No business can survive for long without some form of competitive advantage. Whether it’s explicitly defined or not is one thing and whether it’s a sustainable competitive advantage or not is another thing.
But essentially, that you’ve been in business for up to 3 years and still able to make a sale, no matter how small, is an indication that you have some form of competitive advantage. Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t last more than your first year in business!
What is Competitive Advantage?
Competitive advantage refers to one or more qualities, attributes, features, or aspects of a company’s products/services that makes it a favorable choice to the target customers when compared to other existing competitions.
These qualities, attributes, features, or aspects of a company’s products/services are the ingredients for creating a superior value proposition in the market. Without them, you will either end up creating an equal value proposition or inferior value proposition compared to the existing alternatives.
Your competitive advantage is the answer to the question; why should your target customers buy from you rather than from other existing competitions?
Your target customers seek out for justifications when making a buying decision. They want to know why they should consider your company and her products or services above all the existing alternatives in the market.
All the things you’ve put in place to enable them prefer you above other competitions are your competitive advantages. They are the things that give your company and her products/services a fighting chance in the marketplace.
Your business is dead if it doesn’t have any. Your competitive advantage is your company’s license to compete in the market. Without it, no one will pay attention to neither your company nor the products/services it sells.
How Sustainable is Your Competitive Advantage?
Like I deliberately mentioned above, all existing businesses have some form of competitive advantage. Otherwise, they would have been long gone.
However, having some form of competitive advantage is not a guarantee against business failure. Because in the end, if your competitive advantage is not strong enough to keep you in the market, then it’s just a question of time before your business dies!
Meaning, not all competitive advantage is a sustainable advantage. Furthermore, not all competitive advantage can last forever without being copied by others.
So where does this leave you?
Very simple; don’t settle for some form of competitive advantage, rather aim to create sustainable competitive advantages.
The following points will help you determine if you have a sustainable competitive advantage or not.
- If your competitive advantage can easily be replicated by others in the same market or industry as yourself, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet.
- If your competitive advantage is solely dependent on price, being the cheapest in the market, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Unless you complement your cheap price with some other superior value propositions or your cheap price is as a result of some revolutionary business processes you developed like Wal-Mart.
- If your competitive advantage was bought with money, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet because your competitions can equally pay for more to get it. For example, in Nigeria DSTv versus HiTv – both are pay TV brands but the later (HiTv) outbid the former (DSTv) to get the exclusive license to broadcast the premiership league football competition. The following year, DSTv retaliated with a higher offer and outbid HiTv to regain the premiership league license. HiTv struggled for a while, and eventually disappeared from the market.
- If your competitive advantage is dependent on your unique location, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Unless you’ve completely bought the entire surrounding environment or own the exclusive right to be the only player in that location.
- If your competitive advantage is having the most product or service features in the market, then you don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage yet. Why? Because there will always be another competition that will come up with a product or service with less features and steal your market share or other competitions who will come up with more features than you.
How to Create a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Don’t be dismayed if all your competitive advantage seems to have been discredited above. There are still strategies you can adopt to create a sustainable competitive advantage for your company that cannot be easily copied.
Focus on the following;
An organization’s culture is like the personality of an individual, it’s absolutely impossible to replicate 100%.
Because it is not entirely dependent on one thing but rather a set of complex intangible things that takes a while to create.
The culture of an organization is a sustainable competitive advantage because it is the foundation on which all other sustainable competitive advantages will sprout from.
Culture is the character of an organization; it dictates the behavior of the organization and determines the attitude of the people. It defines the mindset of the entire organization and influences every action, decision and intention.
It is a powerful competitive advantage that can make or break your company. And it begins with your very reason for being in business – your purpose. Companies with the greatest cultures didn’t stumble upon it by accident; they were all driven by purpose.
When your purpose for being in business is defined by your passion to make a difference in a particular industry and in the lives of your target customers, then you’ve got yourself a recipe for culture.
Just as it is with some of the greatest humans whose lives had major lasting influences on the world; Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King etc the strength of their character comes from their purpose for being.
The same is true for great companies; their character as defined by their culture comes from their sense of purpose. Your purpose for being will attract the right kind of people with common shared values committed to building a business that MATTERS!
Purpose defines values.
Values define character.
Character defines culture.
Culture defines sustainable competitive advantage.
The caliber of people in your organization to a very large extent will determine the sustainability of your competitive advantage as a business.
Sustainable competitive advantages don’t create themselves, people do.
And to attract the kind of people that will create the kind of sustainable competitive advantages you desire, your company has to be driven by purpose – a greater reason for being other than profits.
In my last unusual article about competitive warfare, I talked about the need to create a tribal team in your business. I cited the US Navy Seals as a perfect example of what a tribal team should be like.
A core attribute of such a tribal team is their commitment to the mission. The mission above everything else is what defines, dictates and influences their every action, intention and disposition. The mission is the key that unlocks the potentials of the tribal team.
Tribal teams don’t respond to money alone, they respond first to a mission. They respond to purpose because they are driven by purpose. And if you want to attract such into your company, you’ve got to be about building a business that MATTERS.
Companies with the greatest competitive advantages of their industry are powered by tribal teams – people driven by purpose and committed to a mission of greatness.
- Apple: one of their competitive advantages is design. This is as a result of their mission to create products for the “crazy ones” – people who want to change the world. It isn’t surprising to note that Apple is home to the most creative minds in the world enabling it to consistently come up with innovative products with breath taking designs.
