In business, profit goes to the company with a sizable chunk of the market. In most cases, this is usually the companies
in the top 3 position; first, second and third. This position is not determined by a regulatory body, but by their market size – the number of customers these business serve on a consistent basis. Market share is a numbers game. You are only as profitable as the number of client/customers patronizing your business.
I have often said this, if your business is not a force to reckon with in the particular industry or niche you belong, you are as good as dead. When your industry or niche is being mentioned, which companies come up as reference points? Is your company among them? Is your company a threat to your industry or niche? If your answer to this question is NO, then there’s much work to be done.
Let’s get down to business!
This is the 4th article of the business growth 101 series. If you haven’t been following, here are the previous articles of the series;
What is a market share?
In very simple terms, market share is the number of loyal customers your business or company has been able to retain over a long period of time.
The key word in this definition is LOYAL.
Last week I began a series on business growth where I discussed about what to do when business is slow. In that article,
I mentioned that the first strategic action to take when business is slow is to diagnose the cause of the problem. If you are just joining us in this series, click here to subscribe, also, you need to read the first article to have a good grasp of what I will be sharing in this unusual article.
In this second installment of the series, I will be going in-depth to look at the necessary steps to take while diagnosing the problem of low sales in your business.
1. Do a survey
The first step towards diagnosing the problem of low sales is to ask questions. You have to speak to the appropriate people to find out what could be responsible for the low sales. There are two categories of people you should direct your questions to; your employees [internal survey] and your customers [external survey].
Internal Survey [employees]
The best place to start is from your employees because they are the ones closest to the customers. Talk to them to find out what they have been noticing, ask them if the customers had been laying any complains, are there any issues or trend you need to be aware of, and are there any competitions nearby?
These and many more are possible questions you should ask your employees as regarding the customers. Don’t be a one-sided physician by focusing only on what your employees think about the customers; also find out if your employees are experiencing any challenges on the job. Their ability to meet the needs of the customers is directly linked to their own needs first being met. Meaning, the satisfaction of your customers, largely depends on the satisfaction of your employees. There is no two ways around it, if they are not satisfied, your customers won’t be satisfied, period.
So talk to your employees, find out what challenges they are facing on the job. If they lack certain skills, make sure you provide adequate training; if they are understaffed, make sure you take in more hands; if they feel they are underpaid, make sure you increase their pay; if they lack morale and are not motivated to work, make sure they are in positions and doing the work that they love.
In summary, this is what you want to find out; are your workers effective and how efficient are your business operations?
It will not be easy having to call on all your employees one after the other asking these questions, that is why using a survey is very efficient. Simply come up with these questions as a printed questionnaire and send it across to them. Be sure to cover both sides of the coin, there side and their views about the customers.
External Survey [customers]
Having conducted a survey internally, the second set of questions must be directed to the ones who suddenly stopped buying –the customers. This is often referred to as ‘customer satisfaction survey’. The objective is to find out from the horse’s mouth what exactly is wrong with your business and the products/service you offer that has made them to reduce patronage.
Your concern is to uncover their level of loyalty to your business or brand. You want to know if they are still yours, going or gone. Depending on how well you have been meeting or exceeding their needs, will determine the quality and quantity of feedback you will get. One great way to increase their participation is to offer certain incentives or rewards for their time taken to answer the questionnaires.
As much as possible, make the questions a combination of both closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. This is not about you, it is all about them. So, be sure to highlight the key areas that are of paramount concern to them such as; product/service utility, customer service, order-to-delivery time, price, quality, packaging, communication and so on.
2. Competitive analysis
The second strategic action to take after doing a survey is to find out what is happening in your industry or niche. This is known as competitive analysis. You want to be sure your business is still relevant among its peers or has been left behind.
Are there any competitions just entering into your line of business? Are you up-to-date about current market and industry trends? Are there any major policies from the government affecting your industry? What are your competitions doing that you aren’t doing? Do you know why they are doing what they are doing? Does your business have any competitive edge compared to other businesses in your industry or niche? Is your perceived competitive edge still relevant?
Your objective is to uncover any major changes that are taking place within your industry and in your competitions businesses. You are not doing this because you want to simply duplicate these changes, you are doing them because you want to find out why and how they relate with the low sales you are experiencing.
