What to Do When Your Industry is Disappearing

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MenLike it or not, over time there are some industries that will just fade away, sometimes due to technology, other times due to a changing marketplace. So it’s always a good idea to be prepared for when your industry might just die.

“It seems almost every industry is being affected by technology these days.  It is changing how consumers shop, how businesses market, and how everyone gets their information. As software eats the world, industries are changing. As the phrase ‘digital disruption’ implies, entire sectors of the economy are being forced to reinvent themselves…or perish!” said J.B. Wood, president and CEO of the Technology Services Industry Association and author of “Consumption Economics.”

Monitor your industry for downward trends and signs that your industry is waning. You can do so by following your industry’s trade publications. “Among the signs are that sales are decreasing due to market saturation, economic pressures, or global dynamics: The key to a viable business is to find an unaddressed niche in the marketplace. Once too many businesses crop up within that niche, it is time to develop income streams (services or products) that put you ahead of that trend,” notes professional life coach Linda F. Williams, founder of Whose Apple Dynamic Coaching Services and author of “Whose Apple is it, Anyway: Empowering Purpose to Achieve Your God-Ordained Destiny.”

Follow the money. Adds Wood, “Look at changes in total revenue and average prices. If total industry revenue is declining, that’s a sure sign. If total revenue growth is okay but the number of units sold has skyrocketed, that means your offers are commoditizing. Look at the music industry today.  The number of plays of music is at an all-time high and total industry revenue is at an (adjusted) all-time low.”  Also check out who your customers are, if they are changing. “Another way is to look at your clientele. Are you getting a lot of new, younger customers? If not, it may be because they have found a better alternative, or your offer just isn’t as attractive to them as previous generations,” explains Wood. “Finally, you should be paranoid. You should be keeping abreast of innovative new entrants to see what alternatives customers may be experimenting with and whether it is succeeding. Assume disruption is coming. When you see it, either transform or sell.”

Once you notice your industry may be fading or even decreasing in scope take action to keep your career afloat. Think about what skills you have that are transferable.  When interpreting for new positions in a new industry, stress the skills you have that are transferrable.

Use your imagination.”You should try to be your own disruptor. Spend time re-imagining your industry and your business. Software and websites have never been cheaper to build. Even if you’re not a tech person, try to envision radically improved customer services or experiences. Think about new things you can monetize. There are plenty of people who can build that software for you; it’s the thought that counts,” says Wood.

If your business is tied to an industry that is failing, look for new offers for your products. “See if you can package together offers into ‘services’ that you can sell as a subscription. Today, men can buy subscriptions to razors blades and drivers can buy subscriptions to cars. If you can take your core offer, add some services and sell it as a monthly subscription, you can attract fewer price-conscious, more service-conscious customers. They will pay a premium for the convenience of a hassle-free or concierge-like experience,” suggests Wood.

Williams agrees. “Focus on Research and Development,” she says. “ This should be an ongoing initiative in which to incorporate what is learned from industry awareness. Sometimes it doesn’t take a complete retooling of your business. It could be a smooth transition into other products added to your goods. If this aspect is properly implemented, changes to your industry should not sideline your company.”