- Google: one of Google’s competitive advantages is their search algorithms, the best in the entire search engine industry. This is as a result of their mission to help organize the world’s information. It is equally not surprising to note that Google is home to the best software engineers in the world enabling it to consistently improve her search algorithms.
- USA: countries also have competitive advantages and United States of America is one country that boasts of the world’s smartest people. One of their competitive advantages is innovation. America leads the world in terms of innovation and this is as a result of their mission to create free country where anyone and everyone is welcomed to pursue whatever they like and become whatever they want. This mission is essential to the unending influx of the greatest minds in the world into the United States to explore their dreams. No wonder they lead the world with ground breaking ideas, inventions and innovations.
I can go on with more examples, but I am sure you got the point already. Your ability to keep coming up with sustainable competitive advantages is directly linked to the caliber of people in your company.
And to attract such caliber of people, your company must stand for something; it must be driven by purpose and committed to a mission far greater than just making profits. You cannot buy such caliber of people with money alone!
The internal operations of your business are another source of sustainable competitive advantage. This is known as business processes; it’s the sum of all procedures, systems, structures, policies and technologies that powers the whole activities of your company.
Business processes define how work is being carried out in an organization. Without the existence of such processes, getting work done in an organization can become chaotic. Business processes create order in an organization and with orderliness comes efficiency.
This is the sustainable competitive advantage that is gained from having solid businesses processes in place in your company – efficiency.
Efficiency is the speed of execution within your company. How well and how fast are things being done in your company? The answer is efficiency. The more efficient a business becomes, the more things it can accomplish on time and for less.
Efficiency gained through sound business processes can become a source of sustainable competitive advantage because it impacts on the eventual outcome and quality of the products/services you sell.
- Dell computers for instance was able to build a strong competitive advantage over the other existing PC manufacturers through her business processes. Rather than manufacturing ready to buy PCs, Dell computers engaged with their target customers directly and allowed them customize their own desired PCs with custom specifications.
- Wal-Mart is still occupying her positions as the world’s biggest retailer as a result of her solid business processes which efficiently integrates supply chain management with technologically advanced logistics and distribution system. This has enabled the company to continually reduce the costs of inventories thereby allowing her sustain her everyday low prices competitive advantage.
- Back in 2008 when we ran a cyber cafe business, the entrance of a close competition nearly cost us our business if not for one of our efficient business processes. The competition copied our pricing strategy, copied our ticketing solution (timer) and infringed on our location. The only thing they weren’t able to copy was our membership strategy which was built around a set of efficient business processes. In the end, this alone proved itself in our competitive warfare against them.
Business processes indeed do take time, effort and cost to create, this is precisely why they do so well as sustainable competitive advantages. When your competitions think about the whole time, effort and costs it will take to create a duplicate, they will decide otherwise.
The more complex those business processes are, the more difficult they are to replicate by your competitions. It will take a lot of hard work, but it is very much worth it to start creating and building your own efficient business processes for your company.
Apart from the competitive advantage they bring, they also help you scale your business and offer you the opportunity to expand quickly.
Another often overlooked source of sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge. And I am a big proponent of this. Apart from being a personal beneficiary of the competitive advantage of knowledge, I have equally witnessed it at work in the businesses of my clients.
You see, what you know about your industry, your customers, your business environment, your competitions, and your strategic partners can powerfully create a sustainable competitive advantage for your company.
Knowledge is the source of ground breaking inventions and innovations. The most innovative companies are learning organizations – they perpetually invest in trainings and research and development.
In a fast paced business world that we currently live in, you cannot afford to remain competitive with outdated information. You’ve got to stay at the top of your game with up-to-date information about your industry, customers, business environment and even your competitions.
Thought Leadership (Authority)
Are you a known, liked and trusted expert in your industry? If not, you should be.
Thought leadership is another often overlooked source of sustainable competitive advantage for your company. The mere fact that you are an influential voice in your industry commands an undue competitive advantage over your competitions.
Thought leadership cannot be bought, it is earned over a long period of time and this is what makes it a sustainable competitive advantage. Building a passionate audience around your business is a luxury that many of your competitions won’t even dare to confront.
When you are the leading voice in your space, no amount of advertisement from your competitions will distract your passionate audience from paying attention to what you’ve got to say next.
- Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family wine business from a small liquor store in New Jersey, USA to a powerhouse brand called Wine Library. How? He became a wine expert on his video blog show called wine library TV on YouTube that attracted a massive online audience of 100,000 viewers a day!While his competitions were busy chasing local customers to visit their wine stores, Gary was busy building an audience of passionate wine lovers. WineLibrary.com was an eCommerce trail blazer and Gary used tools like email lists and video to expand the reach beyond New Jersey.Leveraging on his thought leadership, Gary has built up his family’s liquor store into a $60 million business. He has published 4 bestselling books, started a media consulting company and co-founded a $25 million investment fund.
The true sustainable competitive advantage doesn’t come from a particular product or service (outcome), but from a particular kind of company (source). So the real question should be; are we building a truly sustainable competitive company?
A company that has the capacity and capability to perpetually come up with superior value propositions in their chosen industry or niche.
A company that is capable of continuously raising the bar in whatever industry or niche it chooses to operate.
A company that can consistently outperform itself even though the competition haven’t yet caught up with her existing superior products/services.
This is the true sustainable competitive advantage; to build a company that is fundamentally capable of creating competitive advantages. The goal is to focus on the source (the company) rather than the outcome (competitive advantages).
