Finding a new gap in an old industry may be just the foot in the door that aspiring business people need to leverage their way into a market that stokes their talents and stirs their passions. The older generation of business leaders have an uncanny knack for developing unbreakable habits, and sometimes it’s the young up-and-comers who are able to exploit a gap that the old guard didn’t even know was there.
Here are a few ways to find the voids in existing industries, and to make the solution your own profitable niche.
Keep Up With Changing Legislation and Regulations
When laws and regulations change, industries must change with them. In many cases, industry leaders spend more time trying to fight new regulations than they do trying to form a plan to adapt and succeed under the revised guidelines. Changes in laws provide a valuable opportunity for entrepreneurs to identify and fill gaps in their industry that simply didn’t exist before the new regulations were in place.
For example, Title VI of the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Montreal Protocol mandates the incremental phasing out of ozone depleting chemicals that were commonly found in refrigerants since the invention of air conditioning.
This is just one component of a much larger ecological trend in the private sector, but it forced unprecedented change in the industry and gave savvy entrepreneurs an opportunity to come up with cooling mechanisms that did not emit these harmful chemicals.
Once they found the solution, they could sell their new products and services to major, global corporations like Honeywell, who needed to retrofit their machines to stay in compliance.
Listen to Customer Complaints
Spotting a problem in an industry is often as simple as listening to disgruntled customers. Why do they dread dealing with the companies that dominate that industry? Listening used to require expensive, complicated polling and market research. Now, all you need is a Twitter account and a free social media management tool like Hootsuite.
When customers are annoyed, ignored and fed up with endless, automated “press 1 for this" customer service black holes, they often find empowerment through social media. Social media enables them to bring their situation to light, to warn others about their experience or simply to rant and vent. By monitoring hashtags from disgruntled customers, a sly entrepreneur might spot a pattern in repeated complaints — and therefore, he or she may spot an opening.
For example, since the mobile phone industry is a genuine oligopoly, it has historically been associated with very little price competition and abysmal customer service. For years, customer complaints landed on deaf ears at mobile providers who had their customers locked into contracts that were too expensive for them to break.
With the rise of social media, those complaints migrated over to Twitter and Facebook, where they were heard by companies such as Ting, which is now enjoying incredible success, offers à la carte options without a contract, and promises prompt, no-transfer customer service with real people.
Look for Unnecessary Middlemen
Middlemen take a cut and cause prices to increase. Wherever you can eliminate them, you can offer the same product or service at a lower price.
Take the example of a British entrepreneur who relied on experiences with his own physical imperfections. His poor vision led him to repeatedly pay for glasses that he could barely afford. He contacted manufacturers directly and realized that they would ship right to him if he asked — at a much lower price. His eyewear business, which pairs buyers with manufacturers willing to sell direct, now sells a pair of glasses every few minutes.
Gaps can be found by cutting out redundant middlemen, by pouncing on opportunities presented by changes in laws or just through good old-fashioned listening to unhappy customers (old-fashioned listening with new technology).
It is difficult for new entrepreneurs to take on corporate behemoths or to invent a new product from scratch, but by identifying a problem and owning the solution, a smart, ambitious entrepreneur can stake his or her claim to any industry right out of the gate.
Have you discovered a way to innovate your industry? Leave your comments below!
Marcela De Vivo is the CEO of Gryffin Media, an online marketing company that specializes in SEO, Social Media, Analytics and much more.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.