Staying Afloat In A Competitive Business Environment

Our streets, roads, the print and electronic media are awash with different offers from manufacturers and service providers. The one I enjoy so much is the one between the phone manufacturers. The competition is so hot that Apple and Samsung had to extend their “fight” to the court room 🙂  I also read online that one major phone manufacturer, and a one-time major player in the phone business, has been having some “survival” meetings with some organisations. How sad! But that is the nature of business. It’s like a game – no pity for the opponent and all the players cannot be winners.

As a consumer, I love competition for so many reasons. It affords us the privilege of having alternatives to choose from; it forces businesses (serious-minded businesses, if I may add) to see consumers as being the most important factor to consider and hence, be the focal point in business decision making process; it makes pricing to be at consumers’ advantage; it forces businesses to constantly seek for their loyalty; and it forces businesses that are not quality-conscious, to have a rethink……The benefits continues……

No doubt, as consumers are enjoying these benefits, businesses grapple everyday with the art of “out-smarting” one another in a game, an interesting one at that, that involves winning as many customers as they can, over to their side. Sadly, the inability to cope with competition is a major reason why so many businesses all over the world are finding it very tough to operate, and in extreme cases, many have “crawled” out of existence!

Competition has been the bane for so many businesses that have either not mastered the tricks of the game; cannot withstand it or have simply believed that businesses can survive on luck, mediocrity or chance for so long.

I got the urge to do this post after my wife started complaining that the number of businesses competing with her was rising every day. The fact is that the only way to avoid competition is to “close shops.”  Aside from legal monopolies (organisations given the legal power to be the sole producer or seller of a product/service), every business attracts other businesses in the same line of trade. Even where turnover/profit is not encouraging, or where a business enterprise is creative and launches an entirely new product or service, other people/businesses would still join the market and create competition.

So, since competition is inevitable, and the foundation of competition is “winner takes all,” what will a business do?  Apply for a legal monopoly status? 🙂 Well, I am not aware of any country where that is done. Cut corners? That too, is not a good business option as it is a short-lived solution that can even boomerang. So, what’s my take on competition?

Below are six [to avoid putting up a very lengthy post] of the tips I shared with my wife…..

1. See business like a boxing match. In a boxing match, boxers fix their eyes on each other to counter every move of the opponent. In doing this, they have to be alert and conscious of their environment – a case of complete alertness. Thus, businesses have to constantly be at alert – conscious of, and pre-emptive of competitors’ actions and inactions. I feel this among phone manufacturers this days. To me, competition among phone manufacturers is  good case study for my post.

2. Do something extra.something special.  Make your product or service very outstanding. Relate with your customers in a way your competitors are not known for. Give them a very competitive price, without lowering standards. Use marketing campaigns and strategies that your competitors have not explored or have not even thought of. Give your customers reasons to stick to you and give your competitors‘ customers reasons to cross over to you.

3. If making huge profits was your major focus, think of this : while you are busy chasing money, your competitors are busy strategizing on increasing customer base, including, of course, winning the hearts of your own customers over. So, my take on this is: re-strategise by making customer-focused strategies to be your main focus.

4. Where you do not see your customers for a while, do not wait for them. Reach out to them. In this age of high tech communication, distance or large number of customers is not an acceptable and reasonable excuse.  By just by clicking “enter” or “send” on your computer or mobile device, you can reach millions of customers. A simple message that reads : “Hi valued customer. I/we just want to wish you a splendid weekend” can go a very long way in reawakening a dwindled customer loyalty.

5. Every consumer loves convenience. Think of ways you can create convenience for your customers. There are many ways that this can be done. This however depends on the nature of your product. You can carve out time for home service, break bulk, arrange for delivery of the goods to the door-step of the consumers, ease usage, among others. All of these are aimed at satisfying different groups of consumers rather than seeing the entire market as being the same.

6. There is no doubt that the human resource “drive” an organisation towards growth, stagnation, decline or eventual collapse. It becomes MANDATORY therefore for businesses to engage and maintain(through motivation and excellent welfare and staff development packages) goal getters and workers who understand what business growth and success is all about. Thus, merit and not nepotism or sentiments should be a business’ over-riding criteria in employment.

Of special mention here, is the caliber of the CEOs and top management personnel who take far-reaching decisions affecting the entire business. This days, wrong choices of who pilots the affairs of a business would be a costly mistake as it could place a business on the path of failure, stagnation, inability to stand competition, and then collapse.