Outcomes can always and will always be copied; it’s all a matter of time. Great companies are aware of this brutal fact and that’s why they perpetually keep outdoing themselves rather than trying to outdo the competition.
The secret of winning is to consistently be ahead and let the competitions play catch up!
Business is a highly competitive landscape, so prepare for war. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in business for so many years; the competition is always there!
Competitive warfare is good for business; they help kick out the lazy entrepreneurs from the scene which ultimately improves the industry. The presence of competitions in any industry is an indication that the market is profitable.
So if you are one of those lazy entrepreneurs who are constantly trying to create or discover a business idea with zero competition, congratulations, you’ve just found one sure way to kill your business from the beginning.
Instead, the right mindset you should have about competitions is to equip yourself and business for competitive warfare. On the battle field, its kill or be killed, there’s no room for second chances. The same is true of business – its warfare!
So stop looking for that Holy Grail business idea that you can monopolize and focus instead on creating a superior value offering that can give you a competitive advantage. The goal of entrepreneurship is not to avoid competition; the goal is to beat the competition. And to do that, you need to prepare for competitive warfare.
3 Battle-tested Strategies for Competitive Warfare
This unusual article is going to help you identify practical battle-tested strategies that you can adopt for competitive warfare. You will learn how to thrive in the midst of competitions.
If you are ready, let’s dig in!
1. Be OFFENSIVE Rather than DEFENSIVE
Your first battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is a never ending strategic offense. This is the best form of defense against the competitions. Staying on the fence and watching the whole game being played around your industry is going to get you killed faster than when you are the one dictating the game.
If you didn’t get into the game of business to influence how it’s being played in your chosen industry, then why bother being in the game at all?
Unusual entrepreneurs don’t sit back and watch while others play the game, hell no! They re-invent the game, re-define the playbook and raise the bar of the game to a whole new level. This is what it means to be an entrepreneur – to change the game!
You can’t afford to be on the reactive side of the game, waiting to defend all the bullets that are being fired at you, no way. Your role as an unusual entrepreneur who got in the game is to be the one firing the bullets that is going to change the whole industry.
You are to take the fight to them while they are still wallowing in their old ways of doing business as usual. Remember, you are not the status quo entrepreneur who always wants to keep things the way they have always been. You are a game changer, a fire starter!
You are in that line of business to make a difference. You are in that industry to revolutionize it. You are the voice of the customer, a solution provider to the problems they face. You are the underdog strategically positioned to topple the existing traditional industry gatekeepers.
So constantly be on the offensive; always be attacking. The following competitive warfare strategies are guaranteed ways of consistently being on the offensive rather than defensive.
Never stop innovating. When last did you come up with something new in your business? Your company’s capacity to consistently create industry breaking trends insulates it from the competition.
With every innovative product or service you consistently come up with, you are keeping the competitions further and further away from you. So don’t ever settle; the way to win is to stay ahead of the competition always and not behind!
All products are in demand. If they are not buying from you, then they are buying from the competitions and that’s because you lack marketing. Marketing is an opportunity to fight for the customer’s money. If you don’t show up, you don’t have a chance to get the customers money, period.
Showing up increases your odds of being the preferred option among the different alternatives competing for the customer’s money. The more you show up the more you increase your odds of being chosen. It’s all about odds. Only those who show up have a fighting chance to win the customer’s money.
But don’t just show up for showing up sake; you have to make sure when you are showing up you are making a good impression that can differentiate you from the competitions, spark up interest and lead to sales.
Continuous Learning and Development
Ideas are the weapons of competitive warfare and the business with the best executed ideas wins. Continuous learning and development is how you equip yourself with more practical ideas to consistently launch an offensive rather than being defensive.
When you lack ideas, you will always be on the defensive when the competitions come fighting. So step up your learning curve because any knowledge gained is an additional weapon in your competitive arsenal.
2. STAND for SOMETHING
Your second battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is to stand for something. The world makes a way for the man and woman who clearly know where they are going. Clarity about who you are, why you exist and where you are taking your business are the keys to winning the competitions.
You don’t want to be caught up in the fog of ambiguity. You shouldn’t ever try to be like everyone else in your industry. That’s one sure way to get lost in the marketplace. Customers don’t give a damn about another new “me too” or “wannabe” business that just opened up.
If you want the market to clearly pick you out amidst the marketing noise out there in your industry and from all the existing competitions, then you’ve got to clearly stand for something. Don’t fall victim of joining in their ongoing fight, create and define your own battle.
Don’t run after the same target customers they pursue, create and define your own niche market. Your objective as an unusual entrepreneur in a crowded industry is not to become another crowd member, but to become the king of your niche.
This is exactly what Microsoft did when they got into the computer business by creating the software that invented the personal computer product category. Apple followed suit by differentiating themselves as the PC for the crazy ones, the unusual ones on a mission to change the world.
Define your market and lead them through the revolutionary products and services you create. No matter how big or alluring the existing market is, your task as an unusual entrepreneur is to create and define your own path to the market not following the existing ones.
When they know what you stand for and that its significantly different [unique] and making a difference [useful] from what all others are offering; then you can stop worrying about the competitions.
3. Build a TRIBAL TEAM
Your third battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is to build a tribal team. Business is a highly competitive terrain and to win the war against your competitions, you need an army. Your odd of not being defeated in the battlefield is highly dependent on the quality of your army and their commitment to the mission.
In business your army is your people, your team. They make or break your company. As a matter of fact, your team is one of your greatest competitive advantages in business. So prioritizing the caliber of people that you let in on board is one of your fundamental assignments as an unusual entrepreneur.
