Bursting the Dam — The “Tipping Point” Market Opportunities
In our work, we spend a lot of time conceiving, considering, and evaluating new business, brand, and product ideas – some ours, some others. This is all in the name of unearthing new market opportunities through new and innovative value propositions. Some of these ideas are good and some are – well – more of a solution still trying to find their problem.
Over time I’ve come to realize that some of the best ideas are the ones that identify and tap into what we call “tipping point” opportunities. These end up being the products, services, and business models that blow open expansive new windows of opportunity for a business (and therefore lead to substantial growth). There is a method to how they come about and are cultivated. It goes more or less along these lines…
It begins with watching important trends – social, political, economic, technological, environmental, legal, and other trends. This exercise alone is often referred to as trend spotting. But it doesn’t just sit around and passively watch trends, it actively processes this information to identify where deep–seated nascent unmet needs lie. These are places where, for example, cultural shifts have changed people’s or businesses’ value systems and thereby awakened within them the realization that something is missing. But yet at the same time, no one is really doing anything (good) about it, at least not at any scale. Sometimes these nascent “vacuums” go unattended for years or even decades. It creates the situation where individuals or businesses have a “big but” hanging over their heads. They say things like, “we understand the importance of X, and as a result we really want to do Y, BUT it’s just too much cost / effort / time!” (take your pick). So, what we have here is a desire line… the want to do something different, but also an unchallenged barrier standing in the way. This works not unlike a dam on a river, causing a large back up. In our case, the dam is the unchallenged barrier and the back up is a pent–up demand – sometimes a large pent–up demand – for a solution that does not yet exist but really needs to exist. Like dynamiting a dam, the barrier is waiting to be challenged. When we have a situation like this, it represents what we call a nascent market… a real, but as of yet unactuated market, often with large potential, just waiting to be actuated.
And thus the power of the solution that removes the barrier and eliminates the “big but”! With the right business model and the right offering, a company can bring to market a new value proposition that bursts open the dam and – by solving the market’s unmet need – all of a sudden awaken an entire (potentially large) nascent market. Not unlike awakening a sleeping giant.
We call these opportunities “tipping point” opportunities, so named because they live their lives right on the very tipping point of breaking open dams of pent–up demand and opportunity. Very often it only takes the one right solution to burst the whole thing wide open. Whenever this is the case, we call these solutions “tippers”, for the same and obvious reasons.
Of course in all fairness I should point out that just because the solutions here solve a significant problem for a large pent–up demand does not necessarily mean that commercialization will be easy. Getting the solution into customer’s hands will still be work, particularly if one chooses to launch and build a new brand around it. There may be the need for entirely new marketing channels, new distribution channels, and new production channels, all of which must be considered in the solution’s go–to–market strategy. But even with this consideration, these still tend to be the most impactful and lucrative opportunities for businesses.
While companies may review hundreds or even thousands of business ideas, only a small fraction tend to be tippers. Sadly some businesses do not know how to recognize tippers when they are sitting right under their noses. But more important than recognizing them is knowing how to actively generate them. Once again, there is a process. If one knows what they are doing – of trend–watching with one eye and business–watching with the other eye – they can quickly recognize when a pent–up demand has grown and a solution the company can bring to market will unlock the nascent market. Going one step further, through trendcasting, they can even predict where in the future such situations may evolve. This process takes time and practice to get good at, but can be mastered. Once mastered, it allows a good market strategist to regularly spot strategically significant business opportunities. We ourselves have been a part of unlocking a number of these for companies, and I can affirm that they dwarf most of the incremental efforts that otherwise make up most business and product plans.
So ask yourself this question… What dams can we find to burst wide open? What sleeping giants can we awaken?