Breaking the Enigma: Successful Business Development

4 min readMar 29, 2016

The process of successful business development, and continuous growth of a product, or service has always been an intriguing subject. How are these businesses, products, services and even people developing/growing successfully and doing so efficiently? Is there a process or model that is being followed?

My career thus far has allowed me to explore various industries and serve a variety of positions ranging from co-founding of a startup, -to various roles as a project manager, -to managing information technology and assisting with business development at a healthcare non-profit. Experience from these positions, along with life lessons learned along the way allowed the ENIGMA model to evolve.

Introducing ENIGMA

The acronym ENIGMA breaks down to the following:

Examine :To inquire into or investigate*

Normalize :To bring back to a usual or expected state or condition*

Innovate :To do something in a new way*

Grow :To become better and bigger*

Maintain :To continue having or doing*

Adapt :To adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc*

Now that we have an idea of the ENIGMA model and the definition of each phase, let’s break it down and see what happens using an example.

ENIGMA Model in Action

Let’s use a fictional product (Product Z) that wants to compete with Product A which we’ll define as a community marketplace for people to list and purchase items.

Examine: The first step would be to examine and investigate Product A. What is the business need? What market are they in? Who are their customers? Who are their competitors? What do they offer? What do the other competitors offer? In this instance, Product Z will need to compete in the online Consumer2Consumer (C2C) e-commerce space, catering to individuals who want to purchase items.

Normalize: The second step is to standardize Product Z to what Product A currently offers or does. Using the research and insight obtained from the Step 1 (Examine), this is simply a copying step to ensure your product offers what your competitors’ currently offer.

Innovate: The most important but probably the hardest step is to innovate. Innovation is simply doing something in a new way. In our example, Product A offers an online platform to list, identify and purchase items from others. To innovate (and set itself apart), Product Z could offer the added ability to auction/barter for items (not a strict set-price buy option, like that offered by competitors); another innovation could be the ability to rate/review purchasers and sellers. This step should bring added value to customers and ideally will set Product Z apart from competitors, by offering features they don’t yet have.

Grow: Now that we have normalized with the market (and our competitors), and have some innovative, value-added features; the next logic step would be to grow the product. I’m sure we all have our own opinions and experiences on how to implement successful growth; and I may write another article on my experiences with growth strategies and growth management — but the gist of it (for this example) would be to align the product with the proper marketing efforts to increase customer acquisition.

Maintain: At this point, Product Z is doing great — we are offering the same features as our competitor, we’ve created and added innovative features that bring value and we have done a great job in growing our customer base. Naturally now that we have a growing customer base, we will want to maintain that user base. How we do so is dependent on the type of customers and the customer lifetime value. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned regarding customer retention is to: set expectations up front, build trust/relationships, anticipate customer needs and automate the process when you can.

And that is how you have a successful endeavor, whether it be a business, product, service or even personal growth. Wait a minute, I feel like we’re forgetting a step — have you heard of MySpace? Not the MySpace that exists today, but the original social network before Facebook. If I recall correctly, MySpace failed because of their inability to:

Adapt: The final step, but equally important as the other steps — is to continually gauge the market, keep track of your competitors and adapt to what’s happening. If you stagnate in today’s fast paced world, you will lose (sooner or later). For our example, Product Z will continually have to adapt to other ventures and businesses that enter the C2C e-commerce space, by continually re-examining, re-normalizing, innovating, and adding/improving customer acquisition and retention strategies.

In essence, this model is not linear; I think for this model to be successful you’d have to take a continuous (agile) approach. At any given time, more than one (if not all) of these steps should be occurring.

Try if for yourself and apply this model to something that interests you.

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