Earlier blogs have noted a shift among nonprofits – we are embracing the language and practices of entrepreneurs.   Whether an outgrowth of boldness – or the necessity brought on by the recession – we are looking for new ways to serve and earn revenues – and for new revenue streams.

Recently I had the opportunity to share stories of mission scalers and change makers to see how their lessons could be applied to a national membership organization and its local offices.  The social entrepreneurs profiled in books, such as Rippling by Beverly Schwartz, have much to teach us about the power of innovation, collaboration, leadership and impact.

A social entrepreneur uses entrepreneurial principals to organize, create and manage a social venture to achieve a desired social change.  One of the lessons I took from Rippling is the importance of understanding your customers and markets.   Years of experience in market research have taught us the importance of asking a few critical questions:

  • Are you thinking about expanding services to a customer demographic that is well understood by your organization or are you expanding beyond your comfort zone, so to speak?
  • Is this customer ideal for your organization?  Or, should you pursue a different target market?  What does market segmentation tell you?
  • What industry will you be competing (or collaborating) in?  Is it one you know well – or is it new?

If you are pursuing a venture with earned income and profit goals, then you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about your proposed customers and markets, and understand as much as you can about the dynamics of the industry.  Skimping here will be costly, if not in the near-term then in the long-term, as the choices your customers and competitors make will likely impact your revenue and the bottom line.  After all, not all earned-income programs deliver to the bottom line.

Want to be an entrepreneur?  Think markets and customers.  Then, do some market research.  Your strategic success depends on it.

View each part of this Corona Point of View (POV) Series: