Which Escalator Are You Riding?

First Published:
May 1, 2017
Market Opportunity Analysis
John Lenker
Kelsey Tollefson

In this Article

  • Understanding the product/service lifecycle
  • Recognizing your weaknesses and inherent strengths
  • The importance of a smart market opportunity analysis


It’s a tired metaphor, but running a business is an uphill battle. While some businesses are able to confidently ascend the slope and defend their position as market leaders, other ventures get stuck on their way to the top. They make missteps that send them tumbling down the hill, and still others have yet to attempt the climb at all. If we think about it, our business’ situation can be characterized by one of these four conditions: Just Starting, Gaining Ground, Standing Still, or Losing Ground.

If we want our business to be sustainably successful, it essential that we understand the forces that are contributing to our business's current situation. so that we know for certain how to intelligently plan, successfully execute and nimbly adjust to ever-changing market conditions.

Understand that a Business Markets on Escalators

Here’s a new metaphor: The opportunities a business pursues are the escalators it rides in the attempt to gain the high ground of market share and profitability.

Escalators basically have three energy states: They’re going up, they’re going down, or they’re stuck in a fixed position. We’ve all wasted energy walking up stalled escalators, but every once in awhile we’ll see people attempt to climb descending escalators. It’s frustrating to watch them as they struggle to overcome the energy working against them while trying to gain the “higher ground.”


We wouldn’t willingly put our business interests on a downward trajectory. It’s essential, therefore, that we know which direction the market forces are moving so that we understand how they’re impacting our efforts.

It seems obvious that we shouldn’t pursue market opportunities that are either stalled or on their way down, yet we find businesses doing this all the time. The question is: Why do businesses so often pursue “opportunities” with energy states that actively work against their efforts?

Sometimes entrepreneurs misfire by launching their enterprise too late in the product/service lifecycle once momentum has already waned. Sometimes, established business owners fail to innovate in their market-spaces because old habits die hard: They do what they’ve always done and don’t understand why this approach isn’t profitable anymore. In either case, they don’t fully realize that more efficient and higher-success-probability alternatives are likely somewhere close at hand. What it comes down to is knowing where our offering lives on the product/service lifecycle continuum.

If we’re following a trend that is on its way up, then great; it is simply a matter of making sure that what we’re offering is differentiated and that we know how to attractgain, and hold consumers who contribute to your overarching business goals. If, however, we’re riding an opportunity that is either stuck or is moving the wrong direction, then we need to realize that what we’re offering is either rapidly becoming—or has already become—commoditized in our market-space. If we find ourselves in this situation, it’s essential that we begin looking for other escalators to ride (that is unless, of course, our business centers on playing the high volume, low margin game).

Know How to Market to Your Strengths and Recognize Limitations

If our business is gaining ground, we’ve done a good job of multiplying the internal forces of our abilities and resources with the the external forces at work in the market opportunities we’re pursuing—at least for the moment.

If we’re just starting out or are either standing still or losing ground, however, it’s essential that we do two things. As outlined above, we must first make sure that we’re pursuing a market opportunity that is on its way up and not stalled or declining. Second, we must take inventory of our strengths, weaknesses and other internal factors in order to ensure that we’re truly in the best position to take advantage of the market opportunity we see.

It’s not always easy to be honest with ourselves when we take this inventory—especially when we get our hearts set on something. We may genuinely see a golden opportunity in a market-space, but we don’t realize that we’re either not well positioned or don’t have the practical ability to pursue the opportunity. Reasons include being under capitalized or under-qualified.

Get Your Business on the Right Track with a Smart Market Opportunity Analysis.

Image credit: Lenker Consulting

If you’re gaining ground in your market-space, congratulations. The energy of the product/service lifecycle is likely working in your favor, and you’ve effectively employed your unique abilities. There are two things to keep in mind as you climb: First, it’s essential that you understand how you’re differentiated from competitors who are also trying to ride the opportunity. Second, it’s essential that, when the momentum in the market starts to shift, you’ve identified ways to innovate so that you can ride a new product/service lifecycle curve without missing a beat.

If you’re just starting out or are either standing still or losing ground, make sure that the market opportunity genuinely represents an opportunity for you based on your unique abilities, qualifications and resources. You must also ascertain whether you’re entering early enough in the product/service lifecycle that the opportunity’s momentum is contributing to your success, not diminishing it. Unpacking and confronting these realities can be often be a painful process for business owners—but you don’t have fight the battle alone.

The solution is to find and work with a qualified marketing consultancy. Good marketing consultants have taken the high-end thinking and creative out of the agency model and brought it to you within the context of the consultancy model. Marketing consultancies are able to offer you objective, effective, and affordable advice that will help you become a winner in your marketspace.

If you’re ready to get started, then contact Lenker Consulting by taking our marketing "weather forecast" evaluation below. You’ll get a free, customized report that is like a marketing personality test for your business. It will not only provide you with some great insights, but it will also put us in the best position to know how to advise you based on your current situation and needs.

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Free Marketing Weather Forecast

These 12 questions are like a personality test for your business. But instead of a personality profile at the end, you'll receive a custom report offering high-level insights about your business's marketing health.

01. What's the primary focus of your business?

02. At which stage of market adoption does your primary product/service offering exist?

03. What's your business’s core competency?

04. What's your business’s current situation?

05. What average clients/customers retention rate?

06. On average, how satisfied are your clients/customers with your existing product/service offerings?

07: How satisfied are you with your current level of revenue and profitability?

08. What’s your current level of optimism for your business’s future?

09. How important do you feel that a smart marketing strategy is to the future success of your business?

10. Within which range does your annual level of gross margin fall (Revenue - Cost of Goods or Services Sold)?

11. What percentage of your operating budget do you spend (or are planning to spend) on marketing?

12. How many employees work for your organization?

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