You must never forget to link all your findings back to your problem of low sales. Not everything that happens in your industry or competitions businesses is potentially capable of affecting your own sales. So always ask yourself this; “how is this finding affecting my business in terms of patronage?”
3. Environmental scanning
After the competition comes finding out the changes occurring in the larger environment such as; economic, cultural, religious, political, infrastructural, natural disaster, war, and other major societal changes that can potentially affect your business.
Environmental scanning will reveal much larger changes than competitive analysis. Perhaps a classical example is the current economic meltdown sweeping across the world. It is already obvious what the outcome will be; low patronage on the part of the customers as they have less purchasing power.
Scanning the environment reveals a general trend that affects everyone irrespective of the industry or niche they operate in. It is much broader than competitive analysis as it factors in other forces that can affect the sales of almost every business.
Another example is the ongoing electoral process going on in my country Nigeria. There seems to be an unspoken code that is making everyone hold back on making major capital expenses until after the election.
Following these 3 critical steps can help you better understand the reason your business is experiencing low sales. Without taking these 3 steps, it is possible that the solution you seek to correct your problem of low sales is inappropriate for your peculiar situation.
So, ensuring you fully grasp the cause of your business’ low sales will help you in formulating an appropriate solution that will better address the problem.
This brings us to the end of the first strategic action you need to take when business is slow – diagnose. In the subsequent 3rd installment of this series, I will be covering other strategic actions you need to take if you really want to effectively tackle the problem of low sales in your business.
Until then, over to you, I want to know how you have been able to put these 3 steps to use in your business and what were the resulting impact they had on helping you combat the problem of low sales?
Kindly share your story, experience or suggestions in the comment box below. And for you who is just joining us in this series, make sure you subscribe by filling the form directly under this article to ensure you never miss out on the rest of this exciting series.
If you haven’t subscribed yet to naijapreneur! this is a great time to do that because you don’t want to miss out on any of the unusual articles that I will be sharing in the course of this series.
Click here to subscribe and let’s get that over with before we go into the first installment of this exciting entrepreneurial series.
The highs and lows of business
Business will be slow whether you like it or not, so get used to it! Sometimes, if the cause is within your control, you could do something about it. At other times, when things are outside your control, there may be nothing you can do.
Fortunately for you, this unusual article is about the things you can do when business is slow.
In everything in life, there will be highs and lows. Business likewise, is no exception. There will be high sales periods as well as low sales periods, both periods are necessary for maintaining balance in business.
Both are necessary forms of feedback and any serious minded entrepreneur should focus on making the most of both periods whether highs or lows rather than choosing one over the other. This is a fact of life and its better you get used to it and learn how to make the most of it.
As humans, it is only natural to think in dichotomies; positive and negative, good and bad, black and white, high and low, hot and cold, pain and pleasure and all others. The truth is this; we need both shades of dichotomies to maintain balance here on earth. Those things we refer to as unpleasant are actually the ones that make us better human beings.
After all, we are creatures of feelings, and the unpleasant ones tend to drive home the point faster than the pleasant ones. We learn better from our mistakes than from our victories. The same principle applies to the business world. You cannot have one side and reject the other; both are necessary and have their benefits.
Somehow, entrepreneurs don’t seem to have any problem dealing with high sales periods; after all, we don’t ever get tired of having more. But when it comes to the low sales periods, all hell seem to break lose.
This unusual article is about knowing what to do when business is dull or slow. It will help you make the most of the low sales periods every business usually encounters every once in a while. It is very important to know that some low sales periods are self inflicted and others are not.
I have decided to write this because one of the businesses I run has gone through this phase and I am a better entrepreneur as a result.
Strategic Actions To Take During Low Sales Periods
When things don’t seem to be working out well in terms of revenue for your business, it is an indicator that something, somewhere, somehow is wrong. So, the first step to take is to trace the source of the problem. Meaning, take the pain to find out what is responsible for the low sales you are currently experiencing in your business.
What I have seen most entrepreneurs do when they are experiencing low sales is to lash out frantically looking for a ‘quick fix’ solution to the problem of low sales. I refer to this kind of response as taking wrong actions.
In other cases, they simply respond by doing nothing believing that “this little affliction is but for a moment.” I refer to this kind of response as inaction.
