When the world changes as rapidly as it does today, one of the greatest challenges we all face in business is staying relevant to our target market. The main reason is that just as the world is changing, so are our customers. They have far more distractions, choices, opportunities and ways to communicate that can ultimately test just how strong the bond between customer and business actually is. Losing relevance will ultimately cost us market share and even worse, we can go the way of the VHS. This means we need to be doing everything we can to stay relevant.

Some businesses are very good at this. Some not so much. Think about the well-documented stories of Sony Walkman failing to take advantage of the digital music era, the taxi industry doing little to effectively battle UBER and many, many more examples. This is all comes back to a loss of relevance with an audience and it is one of the biggest risks facing all of us in business today.

So how do we make sure we stay relevant to our audience?

1. We need to spend time where our audience spends time.

To stay relevant and engaged we need to make sure we are getting the right information about needs, wants, expectations etc. from our targeted audience. This means spending time with them face to face, spending time with the virtually, spending time with them however we can. As soon as we are disconnected from our audience in any way, our relevance starts to diminish.

2. Connect in ways that your audience wants to connect.

There are no shortage of ways to communicate, the challenge for us when it comes to staying relevant is ensuring that we are communicating in ways that are relevant to the market. If our targeted audience is embracing a new social media platform and we are not, clearly there are issues ahead. This might sound ridiculously obvious, yet I constantly encounter businesses that are complaining that they can't reach their audience but they are trying to talk via platforms that they like, but their customers no longer use. We need to be nimble and flexible and connect how our customers want to connect not how it suits us.

3. Effective communication means engaging.

If you want to be relevant with your audience, communication needs to be much more about engagement as opposed to a one sided stream of information. We need to find the right way to stay engaged with our audience, that encourages a sense of trust and builds a meaningful flow of information, and that means a two-way flow. This is especially important to help with product development and sales - are we offering products or services that our audience wants to buy?

4. Stay aware of what your competitors are doing.

We need to be aware of our competitors without being obsessed by them. We need to know our competitive advantage and be able to explain this to our audience. We need to know where where they are heading, what their focus is and how that will impact our business. Ideally we want to be setting the pace for our competitors to follow, and the only way that will happen is by having an incredibly deep understanding of our customers.

5. Know the trends heading your way and have a strategy to take advantage of them.

I was a marketing consultant long before the Internet came along. When the first whispers came out, and email started being a thing, it became very obvious, very quickly, that the online world (as we started to call it) was going to change marketing once and for all and we needed to start planning for it now. Many years later, there are still a surprising number of businesses that live in hope that the Internet will disappear. There will always be game changers coming along, disruption is a word that we are all very familiar with, we need to be open minded and ready for it.

6. Welcome critical thinking within your organization.

We all know that the old style of thinking that resists change is deadly in a modern business. Whilst we don't want change for change sake, what we do want is a culture that embraces and encourages innovative thinking to keep our business relevant. We need to be aware of the signs that might suggest our culture is not as welcoming of critical thinking as we need it to be (resistance to change, lack of creative problem solving, negativity towards anything new etc.).

7. Embrace cross industry innovation

All too often we look for innovation within our own business or own industry. From my experience we are far more likely to find innovative ideas that we can adapt and use in our own business from outside our industry. To really utilize the opportunity we need to become students of other industries and innovative communities (online and offline). I spend up to two hours every day reviewing other industries, looking for innovative ideas that I can teach to others and apply to my own business.

Staying relevant to our target market is a challenge for every business, but it is becoming increasingly urgent as consumers are drawn to all things new.