Since you are not the average company who do business as usual [doing average things]; you will need more than an average team to work with, you need a tribal team.
A tribal team is a group of like-minded exceptional individuals bound by shared values working together to achieve a shared vision much greater than their individual interests for the collective good of the company, their customers and the world at large.
My favorite definition of a tribal team comes from marketing guru and author Seth Godin:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
They are the business equivalents of US Navy SEALS – specially selected, rigorously trained, tenaciously disciplined and passionately committed to the tribe and the mission. These qualities set them apart from your everyday army.
To create such a tribal team, you need to pay attention to the following;
You don’t recruit just anybody; you recruit ONLY exceptional individuals – people who clearly stand out in their respective fields.
“In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man!” – US Navy Seals
Values define the character of the team, the more aligned the better. You don’t want a team with conflicting values – that’s the perfect recipe for disaster!
“Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.” – US Navy Seals
That they are exceptional individuals doesn’t mean they have all it takes; you still need to thoroughly drill them to keep bringing out the best in them.
“The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete. We train for war and fight to win.” – US Navy Seals
Without a disciplined team who constantly has their eyes on the mission; your business can quickly turn into a gamble – trial and error. You need people who have the staying power to follow one course until they succeed.
“We demand discipline. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.” – US Navy Seals
The worse people to have on your team are those who are in it only for the ride – they fizzle out when the going gets tough. You need not only starters, but also finishers.
“If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight!”
– US Navy Seals
In the heat of the battle, you may not always be around – you need people who can also take on the heat and do what is expected with or without your presence.
“We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” – US Navy Seals
The 3 battle-tested strategies listed above are your weapons for competitive warfare. So stop being afraid of competitions, instead, equip yourself for war!
In continuing our discussion on EXECUTION 2015 -how to make this year work, let me shed more insights on the two kinds of execution discussed previously.
This is the most common type of execution in the world of business. As a matter of fact, it’s what 99% of entrepreneurs use and that’s why the 1% who succeed are those who use the other kind of execution.
In other words, this is what powers majority of businesses.
Let me tell you a story to practically explain the meaning of energy-driven execution. Sometime in 2012, a fellow entrepreneur who I had just met online publishes an entrepreneurial newspaper [EntrepreNEWS] and needed my help in selling his papers at a large business convention [Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship] hosting over 3000 business people.
It was a massive crowd and his hopes were very high in terms of selling so many papers. In his view, these target audience were business people and suddenly showing up with a taxi load of an entrepreneurial newspaper and a team of salespeople to sweep the convention ground would lead to huge sales.
Against my initial warning, he went ahead to print exactly 3000 copies of his publication and got a taxi to bring all copies to the convention ground.
It was a 3 days convention; the first day was for registration which started in the afternoon, so we didn’t come with the papers. By the end of the second day, which was a full day, we had sold less than 20 copies. Meaning he had to go back home with 2980+ copies of the paper. On the second day, having learnt from his previous mistake, he came with only 1000 copies and a promotional tactic to sell 2 copies for the price of 1.
By the middle of the second day, sensing that the promotional tactic didn’t increase sales. And not wanting to go back home with the leftovers again, he decided to do the worst, give them away for free!
You would think this would really help reduce the leftovers, but it didn’t. To our greatest surprise, some people even turned down the free papers and rather chose to buy an “end time” gospel paper which sold at the same price as the one we were giving away for free.
In Business, Energy is NOT a Strategy!
I used that particular story because it was exactly the same response I gave to the publisher as we jumped from one tactic to another, desperately trying to push the paper.
To be fair, he did his best to make that particular edition of the paper more appealing to the target audience. As a matter of fact, he interviewed the national president of the fellowship and had his picture on the front cover of the paper with a compelling caption.
All these, he did to help improve the conversion rate. But in the end, none worked!
Because there was a missing piece in the execution. And that missing piece was the lack of a sound strategy!
Coincidentally, this was about the same period we launched our flagship digital marketing brand –Differentiate Online. We had also printed some fliers to help spread the word and I had considered sharing a few during the convention.
But unlike my friend, I didn’t bring the whole copies we had printed down with the high hope of spreading it to everyone who attended the convention. I had a different game plan –strategy.
Going by the name of the convention, I already had my reservations about the quality of leads to expect from such target audience.
- This was first a gospel convention, not necessarily a business convention even though it was organized by the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship. Meaning, the intent of the audience is predominantly spiritual rather than intellectual.
- Secondly, I needed to qualify the target audience before launching out into the deep blindly. I wasn’t a member of their fellowship, so I had no prior knowledge of the kind of people it was made up of. So I needed to first do my own market research on the convention ground.
- Thirdly, I understand that no matter how great a product/service is, it would never appeal to everyone. So it was no use targeting everyone, with the hope of converting them all.
Backed with these 3 strategic insights, I came to the convention ground on the first day and carried out my own mini-market research during the registration process. Right there and then, I came to the practical conclusion that it was best to save myself the headache of sharing the fliers and money spent to print them.
The crowd wasn’t just it!
Strategy VS Energy, The Analysis
A successful strategy is a course of action, not just arriving at a single decision. In order to achieve a positive result, you need a detailed course of action [strategy].
In strategy, everyone starts from a different position in a different situation. When it comes to strategy, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach. You need a combination of alternatives based on what worked for somebody else or for you, both now and in the past.
