Diversification is a bit of a buzzword these days, dominating the news in industries such as farming and retail where many business owners are weathering financial turbulence.
For some of these companies, branching out into new markets has helped them establish new sources of profit and ensure the future of their business in a changing market. But there are still many business gurus who argue that standing your ground in a niche market is a better way to ensure your business survives.
We've explored some of the realities of diversification to help you decide if this form of expansion is the right one for the future of your business.
One of the obvious reasons to consider diversification is the potential for an increased income. Not only can this help you to keep your business afloat, but it could also contribute to expansion elsewhere in your business. Essentially, having two or more areas of focus could mean you stay financially stable when one isn't doing so well, and they can all work to balance each other when it's time for you to grow.
Another great reason for diversifying is that you will add value to your business. We don't just mean financially - If you're able to offer something that is relevant to your current customers or clients, you could add value to their purchase and encourage them to come back to you in the future. No matter what your industry, explore some of the 'value-added' products or services that your customers otherwise have to seek elsewhere. Examples of this include a farm that butchers and sells its own meat, or a pet store that provides grooming services.
A new market
Entering a new market, whether related to your current market or not, doesn't come without risks. Just like when your business was brand new, you'll need to do plenty of market research to make sure you're prepared and capable of providing the services your customers will want.
Market saturation is another important a consideration, as you don't want to enter a new area that may already be dominated by a number of key players. Of course, there is always an element of uncertainty when entering a new market - no amount of research can completely prepare you - but if you spot a gap and plan ahead, you could make your business more appealing and more secure against difficult economic times.
Growth and diversification will likely require some initial funding, just like when you set up your business in the first place. You may need to hire new staff, buy new equipment or invest in marketing. This means increased overheads and larger salary expenses, and can ultimately result in damage to your bottom line. Make sure you plan in advance so you're prepared for these extra expenses, and don't forget to grow slowly where possible.
For the most part, the impact diversification could have your business is down to you. While some industries consider themselves more suitable to diversification than others, there are usually opportunities for growth if you look carefully and research well.