Whether your business is a startup or is looking to expand or diversify with a new product or service, how do you know what you need to do first?

Develop Interest & Test Engagement
Are your customers looking for a new way to book their appointments electronically or through a phone call? While a web-based, automated scheduling system might provide greater efficiency through reduced and redirected labor costs, it could turn off customers who prefer phone scheduling.

One way to determine how well a new service might perform is to inform existing customers of it through e-mail, your website and in-person notifications. Giving established customers the option to schedule their appointment via the web, with described benefits, along with traditional means (a phone call to your office), can serve as a test group to see if it’s worth adopting and including in future advertisements for new clients.

Monitor Local Searches
Location-based marketing can determine what local Internet users are searching for and what the local competition offers. Using mobile phones, tablets and other mobile devices, location-based marketing works through passive local search terms and active messaging through apps and text messaging. It can target searchers through defined geographic areas known as a geo-fence.

By searching for and testing search terms based on geography and service type, an analysis will determine what services are in demand and served based on their location and search frequency. For example, existing and new businesses and consumers looking for plumbing services can be identified through keywords and their frequency rating. Mobile marketing campaigns can then be modified accordingly.

Implement Technology to Capture Customers
Use social media to engage with customers and monitor their desires to determine what’s being supplied and what’s in demand. For example, search followers’ Tweets in Twitter using hashtags to see what they’re talking about. Depending on the frequency of that hashtag, or Twitter keyword, demand can be created or responded to. Similar to Twitter, monitor Facebook posts, responses and Likes to determine if a product or service is in demand, in supply or needs to be modified.

Using Google Alerts, along with monitoring consumer review websites, can help determine what’s in demand or what supply already exists. Google Alerts can be set up to monitor web searches for keywords to flag certain topics so you can see what the competition is doing to meet the demand. Reading reviews on popular consumer websites such as Yelp, AVVO or industry specific review websites can determine what people are looking for based on questions they ask advice for. Answering questions on consumer review and resource websites can help engage customers to see what services they are looking for and how they like to communicate.

While there’s no exact science to determine what the competition is doing and what consumers are looking for, leveraging social media and using an existing client base to introduce a new technology can help out with implementing technology and gaining an edge over the competition.