Only the strategist [you] can identify what combination best suits your situation. The situation dictates what strategy to use. That is; the situation dictates the course of actions you take.
Energy is the determination, the brute force, the will or courage to act and the persistence to continue to act in the face of uncertainty.
Energy is the degree of your ruggedness and resilience as an entrepreneur. As it’s commonly called, your staying power. It’s a good and necessary trait for every entrepreneur to have, but it’s never a substitute for strategy.
You will need energy to follow through your strategy, just as much as you will need strategy to align your energy.
Alignment is the key to a successful execution.
Without it, all your execution will be scattered and there’s very little impact a series of scattered actions can make.
The best way to grasp the significance of strategy over energy is this; imagine you had 5 stones and you wanted to hit a bird some distance away. What would be your best course of action?
- Throwing all the 5 stones in every direction all at once
- Throwing one stone at a time towards the direction of the bird
Without ALIGNMENT, there’s NO Strategy
In life and in business, the bird in this analogy is the ultimate goal, objective, or vision you want to achieve. And the stones are the available resources you have with you per time. These resources also include your energy.
So my question for entrepreneurs who simply rely on their energy is this; would you rather use up all your resources to chase several goals OR define one goal and use all your resources to pursue it?
The reason several entrepreneurs only make use of their energy, running from pillar to post in their business, is because they haven’t yet clarified and defined their goal, objective or vision.
The goal, objective or vision is what creates that alignment you need to successfully execute your strategy using your energy. If it is missing, you’ll only keep running round in circles. Trying your hands on several tactics, not knowing if they align or not, since there’s no defined goal to benchmark it against.
Here’s the brutal truth, to be successful at anything, not just only business, you CAN’T do without a strategy.
Until you take the pain to always think through first and carefully plan out your course of actions, backed by real life information, all the energy you will expend will be futile.
This is where so many entrepreneurs miss out in business. While you cannot do without either of the two; energy or strategy, it’s crucial you understand which one must come first and the magnitude of its impact on your eventual outcome.
The moment you try to put your energy first before your strategy, you’ve already lost out on your opportunity to succeed. The most that will happen is to end up with a stroke of luck. In the end, the results achieved will be nothing compared to the energy expended.
In a very simple terms,
- ENERGY = the usual approach –doing the same things [activities] in the same way [processes]
- STRATEGY = the unusual alternative –doing different things [activities] in different ways [processes]
This is a new year, and we’ve only just used up 33 days so far. You can still get it right with your execution. I am going to be very busy this year, and I cannot guarantee a very regular posting schedule here on naijapreneur.
So I am launching a new coaching program tagged “EXECUTION 2015” for only 20 serious minded entrepreneurs who want to execute differently this year. No matter how much I try to explain in my unusual articles how to execute differently this year, it can never be compared to a one-on-one 1 year coaching with me tailored uniquely for your business.
The EXECUTION 2015 coaching program is the only first of its kind all inclusive business growth program for entrepreneurs that is not only affordable, but also offers 4 very flexible discounted payment plans;
- Monthly Payment Plan = N10,000/month [12 Installments @N120,000]
- Quarterly Payment Plan = N25,000/3months [4 Installments @N100,000]
- Bi-Annual Payment Plan = N40,000/6months [2 Installments @N80,000]
- Annual Payment Plan = N60,000/12months [1 Installment]
So, if you are one of such entrepreneurs who really mean business this year, click here to register for EXECUTION 2015 –a 1 Year Business Growth Training, One-On-One Coaching and Group Consulting Program for Entrepreneurs who Mean Business!
After registration, I will send you further details by mail.
We just updated the MADphilips Company profile, do have a look here and please do share your thoughts about it in the comments.
So glad you made it. Hopefully, this will be the best year ever for you and your business. While I trust that you would the ‘you’ part of the equation, I will do my best to continually equip you paradigm shifting practical business ideas, strategies and best practices that will take care of ‘your business’ part of the equation. So help me God, amen!
Something’s Gotta Change In 2014!
As the year kicked off in full swing last week being the first week of the New Year, I was discussing with a friend of mine who out of frustration recently gave up on his entrepreneurial dream in exchange for employment. He resumed on Monday, the 6th and on Tuesday evening, just the following day at his new employment, he called me up lamenting.
As it turned out, the very thing he was shying away from in his business, was the very thing he was being employed to do for another entrepreneur. So it suddenly dawned on him that he couldn’t do this very thing for another entrepreneur for such a meager pay when he could be doing this very thing for himself and reap all the benefits.
What was this very thing?
This very thing was marketing.
His first assignment at his new place of work was to come up with a strategic marketing plan on how the company can sell more of their IT products/services. Exactly the same nature of business my dear friend had been struggling with and had to abandon for the comfort of employment. It was literally a slap on his face!
And a good slap it was, being the first week of the New Year. It was all the feedback he needed to set the direction for the year and hopefully alter the outcome of the year for the best. On Wednesday, the 8th of January, 2014, my friend quit his new job, barely two days old with a resolve to do the very thing he was just employed to do for another entrepreneur for himself!
What Are You Going To Do Differently This Year?
My friend’s story is not uniquely his, so many other entrepreneurs have found themselves in such situations before and many may still end up in such situations this year, if they don’t start doing things differently from now.
While my dear friend was lamenting about his new employment, I was busy meeting with clients and closing deals. And to give him more closure, on Thursday I took him along to meet with a new client of mine and he watched as I closed my very 3rd deal of the week!
On our way back, one of the greatest lessons of his life began… the very same lesson I’m about to share with you today.