Whether you responded wrongly or you didn’t respond at all, both are inappropriate responses to the problem of low sales. Folding your arms doing nothing won’t make the problem go away, and taking the wrong actions would only end up complicating matters. So what do you do?
Like every Physician, you diagnose before you prescribe. First find out the cause of the problem [diagnose] before implementing any solution [prescribe]. Spend time on the problem and let the problem give you a clue on what to do.
Or else, you might end up treating symptoms rather than the actual disease. Then before long, the problem is back again. Remember, your objective is to solve the problem by understanding the root cause.
As I have mentioned earlier; whether high or low sales period, both are reliable forms of feedback for any business. High or low sales are not accidental; they are outcomes of certain factors. These factors are of two categories;
They are set of activities, behaviours, policies, strategies, and all other changes that occur within the walls of a business. They constitute the internal working environment of every business and are usually the making of either the management or the employees.
Internal factors are classified either as strengths [positive organizational changes] or weaknesses [negative organizational changes]. These factors if they are the cause of a low or high sales period are in most cases controllable and can be adjusted to alter whatever sales period your business finds itself.
For instance, if the employees of a business are performing at their very best, making sure every customer’s expectation is being exceeded every time they come in contact with the business, this can tremendously boost the sales of the business as it generates positive word of mouth for the business that eventually increases sales.
In the other hand, if the management initiates a drastic policy or strategy that will affect the performance of the employees negatively, this will in turn affect the level of satisfaction customers will get from the business. On the long run, a negative word of mouth is created and sales will eventually drop as a result.
Implying that, whatever changes occuring internally within the walls of a business, can potentially increase or decrease sales depending on its overall impact on the employees and eventually customers. This is why I emphasized that high or low sales periods are very vital forms of feedback for every business.
Never underestimate either of these two sales periods; they are great learning periods for entrepreneurs and the businesses they run.
They are the set of activities, consumer behaviours, policies, strategies, and all other changes that occur outside the walls of a business. They constitute the external working environment of every business and are usually the making of the government, society, economy, nature, technology, culture, competition and so on.
External factors are classified either as opportunities [positive environmental changes] or threats [negative environmental changes]. These factors if they are the cause of a low or high sales period are in most cases uncontrollable and will be a lot harder to influence in your business’ favour.
For instance, imagine what happened to the typewriter businesses when the computer was invented? This is a classical case of technology as one of the external factors at play in determining the low sales period every one of those typewriter businesses experienced during that era.
In fact, the advent of computer didn’t just alter the sales of businesses, it completely annihilated those businesses.
Such is the power and effect of external factors on businesses; they are very uncontrollable in most cases. Most especially for the businesses that didn’t diagnose early to find out the cause of their low sales when computers started gaining prominence as a better alternative to typewriters.
In every high or low sales periods, at the very least, one of these two factors must definitely be at play. Your task as an entrepreneur is to dig deep to uncover the factor or factors responsible for whatever sales period your business is experiencing.
Over to you
Has you business ever undergone a low sales period?
How where you able to get through this period of low sales?
Do you think diagnosing is essential for uncovering the reasons behind the low sales period?
Share your thoughts in the comment box below, in the next article under this series, I will be sharing some of the key steps to take in diagnosing low sales period in your business. Make sure you don’t miss it!
And if you haven’t subscribed yet, here is your chance to subscribe again, fill the form below.
Branding is perhaps the most over used word in business. I can totally understand why; there’s so much
fuss about how impactful branding is on a business. For instance, the total monetary value of the coca-cola company’s asset is so small comparable to the estimated worth of the coca-cola brand itself which is $70.7billion.
How can this be?
Branding is the difference between a business and a company. The irony is that a lot of so called entrepreneurs don’t know such a difference exists. For many, a business and a company may as well be the same thing. But are they really the same? This article is about pointing out the winning difference.
Which Do You Own: A Business or A Company?
A business is any economic activity that involves the exchange of goods and services for a fee.
A company is a business that engages in a set of specific economic activities that involves the exchange of goods and services for a fee.
What’s the difference? Branding.
Branding is what takes your business from an economic activity it originally is and turns it into a living entity known as a company or organization. Branding is what gives your business its own unique personality that makes it to stand out tall [SIGNIFICANT] among its industry peers.
The simple differentiation is that a business is any activity that can potentially make you money. So what do we have these days? We have a lot of entrepreneurs in business [making money] but very few who actually own a company [making a name].
