Scouting a Promising Market: Sending Spies Into Canaan

The difference between scouting a new market and scouting a promising market is that the former may not exist–or come into existence–while the latter clearly exists because it’s already occupied.

Scouting a Promising Market

This post analyzes and extracts lessons form Numbers 13 (Revised Standard Version / RSV) for scouting a promising market. All of the excerpts begin with the verse numbers from Numbers 13.

Spies Sent into Canaan

Scouting a Promising Market: Binoculars Map (57) Sergey Norin

Numbers 13 2:3 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers shall you send a man, every one a leader among them.” So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.

Some truths

  • The leaders must be in charge of the analysis and must be personally involved in scouting a new market.
  • To get the ground truth they must “go and see” by visiting prospects, seeing their problems and needs firsthand and having serious conversations with them.
  • Unfortunately, the Almighty rarely intervenes to grant you a new market.

Numbers 13 17:20 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up into the Negev yonder, and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there is wood in it or not. Be of good courage, and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.

Some analogies between the features Moses describes and how these might relate to potential competitors

  • “people are strong or weak” are the competitors experienced and skillful or inexperienced and simply opportunistic?
  • “land is good or bad” are the prospects in this market solid businesses you would want as customers?
  • “camps or strongholds” are the competitors already in the market developing strong relationships with customers and developing ecosystems of partners or are simply looking for quick profits by minimizing investment and are not committed to the market?
  • “whether there is wood” are there major enterprises in this market that would be interested in long term business relationships or is it more of a commodity market with little customer loyalty?
  • “fruit of the land” what are examples of the kinds of problems that customers have in this market?


The Report of the Spies

Scouting a Promising Market: Binoculars Lugar Map (56) Sergey Norin

Numbers 13 25:28 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.  And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  Yet the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.”

The competitors are large, well established, and committed to serving this market because it’s full of high quality customers. Some of the competitors have been very successful for a very long time in a number of markets.

Numbers 13 30:33 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” So they brought to the people of Israel an evil report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim); and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Two views of the same opportunity:

  1. If you focus on the quality of the customers and the critical nature of their needs then you may often decide to move forward.
  2. If you focus on the strength of your competition and your own shortcomings you can psych yourself out of an opportunity.

The reality is that there is always competition if the market really exists. It’s not about finding a market where there is no competition but one where the competition is less capable and not committed, they are engaged opportunistically not investing for the long term.

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Photo Credit by Sergey Norin 56 and 57

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