A lawyer friend explained his business model has changed because of technology and the Great Recession. People are doing more themselves using online resources. And they are pinching pennies, even though the economy is recovering.
His reflection isn't limited just to the legal profession. Many, if not most, organizations face a similar bend in their business. Old school has been dismissed. The new norm rewards unique (or at least distinguishable) products and services with clear, demonstrable value.
Factory workers worried about the automation of their jobs. The advance of technology has made that worry a lot more universal. Fast food restaurants are experimenting with robotic order-takers. Old-line retailers are turning to more online sales. Lawyers don't have as many papers to document. Organizations publish their own press releases.
The pressing need now is not to find job security, but to explore new ways to add value. If you aren't adding value, you are becoming less relevant, bordering on extinct. Even when you add value, if your product or service is nothing more than a commodity, you aren't going to generate the kind of revenue you want.
It is tempting to think the rules of economics are changing. They really aren't. People still act largely out of self-interest. Companies follow the path of maximum profit. Demand sooner or later will fetch supply.
What has changed is the division of labor. The industrial revolution was based on the principle of increasing specialization, which powered assembly lines, produced increasing product variation and drove down prices. Economies of scale still matter, but what also matters is the concentration of incredible power at your fingertips. You are no longer anyone's captive customer, and neither are your clients.
You don't have to spend all day dickering with a car salesman on the price of a vehicle sitting on the lot when you can bypass all that and order exactly what you want on the auto manufacturer's website. If you order a German luxury car, you can arrange to pick it up, drive it around and have it shipped back home.
Phone companies and cable providers have ephemeral monopolies as customers find alternatives to bypass their exclusive territories.
There are still big spenders and wasteful spenders. But increasingly there are more individual and business consumers that shop for value. It may be your depth of experience or trusted brand quality. It may be a product's utility or an organization's track record of integrity. It may be tips or tools to help people do something themselves and save money.
Make sure you know what value that you offer matters to your customers or clients. That's the wedge to your success in this new DIY, penny-pinching world.