I know you are taken aback by that last statement and probably saying to yourself now; but my business is registered and that makes it a company. So what the heck are you talking about here Tito?
Patience. We’ll soon find out.
Let’s get one thing clear; registering your business with appropriate bodies responsible for the incorporation of businesses in your country only makes your business a legal entity.
Meaning, your business is recognized by the law and the state which confers on her the right to sue and to be sued. It doesn’t mean your business is actually a company in the eyes of your target market. Your incorporation gives your business legal recognition because your business now carries a company title. But your incorporation doesn’t give your business market recognition, which is the essence of branding.
A company is a company not because it is registered, but because customers have come to associate the business with a set of qualities that distinctively sets it apart from all others in the same playing field.
Branding is what confers on your business market recognition. Branding is what translates your business from an economic activity to a living entity. It is what takes your business from a legal entity [incorporation] to a living entity [recognition].
Branding gives your business meaning, it is the string that unifies all the diverse activities of your business and gives meaning to each of them to create an overall effect in the lives of your target market. It gives your business a voice; it brings life to your business. In short, it is the soul of your business.
Is Your Business Branded?
I can almost hear your loud reply, YES! Believe me, I truly sympathize with you. I wish your yes was a realistic one. But I won’t totally put the blame on you as we have a lot of so called brand experts who tell you your business is branded just because they designed a corporate logo and have splattered a few colors here and there on your website, company profile or product/service brochures.
So you see why I wouldn’t really blame you for answering yes. Because I know you have a fantastic logo, an attractive business name, a beautiful buy line or slogan and a persuasive corporate color to wrap it all up. All of these can truly make you feel branded, but I’ve got bad news; branding is NOT about imagery, branding is all about TRUST.
The market you are trying to reach doesn’t care about your colorful logo or stunning adverts, they only have one thing on their minds; can you deliver?
Welcome to the Information Age
The information age is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is this; people now want to do business with companies they trust than any other time in human history. Customers are now becoming fans or as Seth Godin rightly put it, tribes. They are now gathering around companies that stand for and do what they [the customers] also believe in.
Meaning, your colorful ads and brilliant lies ain’t going to fool anyone. The market is well informed, so you’ve got to do much more than that. This is the curse for those businesses who still think customers are as naive as they were back in the industrial age, NO!
In the information age, customers want results and not promises. The palatable promises of the industrial age will not bail you out in this information age. The market no longer lends you their trust based on what you SAY.
They lend you their trust as a result of what you DID, have DONE and still continue to DO. Results are the new standards for market recognition. Results are the new yardstick for earning trust in the marketplace.
Simply put, the customers of the information age are saying to entrepreneurs;
“Stop telling me what you will do or who you are, show me what you’ve done.”
Why? Because that says a lot about who you are and what you will do. As entrepreneurs, we are not our words, corporate colors or image; we are the summation of our actions and their corresponding outcomes. And this is what clearly separates a business from a company.
Companies [branded businesses] do specific things for specific people for specific reasons. This makes their results easily noticeable in the marketplace. Businesses engage in any form of activities for anybody so long as it brings in money. This makes their results less obvious in the marketplace, because their actions are not specific, integrated and consistent.
Elements of Branding
What Makes A Business Branded?
A set of consistent actions that is capable of yielding consistent results that helps in communicating a set of consistent messages to a consistent target market. In other words, a business is branded when it has these 4 key elements of branding;
1. Consistent Actions
2. Consistent Results
3. Consistent Messages
4. Consistent Target Market
The key word underlying these four important elements of branding is consistency. At the core of branding is consistency. All the logo design, corporate color, slogan, brochure designs and any other creative activities are all tools for re-enforcing the consistency of the brand.
Consistency is the foundation on which trust is built and market recognition is nurtured. Consistency is about coherence, integration and harmony.
Meaning, everything you do in your business as a company starting from your actions, results and messages must be in alignment with the target market you are in business to satisfy. To learn more about creating this alignment, here’s an unusual article I wrote about building a brand in 8 simple steps.
Over to you
What do you own: a business or a company?
What consistent actions are you taking that will enable you to achieve consistent results which can communicate the kind of message you want your business to be associated with?
Are there any other elements of branding I forgot to mention?
Kindly drop your comments below.
Has your business IQ increased as a result of reading this article?