In 2014, What Will You CHANGE?
I would like you to chew on this question for a while. This year will most likely end up just as last year did if you don’t deliberately make up your mind to do something’s differently in both your life and your business.
Things will not change unless you change some things. In 2014, something’s gotta change!
All your list of New Year resolutions isn’t going to nail it. What you need is to ask yourself this question and relate it to some specific aspects of your life and business. Answer the questions and just do it!
To change your life or business isn’t always as complex as many people think, it’s as simple as making a decision and doing that decision. The problem often comes from the ‘doing’ part of the equation. People are quick to make decisions but reluctant to act on those decisions by taking corresponding actions.
The 2014 BUSINESS REDESIGN Plan for Entrepreneurs
To help you kick start this 2014 on a strategic note, starting from this month of January till March 2014, I’ll be helping 10 serious entrepreneurs monthly to create their 2014 Business Redesign Plan together in an exclusive strategy session.
Below are some of the strategic questions we will be tackling together;
- What will you do differently this year to PROMOTE your business?
- What will you do differently this year to increase your CASHFLOW?
- What will you do differently this year to improve your PRODUCTIVITY?
- What will you do differently this year to REFINE your business PROCESSES?
- What will you do differently this year to DIFFERENTIATE your product/service?
- What will you do differently this year to EXPAND your business?
- What will you do differently this year to work better with your PEOPLE?
- What will you do differently this year to UPGRADE your business SKILLS?
- What will you do differently this year to GAIN industry RECOGNITION?
- What will you do differently this year to ATTRACT more FUNDING for your business?
- What will you do differently this year to RETAIN customers?
- What will you do differently this year to STRUCTURE your business?
If you are interested in becoming one of the 30 serious entrepreneurs that wants to make 2014 the best year of their life and business ever, click here for more details!
“Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in a hot air balloon hovering thirty feet above this field,” comes the reply.
“You must work in Information Technology,” says the balloonist.
“I do,” says the man, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “Everything you told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”
“You must be in business,” says the man.
“I am,” says the balloonist, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the man, “You don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”
Growth Without Direction is Frustration
The moral of the story above illustrates that there’s hardly any entrepreneur who doesn’t know that they need to grow their business. But very few know how to actually do this. Often times, they are lost because they ventured into business without a clear goal in mind.
When you start out in business without first defining your endpoint, the most obvious challenge you will face in terms of growing your business is NOT knowing where to begin.
In this unusual article, I will be sharing with you 5 practical steps to upgrade your business. But first things first; what does it mean to upgrade your business?
Upgrading Your Business Means….
- Coming up with better ways of solving the problems of your customers [business process innovation]
- Coming up with better solutions to the problems of your customers [product/service innovation]
- Coming up with better markets to serve [business expansion]
- Coming up with better stories to tell [effective marketing]
The next question is how do you upgrade your business?
5 Practical Steps to Upgrade Your Business
Growth in business as well as in life rarely happens overnight, as a matter of fact, it’s not the giant steps that count as much as the little consistent efforts focused on continuous improvement in some key areas of your business.
Below are 5 practical steps you can take to upgrade your business and guarantee sustainable growth.
Upgrade Your Mind
The very first step to upgrading your business begins with an upgrade of your mind. Your mind is the greatest tool you have as an entrepreneur. I know this will sound like a cliché, but it’s so true; whatever the mind can conceive it can achieve.
Every product or service was first conceived in the mind before the physical form. Every innovation or invention first began as an idea or a thought. The mind is mankind’s tool for creativity; it’s where ideas and thoughts are formed before being carried out physically.
How do you upgrade your mind?
Information. Education. Learning.
Show me a stagnant business and I will show you an entrepreneur who is not learning!
My business is helping people, businesses and lives grow and over time I have observed that the greatest enemy of growth is refusing to learn.
There’s hardly any future for those who constantly refuse to learn. And worse of are those who learn and don’t apply!
The secret to upgrading your mind is the continuous acquisition of information. Knowledge is what expands your mind, the more of it you acquire, the more empowered your mind becomes. The mind functions based on the quality of information it gets; garbage in, garbage out. Your mind is like a muscle, the more information you feed it, the more powerful it becomes.
So to upgrade your business, commit to continuous learning. Consciously seek out relevant information that can provide you with specific knowledge about specific areas of your business that require improvements.
Upgrade Your Skills
Your mind deals with what you know, but knowledge alone will not get you the results you want. After knowing comes doing and this is when you need skills. Knowledge expands your mind, skills expands your abilities.
I know you have talent, but your talent needs to be converted into skills through training. To consistently create services or products that people would love to pay for, you need to be at the top of your game and this requires skills, not just talent or knowledge.
Upgrade Your Tools
Whether it’s a product you sell or a service you provide, you need tools to work with. Tools make you more efficient in running your business. One vital area where tools are most needed in business is managing how you work [business process]. The quality of your tools can improve your productivity, creativity and efficiency.
Upgrade Your Network
Besides what you know, when it comes to upgrading your business, equally important is who you know. There are some business transactions that you will never come across until you associate with some caliber of people.
Upgrading your network helps you come in contact and develop relationships with people who can take your business further whether as a result of their connections, experience, position, or goodwill.
Upgrade Your Message
To upgrade your business, one key aspect you can’t afford to ignore is your marketing. If you get all other things right and miss this one, your business will still remain where it was.
Your message; that is the story you want to tell your target audience about your business is the most crucial part of your marketing. Marketing is much more than selling products, it’s creating the perceptions that make products sell. Your message is how you create this perception that helps to sell your products/services.