I hope you found my tips useful.  I would like to read your reactions 🙂

Thanks a lot for your time and wishing you loads of luck in your business 🙂

Advertisements

Customer Loyalty : A Condition For Business Survival

As the Manager, Administration/Accounts, of a medium sized technical services company in Lagos, Nigeria, I had had to contend with one of the most challenging functions of a manager, namely ensuring customer loyalty. One fact is indisputable – customer loyalty is the key to business survival, irrespective of the size.

As easy as the task appears, it requires a lot on the part of any business-minded organisation. Ensuring customer loyalty involves doing everything to ensure that the customer ‘’sticks’’ to your business i.e., that there is repeat purchases. It involves creating a devotion or attachment to the business by your business.

In a world where no single firm engages in a line of business, this can really be a demanding task. It therefore requires that businesses have to do everything possible to edge out one another in a bid to retain their customers.

So many businesses have had to be eased out of the market simply because of constant loss of customers to competitors. One big mistake businesses normally make is to assume that the loss of a customer ends at that single loss. But often times, the loss of a customer might lead to the loss of other customers/potential customers connected to the lost customer. Thus, customer loyalty is a task that must be achieved if a business must survive. Once your customers are loyal to your business, repeat-purchase/patronage can be assured. It will not be wrong to say therefore that in the world of business the consumer is king.

Here are some simple and cheap tips which I applied, which yielded excellent results :-

*Regular phone calls – The popular saying that ‘’out of sight is out mind’’ is very true and also applies     in the business world. A simple courtesy phone call to a/the manager or an owner of a business goes a long way in both showing you care and indirectly saying ‘’ please do not forget us/me.’’

*Branded gifts – Branded gifts is also a good way of attracting customer loyalty. These are gifts with stickers showing your business details on it. Everyone likes and appreciates freebies. It is also a form of advertisement for the business. Branded gifts usually travel far, thus creating more awareness and a has a reminder effect.

*A warm welcome and treatment – this is one of the no-costs things you can do to ensure customer loyalty. A simple smile can have a very powerful effect on a customer.  Everyone feels good when warmly received and treated. It makes the customer want to come back again and again, and even recommend your business to other people.

*After sales courtesy –this involves showing concern over the satisfaction of the customer after purchase or after rendering the service. This gives the buyer the impression that you are not only concerned about the money, but also their satisfaction.

*Courtesy visits – do not wait until your customers come to you before you see them. Do not practice sit-tight business. Pay regular visits. You could pick up deals in on some of those courtesy visits.

*Attend customers’ functions – find time to attend functions organized by your customers. It makes the bond between two of you to be stronger. You can even strike new deals there or even make new customers.

*Organize customers’ fora – here you and interact, receive complaints, suggestions, and you generally feel their pulse at such gatherings.  It gives your customers a sense of belonging in the business. Thus, you make them feel that your relationship goes beyond just buying and selling.

*Have branded work tools and materials – having branded materials like stationery, packing materials, delivery vehicles, receipts, invoices amongst others, has an effect of constantly ‘’announcing’’ your presence in the market place.

*Give bonuses and discounts – bonuses and discounts are powerful tools in business. Every customer wants cheap but good quality goods and services. Once in a while, grant discounts – cash, quantity or trade discounts. Quantity discounts have been known to attract customers more than the other forms of customers since it impacts directly on the quantity bought. Bonuses also encourage repeat purchases. A buy-one-get-one-free sale will certainly attract more customers and bring them back again. Festive occasions should not be the only time for granting discounts or bonuses.

*Give urgent attention to customers’ complaints – many businesses have lost customers because of their inability to handle complains. In some cases attend to the problem personally (for small businesses) rather than send your staff or junior officer (big businesses).

*Always say thank you and I am sorry – it costs nothing to say thank you to a customer who has patronised you. It costs nothing too to say ‘’I am sorry” where a customer deserves it.

*Never allow a customer to leave with annoyance. You may never have his patronage again. He could even discourage other potential customers from coming to you.

No doubt, no matter how good a business may be in terms of staff competence, high quality products, good location, best connections, highly skilled management team or strong financial back up, it takes purchases and patronage for businesses to survive. Customers determine whether the business stays or collapses. Their patronage determines whether a business is small, medium or large. No business opens its doors for employees to buy its products. they look forward to the patronage of customers.

In business, the consumer is king. So we have to do everything to get their LOYALTY.

Thanks a lot for your time.