The dream of every business owner or entrepreneur is to see their business at the peak of whatever industry or niche they operate in. Every business wants to be the ‘Google’ of search engines, they want to be the ‘Harvard’ of universities, they want to be the ‘Boing Boing’ of aircrafts, they want to be the ‘Oprah’ of talk shows and they want to be the ‘Facebook’ of social networks.
As lofty as these ideals are, not many businesses have a clear cut approach on how to achieve them. As a result, many businesses have only been dreaming about these lofty ideal and have never begun on a deliberate journey to making this ideal a reality.
Therefore, in this article, I want to share my own insight into how any business can become the KING of the NICHE in which they operate. I want to outline certain key principles and processes that if taken by any business whatsoever, will catapult them to the peak of their industry. Let’s begin.
What is a NICHE?
A niche is a specialized market in which a business operates in. For example, every automobile company produces cars; therefore we have the automobile industry. In that same industry, we have certain niches, such as; the luxurious car niche, the high speed niche, the safety niche and the affordable niche.
These niches represent different smaller percentages of the automobile industry. They are different from the general automobile industry, because their market is highly specialized. While people buy automobile generally for movement or mobility, those who belong to these niches buy automobiles for different reasons other than mobility.
Those who buy Rolls Royce for example, certainly aren’t after mobility, they are after luxury. The classy feeling and social status often associated with owning and driving a Rolls Royce. Why? Because a Rolls Royce commands a higher price than most regular automobiles. Therefore, a niche is a specialized market in a particular industry.
How To Create Your Own Niche and Be King!
Find a Reason for Being [PURPOSE] other than Profits
The first thing you want to do in order to be a king in your niche is to find a reason greater than money as the purpose of your being in business. Being a king means you control a certain specialized domain in your industry better than any other company in that industry.
It means you are the market leader and every other company follows behind you. The big question for you is this; why are they following you? Are you being followed because you make all the profits or you are being followed because there’s something more to your business other than profits? Let’s take a clue from other kings of their niches like Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is into the retail business and has become the largest company in the world as a result of their business success. This company is worth over 400 Billion US Dollars and has over 2 Million workers worldwide. Wal-Mart is the king of the retail business in the world, they do retail simply like no other. What’s their secret weapon? Everyday Low Pricing – this was their reason for being greater than profits.
Sam Walton the late founder of Wal-Mart had a clear cut purpose for going into business 87 years ago which was;
“to provide the common man on the street an opportunity to buy at lower prices the same stuff the rich buy at other stores at higher prices.”
This commitment to the ordinary guy in the world has been the most vital element in Wal-Mart’s success story. Not once in the whole of their history did they make profit their overall goal, it’s always first about creating everyday low prices. In fact, they did this so well that they ended up trade marking and owning the word “Always”. Meaning, at Wal-Mart, there’s “Always” everyday low prices.
There you are, I hope you can now clearly see the correlation between having a purpose greater than money and eventually being the king of a niche? There’s no way you are going to get to the top of your niche or industry by putting money first. Being at the top is a result of being different [uniqueness] and making a difference [usefulness], and not profitability.
Kings wield the highest level of authority in their domain because they occupy the highest position in the eyes of their subjects. The same is true in business; kings of their niches occupy a key position in the minds of their customers.
They are recognizably known to be the best at what they do. They didn’t get to such an enviable position because they had so much money to buy it; they got there as a result of their consistency in delivering a service like no other company in their niche could.
So if you desire to be the king of your niche, I suggest you revisit your reason for being in business and make it one greater than just making money. Every other point I am going to mention henceforth, finds their relevance in this first point. You cannot be a king in your niche if you are not prepared to serve those in your target market.
Your reign will depend on your relevance to the market you serve. If there’s nothing peculiar and unusual about your business and how it relates to meeting the needs and solving the problems of the market it operates in, then forget about being a king of a niche!
Select and Own [BRAND] a Particular Word in the Market
What word does your business own in the market in which you operate? You cannot be a King without having a peculiar name or word that resonates deeply in the mind of those you lead. You cannot be a king without having a sacred word unto which you bow and hold in highest esteem.
The art of owning a word is what marketers refer to as positioning or differentiation, in other words, branding. It is a deliberate attempt to make your business memorable in the mind of your customers. It is a deliberate attempt to direct the efforts, resources and focus of your entire business as a whole towards making the actual meaning of a particular word experiential to those you serve.