I have seen a lot of businesses focus so much on what channels or medium to advertise or what marketing tactics to use. All these are important, but they should come second not first. Your message is the first marketing task you need to sort out before considering the tactic or medium to use to get that message out.
There are too many competing businesses out there, the marketing noise is continuously getting louder, so unless your message is compelling and connects with your target audience, there’s no way you will be heard!
Over to you
Registration is ongoing for this month’s Business Strategy Sessions, 2 seats have been taken, 8 more to go. This is the perfect opportunity for you to put to use the steps outlined above;
- you will have access to information that will upgrade your mind
- you will discover the weak areas that you need to upgrade your skills
- you will meet other serious minded entrepreneurs to upgrade your network
- you will be exposed to better ways of doing things by upgrading your tools
- you will learn how to sideline your competitors by upgrading your message
The seats are closing fast, don’t be left out, click here to register!
In a competitive marketplace, up-to-date information can make the difference between keeping pace, getting ahead, or being left behind. Business is a game and only the team with the best players wins. To win, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses as well as that of your competition. Knowledge of thyself alone is no longer sufficient to remain competitive.
“If you are ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, then you are a fool and certain to be defeated in every battle.”
No matter how much you think you know about your business, no matter how much experience you have in your chosen field, without a clear understanding of the competitions in the market, you might as well be driving blind.
Big companies spend thousands of dollars to conduct competitive market analysis, but fortunately for those of you on a tight budget, you can do quite a bit of this yourself, without spending much at all.
This unusual article is about how you can effectively gather information about your competition and how to use that information to beat the competition.
Let’s get started!
What Is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive Intelligence is the purposeful and coordinated monitoring of your competitor(s), wherever and whoever they may be, within a specific marketplace… Your “competitors” are those firms which you consider rivals in business, and with whom you compete for market share. Competitive Intelligence also has to do with determining what your business rivals WILL DO before they do it. Strategically, to gain foreknowledge of your competitor’s plans and to plan your business strategy to counter their plans.
The goal of a competitor analysis is to develop a profile of the nature of strategy changes each competitor might make, each competitor’s possible response to the range of likely strategic moves other firms could make, and each competitor’s likely reaction to industry changes and environmental shifts that might take place. Competitive intelligence should have a single-minded objective –to develop the strategies and tactics necessary to transfer market share profitably and consistently from specific competitors to your company.
Competitive intelligence is the core of competitive strategy!
Have A Goal In Mind: What Do You Want To Know?
The very first step in carrying out an effective competitive analysis or research on your competition is to have an objective in mind; what exactly do you want to know? It’s already been stated above that the key purpose of competitive intelligence is to give you sufficient knowledge about the activities of your competitions in order to make better strategic decisions and actions that will give you a competitive edge in the market.
It’s totally unwise to start out without any aim in mind or without any specific information to sought for, so here are some of the key things you need to learn about your competition:
Who are the major competitors in the market?
What’s their current share of the market you’ve identified?
Have there been any significant changes in the market share each competitor has had over the past five to ten years [i.e. who’s moving up and who’s moving down]?
Which of your competitors address which segments and which of them are strongest in those segments?
What are your competitors’ strategies for reaching your target market, as well as any segments on which they focus?
Now that you know the types of questions for which you’re seeking answers [and there are many more, but these should get you started], it’s time to actually do the competitive research and to do that, there are two major approaches;
- Researching the competition online
- Researching the competition offline
How To Research Your Competitions Online
Traditionally, finding out about competitor activity might have been a lengthy and costly process. But now, with the help of the internet, you can easily access lots of useful information about your competition. Here are some ways to get started in being your own competitive intelligence gatherer on the Web and it won’t cost anything, but time.
1. Google It:
Well it’s true what they say; there’s hardly anything online that Google doesn’t know about, including information about your competitions. The very first step to take while conducting a research about your competition online is to Google them.
A simple search about your competition or major players in your industry can reveal a lot about their overall corporate strategy, their next product launch, their recent hiring and even customer complaints and reviews. All these are valuable information that can give you an added advantage while making strategic decisions and planning strategic competitive actions.
Besides using the search feature of Google, there are other useful tools from Google that can provide more information about your competitions such as;
- Google Alerts: allows users to set up alerts by keywords and phrases that trigger an e-mail notification and link every time that word or phrase pops up on a site, blog, or news story — depending on how the alert is configured. A business primarily concerned about three top competitors, for example, might set up a Google alert on all three companies and their top executives monitoring every time they get a mention online. Remember to also set up alerts for your own company so you can monitor what’s being said about you, and keep track of your direct and indirect competitors.
- Google Trends: This is a great tool for keeping track of what’s hot and what’s not in your industry. By using this tool, you can keep track of the major trends in your industry and most especially take note of the trendsetters; these are your competitions who are making things happen.
2. Use Industry Specific Sites:
While Google is a good place to start your research about competitions, it might not provide certain insider information. This is when using industry specific sites comes in handy; these are sites that gather relevant information about companies from trusted sources such as Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria, Companies House in the UK and in the USA, the local, state or federal government agencies.
In Nigeria, the Corporate Affairs Commission is a good starting point. For UK, visiting industry specific sites such as Duedil where you can access companies house data and search for information on millions of businesses is something to bear in mind. And for the US, visiting the websites of relevant local, state and federal agencies would help.
