with both technology and consumer shifts. Thus, Apple has stayed relevant and ahead of competitors for over a decade and is likely to continue to do so if its track record is anything to go by.

New hires.

Adding to your workforce can help you achieve certain business opportunities – for instance,  bringing in someone with skills and expertise in a specialist field. Suppose you’re not proficient in website development; in that case, a new hire could fill this gap and turn it into an area of strength within your company.

Onboarding employees is not necessarily about adding new skills, either. As an example, a new hire could help free up time for you to focus on other integral company tasks (among which is identifying new business opportunities, of course!)

Strategic investments and partnerships.

Getting an investor on board is a brilliant way to expand your opportunities tenfold. You can dream bigger and potentially inject extra resources into your business, purchase new technology and equipment, hire more employees, move into a bigger office, and enjoy numerous other advantages.

Furthermore, partnering up with another company is a bonus opportunity, enabling you to access new resources and strengthen your competitive advantage. After all, why waste time, resources, and funds fighting the competition when you can join in partnership and dominate your industry together?

Spreading out to other locations.

Expanding to new horizons is another potential business opportunity to explore. For example, spreading your company geographically could mean opening a second location if you own a coffee shop – possibly turning it into a café chain in the long run if business goes really well.

However, this idea can also be more widespread than merely situating a fresh company branch in a new town or city; it could mean targeting an entirely new country with your products and services. Indeed, going global is a coveted business opportunity, and if you manage to accomplish that goal, your company can savor even more opportunities unique to each foreign land.

How to identify business opportunities in any market.

Large lightbulb drawing in front of dry-erase board full of business opportunity ideas.

Identifying business opportunities is necessary to grow and succeed – no matter the company’s size, scale, and industry. However, don’t fall into the trap of believing you have to go all-out each time to produce an original, revolutionary idea that nobody else has thought about.

Sure, an idea that can change the world would be incredible, obviously – but reinventing the wheel is not necessary in most cases. Simply tweaking and developing an existing idea will often do the job. Still, you must learn how to find potential business opportunities before you can even discover the easiest ones. To help, here are some tried-and-tested methods to do just that!

See what is selling.

You probably did not expect this starting point to be so simple. In any case, you do not necessarily have to go out of your way or use specialist analyst tools to find opportunities.

One of the easiest ways to find business opportunities is by checking out popular marketplaces, retailers, and service providers in your niche. Visit Amazon and other similar commercial platforms, view what is currently topping the “Best Sellers” charts, and you will see opportunities begin to appear instantly.

How does that approach generate business opportunities? Well, it is simple; by learning what is selling like hotcakes, you understand what customers in your target audience want – and, more importantly, what they are searching for and purchasing.

Say you own an online jewelry store and are looking for product ideas to wow your customers. What do you do next? You go ahead and search for necklaces on your competitors’ sites or perhaps somewhere broader, like Amazon.

Undertaking this search can reveal common attributes and patterns, such as necklaces made of silver or those with personalization options, for instance. You can also see if the prices of the more popular necklaces (perhaps those on the Best Seller list) fall within the same range or differ drastically.

With information about what’s selling, what is popular, and price ranges, you can see what is currently working in your chosen market. Then, it is a case of building on what is working to provide the ultimate necklace that will rocket up the sales charts in your store – not your rivals’.

If your competitors’ range of silver chain necklaces sells like wildfire – and they happen to be reasonably priced – therein lies a new idea. You must create a silver chain necklace collection (ideally, one that is even better than the competition’s) and offer it for an even more appealing price.

TIP: Learn how to do a market opportunity analysis.

Learn from customer reviews.

The voice of the customer is one of your biggest assets when pondering how to identify business opportunities. When refining or developing new products, customer reviews are a goldmine for learning about new opportunities. Think about it – even if a product has a large collection of five-star reviews, there will always be the odd few dissenting voices.

Granted, some testimonials mention aspects unrelated to the product itself – we have seen so many people posting a bad review solely due to delivery woes, even if shipping problems were not the retailer’s fault.

Still, customers’ voices can provide valuable, constructive criticism. If not criticism, less-than-glowing reviews may provide suggestions for improving what the purchased product currently offers.

When it comes to market opportunity analysis with reviews, you also do not have to stick to just your products; you can analyze the product testimonials left sold by your competitors.

In fact, looking at your rivals’ bad reviews is an excellent way to find issues with products currently on the market and develop an alternative that irons out these complaints – yet again, a genius business opportunity.

There is just one problem when finding opportunities through reviews, though: it takes a lot of time to extract the gold.

With GapScout, you can easily filter through thousands of reviews as the program’s AI technology identifies common themes across your market. These themes can place the spotlight on areas that could do with some improvement – and that is how you can identify new business opportunities.

Ask customers what they think.

Individual filling out form on clipboard.

There is a more proactive approach to learning from your customers; instead of waiting for reviews to filter through, you can directly ask them what they think about your product.