How do I mean?
Take Wal-Mart for example, they chose the word “Always” suggesting that no matter what they will never compromise on providing everyday low prices to their customers. The word “Always” connotes consistency and integrity; it means all of the time, without fail, constant and come what may, we will never cease to provide everyday low prices. Look at such level of commitment. Tell me who can beat such an audacious promise or claim?
Selecting and owning a word is the greatest test of any business. It is a test of your level of commitment and consistence. Nothing can make you more distinct as this, and when you can be seen as distinct, becoming the king of your niche is a piece of cake.
There’s got to be something they can hold you accountable to as a king. Every king of a domain is bounded by certain oaths or promise which they cannot break as a result of the position they occupy. The same is applicable in the world of business.
What claim, oath or promise has your business openly made to the world? By what standard shall your business or company be judged?
The Word we OWN at MADphilips
My company MADphilips, owns the word SIGNIFICANCE and every other shades or related meanings of it like; SIGNIFICANT. We have found other creative uses of the word like;
- different and making a difference,
- uniqueness and usefulness,
- ab-normal which stand for above normal,
- being unique and being useful etc.
These are different words we own in the mind and eyes of those we serve as a company. As a company, we bring that mentality into everything we do and into every project we embark on. It is our most sacred word up on which everything we are and do is judged. We bow to it and hold it in the highest esteem.
We don’t compromise on being SIGNIFICANT. If there’s no way that the work we do for a client won’t reflect SIGNIFICANCE, we simply won’t take it. If you have been very observant, you will notice every time I use the word SIGNIFICANT it is always capitalized.
Because it’s the reason for our being, it’s sacred and must be treated as such. This singular word, directs everything we do and will ever do as a company. It is the foundation on which my business is built.
When choosing your own word for your business, be sure it is something that truly resonates within you as an entrepreneur. Let it be a word that will ignite your passion and inspire your creativity. Don’t just choose any random word; choose one that you will be ready to die for if the need ever arises!
Make Your Business A Never Ending Story [LEGACY]
I have always been known to ask this question every time I’m opportune to address entrepreneurs; “what will the world miss if suddenly your business ceases to exist?” The whole of your existence would have been a complete waste if as an entrepreneur you cannot or haven’t figured out an answer to that question. Entrepreneurship is a calling, take it from me!
You have been called to use your life to build a business that will make the world much better than you met it. Entrepreneurship is nature’s instrument for solving humanity’s problems. What story are you using your business to create? You want to be the king of your niche, what will the world remember of your reign?
There’s always a story behind the reign of every king in human history, so what will yours be as the king of your industry or niche? Whether accidentally or intentionally, every business tells a story, what story will the world tell about your business?
To be the king of your niche requires you to use your business to create a never ending story as a result of the SIGNIFICANT impact your business will have on those you serve. A never ending story is a Legacy. What does it mean to create a legacy in business?
Creating a legacy means breaking new grounds, doing things no one else has ever achieved in that line of business. It means meeting the needs of your customers beyond their wildest dreams. It means constantly being the trendsetter in your industry or niche. It means giving everyone a run for their money.
Innovation must become your watch word. You must never cease to ask, what other positive change is there to make?
Wal-Mart is known to have done this time without number. They were the very first company in the world that created a network amongst all their suppliers such that every supplier had direct access to their inventory and daily sales record of every item in their stores.
This allowed for prompt re-order of depleting items without causing any delay or shortage of inventories which would have caused customers’ needs to be unmet. It totally removed all the bottlenecks caused by the traditional form of inventory management.
It was simply a revolution in the retail business and when it was fully integrated into Wal-Mart’s operation, they made it available to the entire retail industry worldwide and others were able to benefit from their landmark. This is what it means to be a king in your niche.
Your business must become the light that shines in the dark and makes way for others to pass. Why? Because every king leaves a mark in the sands of time, what mark are you going to use your business to leave behind in the sands of time?
With this, I come to the end of yet another unusual article and I leave you with this question; “If you were on your dying bed and you were asked what you did with your life as an entrepreneur, what would be your reply?”
Has your business IQ increased as a result of reading this article?
What do you do when competitors emerge in your business? Don’t panic, FOCUS!