3. Use Social Media:
Given how companies are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as marketing outlets these days, you might be able to pick up interesting facts about your competition—and maybe even your own company—just by tuning in. Follow all your competitions on twitter, like their Facebook fan pages, connect with their key people on LinkedIn and subscribe to the YouTube channels!
Even if your competition isn’t social media savvy, it’s a good bet that they produce newsletters—either e-mail or print varieties—that you can sign up for to get the latest and greatest news and updates on things like new products or services they are introducing and what events they might be attending.
4. Look At Keywords:
Over 80% of all online transactions begin with a keyword search. To compete, you need to target all the relevant keywords. Keywords are the specific terms or phrases people entered into search engines to get to your website or your competitor’s website. In order to be as visible as your competition on major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. you need to find out what keywords they are using to rank well on search engines and equally start using them.
One way of doing this is to simply look at the code of their websites. Simply go to the site and click on “View” at the top of the browser, then “Source” or “Page Source” depending on your browser. A page of html code will pop up and the keywords will be buried in the code near the top of the page. If you can’t do this, talk to your web designer and if they can’t also help, then talk to us. Our differentiate online internet marketing services covers all these.
5. Monitor Traffic and Back links:
Traffic are the number of visitors that come to your office online –website. And back links are other websites that have your website or a page of your website on their own website. They are also known as external links. By doing this, they help improve the number of visitors that come to your website from their website.
Monitoring the number of visitors and the sources [back links] from which these visitors come to your competitor’s websites gives you a clue into potential websites that you also need to have your websites or a page of your website on. Since they are sending your competitions traffic, there is also a likelihood that they will also send you traffic if you can get your website listed or mentioned there.
For monitoring traffic, this information is easy to track on such free sites as Alexa.com and Quantcast.com. And for monitoring back links, there are tools in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools that let you track the domains linking to your site. Both of these tools are free and give you a great deal of information that you can use to maximize your site’s presence on the web. You can also use back link watch, it is equally free.
6. Scan Review Sites:
A review site is a website on which reviews can be posted about people, businesses, products, or services. A customer review is a review or feedback about a product or service made by a customer who has purchased the product or service. These are done using review sites such as; Google places for business, Yelp, Yahoo! Local listings, CitySearch, MerchantCircle, InsiderPages, Angie’s List and many others.
Using these review sites like can help reveal certain information about your competition, especially your local competitions and the complaints or praises from their customers. The good thing about scanning review sites is the first hand customer information they provide about your competitions; their strengths and weaknesses are easily at your disposal and you can then respond accordingly with a superior competitive strategy.
7. Get Professional Help:
All these can be very overwhelming especially for businesses that are not very internet savvy. This is where hiring the services of a professional internet marketing company comes in handy. They can help you strip your competitions naked and provide you with detailed report that will help you stay ahead of the competitions.
Like I mentioned above, we can help you out through our differentiate online internet marketing services for smart businesses. Give us a call today!
How To Research Your Competitions Offline
Here are additional ways to research the competition using other offline sources;
8. Ask Your Customers:
When it comes to identifying sources of information about your competition, don’t skip over the obvious ones—like your customers. Speaking to customers is one of the best [and cheapest] ways of gathering real information on competitors. Whenever you win a new customer, find out who they used before, and why they switched to you [i.e. the reason they were dissatisfied with their previous supplier].
Do the same when you lose a customer; identify what they preferred about your competitor. If you gather enough of these stories you’ll get a very clear idea on what competitors are offering that customers view as preferable. You can then adjust your own offering to beat that of the competitor.
9. Attending Industry Trade Shows And Conferences:
Attending industry trade shows and conferences—as well as joining industry associations—can be a great way to learn about who your competitors are and what they’re offering.
10. Read Industry Journals/Publications:
Also subscribing to and reading relevant industry journals/publications can also reveal useful information about your competitions. The closer and more connected you are to industry updates through these publications will give you sufficient insights about the movers and shakers in your industry. And when you do, you can put them on your competitive research radar!
11. Keep An Eye On Their Staff:
Another strategy is to hire employees from competing firms, especially sales people. No one knows more about the inside of your competition’s business than the employees. Find out all that you can about how they operate, and more importantly, what’s the future like for them?
Where are they taking their business? What markets are they venturing into? How are they leveraging innovation to cut costs and advance productivity? Where is the highest level of dissatisfaction with their products or services?
You can also learn something by studying the kinds of jobs your competitors are looking to fill. For example, if a company is hiring a web programmer, they will include information about exactly what technologies the candidates need to know, which tells you what they use.
Also look at what positions they are hiring; if they’re looking for a patent attorney, they could be working on some big new inventions. If they’re hiring for several HR, they may be preparing to expand overall.
Generally, monitoring the hiring needs of your competitions gives you a clue about the direction the company is heading and a glimpse of what their future would look like in terms of product launch and innovations.
12. Become A Mystery Shopper At Your Competitions:
Mystery shopping or a mystery consumer is a tool used externally by market research companies, watchdog organizations, or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service, or compliance with regulation, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery consumer’s specific identity and purpose is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated.
Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences. This can also be used to gather information about your competitions by sending people to buy from your competition or make enquiries about their products/services.
Keeping an eye on your competitions is a sound business strategy that will not only help you make better strategic decisions and actions, but will also help you stay ahead of the competition. Start with the steps discussed above and come up with other creative, but legal means of gathering more information about your competitions in business.
What other steps or means have you used to tap into useful information about your competitions in business?
Join the conversation, drop your comments below. Thanks!