You can undertake this approach in any of the following ways:

  • Focus groups
  • Customer satisfaction questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Email correspondence
  • In-app feedback

Now, you might need to offer a little enticement to get your audience to play ball (an exclusive discount code should do the trick!). Getting your customers to speak their minds is an excellent way to learn from the people that matter most to your company. If you are able to satisfy the needs of your customer base, you are on the right path to creating new products that will get them to keep coming back for more.

There are various questions you can ask to get the information you seek. You could ask people in your target market about their favorite brands, what they like and dislike about the product they bought from you, the amount of money they would be willing to spend on such products, and why they chose your brand – a few basic queries, but helpful to your business nonetheless.

The data you gain from the answers will reveal the best areas to focus your company’s time and resources, showcase new ideas, find gaps in your products and the market, and, subsequently, allow you to maximize your opportunities.

Regarding business opportunity analysis, paying attention to trends can pay off – big time. For instance, adopting this approach in your social media marketing strategy is one of the easiest hacks; posting about a trending topic is an effective way to get people talking, garner engagement, and even go viral with your content.

Better yet, analyzing trends can also be a profitable method for producing new products that will generate plenty of attention and, hopefully, sales.

There are numerous ways to find out the latest trends. Going back to social media, you can discover what is trending by checking out your chosen platform’s “Trending” section – most social media outlets have this option, including Instagram and Twitter. A savvier method of browsing current trends, however, is to utilize Google Trends.

As its name suggests, Google Trends is an excellent way to learn about what customers are searching for – right now. It is a tool that collects all the data from Google, so you are reassured of accurate, valuable information. Best of all, Google Trends is free to use!

However, it is essential to pay careful attention if you go down the trending route. Products based on trends can be profitable – but they can also have a short shelf life. If a trend disappears before you can even finish developing your product, you could be left with a lot of stock gathering dust.

Related: 3 Ways to do Market Research with Google

Pay attention to the competition.

We have already touched on this in the reviews section above. That said, it is worth spotlighting just how useful the competition can be when identifying new opportunities.

Naturally, this tactic might seem like an oxymoron. After all, surely the competition is limiting opportunities for your business, right? While this is true to a large extent, your competitors are also home to valuable data.

You can uncover this data by performing a competitive analysis. In doing so, you can learn what your rivals are doing, their strengths and weaknesses, why customers choose them, and so much more.

Paying this much attention to the competition assists in discovering business opportunities. For example, if a competitor is slacking in a specific area, you can step in and develop your products or services to enhance their current offerings.

Solve a problem.

When someone turns to Google, they do so to find a solution to their problem. This query might range from Netflix subscription prices to finding how-to guides – like the one you are currently reading.

However, while finding solutions with a quick Google search is possible, it is not always that easy, which is good news for you. Why? If people are experiencing problems in your industry, you can develop and supply the solution.

There are numerous ways to uncover the issues people in your target audience are experiencing. Answer the Public is a great free tool to use. All you have to do is type in your keywords – such as your industry or product type – and the platform will fire out a range of questions that people are currently searching for about said industry or product.

Some of these questions may not help further refine or develop a product; however, they could help in other areas – such as crafting high-quality content for your blog that answers your customers’ queries and, therefore, solves their problems.

Complete a SWOT analysis.

Dartboard with dart near bullseye.

Last but not least, SWOT is a popular technique for an organization to analyze four main elements:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

The first two steps in the process involve identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your business. These points are important to evaluate, so you know where your company stands internally, which then helps you understand the types of opportunities you will realistically be able to attain.

However, the opportunities part of the SWOT analysis is the main focus. While a full SWOT analysis will not necessarily reveal a wealth of opportunities you never previously considered, the process can cover various categories this blog post has discussed already – such as economic trends, target audience shifts, funding changes, market trends, and even government regulations in some cases.

So, why use a SWOT analysis? Firstly, it is an actionable technique that allows you to observe all of your business’s key elements to success in one place. This strategy is thorough and highly effective because it limits your chances of opting for a wayward opportunity.

Because of the nature of a SWOT analysis, it is also something you can complete during strategic times to find new opportunities. For instance, a SWOT analysis makes sense at the beginning of each year; you can critically look at your business strategy from the previous year before looking ahead.

You also do not have to stick with just an annual check-up. If you sense a major shift in your industry, for example, completing a SWOT checklist could pay off in identifying new opportunities on which to capitalize.

Wrapping up…

With the importance of finding business opportunities, it is crucial to explore every possible avenue to discover those that fit your company.

The information in this guide gives you the foundation, but it is up to you to take the initiative, launch from this foundation, and find the market opportunities that will help grow and improve your business – and catapult it to new heights in the future.

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Justin Ferriman
Justin Ferriman
Justin is the founder of GapScout, the easiest way for solopreneurs and small businesses to find profitable gaps in their market. Follow Justin on Twitter→

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