Whether you like it or not, the world of business is a very highly competitive one. Business is a game and it takes a lot to eventually emerge as a winner. Winning however does require you find a way to remain in business irrespective of competition.
Perhaps one of the most critical factor in determining who wins or lose in the game of business is knowing what not to do in the face of intense competition. It’s costing me a year without regular pay from one of the businesses I’m involved with as a partner to learn this lesson.
So, permit me to share my story.
In March 2008 my vision partner, Tolulope Oyebola and I took over the management of a defunct cybercafé. We had consulted for this cybercafé earlier in 2007, doing a total business process re-engineering including the hiring and training of new staff. That year everything seemed to work fine in the hands of the owner with us coming around from time to time to check up on things.
As it turned out after almost a year, things started going sour because the owner wasn’t directly involved in the creation of the change we had handed over to them to now manage. As a result, the business towards the end of the year folded up, this time for the second time since they began operation.
This was when we got an offer from the owner to come in no longer as consultants but now as partners to resume complete management and turnaround of the business. How glad were we when this opportunity came. It was an opportunity for us to experiment all our ideas on how to build a SIGNIFICANT business. And a significant business we did build. At least several evidences showed.
For example, in the first year of our operations the business recorded the highest sales so far since it came into existence, a whopping sum of 3.9million naira! ($26,000) We also successfully initiated a first of its kind membership program for a cybercafé whereby browsers logged in with a personalized username and password of their choice.
As a result, we have the highest customer retention rate in the whole industry with close to 1700 registered customers since March 2008 when we took over. We had the largest market share as far as the immediate community where we operate from is concerned. Our goal was very simple; redefine browsing from an activity (what people do) to an event/experience (what people enjoyed).
We didn’t only succeed, we became an object of envy and just as its common with any enviable performance, then came along the wannabe’s –the so called copycats (competitors.)
Enter the Competition
Like a planned hostile takeover, in January 2010 a total of 9 new cybercafés sprang into existence (compared to only one at the time we took over the business) with two occupying the same business premises as we. We were about to be eaten up alive by all the new guys and so we panicked. Why? Because they didn’t just stop at copying all that we did, as is synonymous with competitors, they took the game a step further.
They came with their flat screen (LCD) monitors, smaller number of systems in an air conditioned environment: talk about a total knock out! (TKO). There we were with our cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, with more systems in a no air conditioned environment.
I mean they had copied everything from our pricing model to the software we used as a timer. The only thing they couldn’t copy was our membership strategy. I guess it was more complicated and will demand more work from them. And that, my dear reader was and still is our saving grace. We never realized this until after we had panicked and reacted out of desperation in an attempt to remain competitive. What was our reaction?
We went head on and bought our own air conditions. I mean we bought four air conditions all at once in the month of January alone. Paid PHCN (the electricity company) to install a new business line to ensure a regular power supply since our big generator couldn’t power our four new air conditions. Mean while in our competitor’s case their small generator could carry their own air condition because they didn’t have as much computers as we did and they had only one air condition.
We based the whole of our winning-strategy on stable power supply believing that we would match up with them on air conditions even though we didn’t get flat screen monitors. Instead of flat screen monitors, we decided to expand by taking up one more office suite in addition to the three we were previously occupying to make room for the growing demands from laptop owners.
In essence, we spent more than they probably did but still lost a part of the total market share. Why? Because we panicked and reacted out of desperation rather than being proactive. We ended up spending more but for the wrong things. We didn’t think through on our decision to buy those air conditions.
Our singular strategy of constant power supply went up in smoke exactly two weeks after installation and the AC’s we bought were as good as useless since we didn’t have the regular power supply to operate them. So we were back to square one, only this time with more debts since we had to borrow some money from a bank to fund most of these reactive moves.
So what was fundamentally wrong with our response to the competitions?
Find out in the concluding part of this article where I will be sharing some insights on how we learnt from our mistake, how we’ve been able to remain in business despite the intense competition and how you too can do the same. You don’t wanna miss out on this and there’s only ONE way to be sure you’ll know when the concluding article will be ready –by subscribing to naijapreneur!
IT’S COMPLETELY FREE. Click here to subscribe.
Watch out for part two! In the mean time, share your thoughts and comments below on how you’ve been coping with competition in your own line of business.
Has your business IQ increased as a result of reading this article?