And that question is, “Where are we going?” This core question will point any company’s strategy development and follow-on branding in the right direction. Not asking this question could easily leave your company vulnerable to competitive threats and brand erosion.

The reason it’s so essential to know your core direction is because the past decade has ushered in so much change to the business and consumer marketplace it’s mind-boggling. In fact, much of what was once commonly understood to be smart strategy has been turned on its head. This has put many companies out of business and left just as many struggling to figure out how to make their revenues grow or just plain out stay in business.

There are three basic game changers you need to consider:

If you’re looking for a reason for all this change, start with the Internet and the power of the thousands of media outlets it brought that has fragmented the consumer and business marketplace into small niche groups. Each of these groups has very specific characteristics with equally unique demographics and related social psychology and interests.

Add to that, these niches are only appealed to using highly customized and equally specific targeted messages. One promise that succinctly presents a value proposition will outperform general market brand messaging any minute of the day. Casual lists of benefits, that leave their interpretation of specific applications to a general audience, are not investigated by target buyers if they are discovered at all.

The market factor impacting all companies is the proliferation of brand and brand messaging that frankly is overwhelming to everyone in the market. What was once a simple phone call to specific well-known companies for an item has become a search on the Internet where hundreds of products may be found. The more you are able to pinpoint focus your brand messaging the better off you will be.

The culmination of all of these factors is your strategy had better align perfectly with what your market wants or they will be shopping elsewhere. The old tools of pushing out brand messaging and hoping someone will pay attention and seek out your company are gone. From now on knowing what your customers are asking should determine where your company goes next. And that starts with the right question.