Staying Afloat In A Competitive Business Environment

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Our streets, roads, the print and electronic media are awash with different offers from traders, manufacturers and service providers. One of the most dominant is the one between the phone manufacturers and mobile telecom service providers in Nigeria. It is really interesting to note that the SIM card I bought for N13,500 in 2003 now sells for as low as N200, or at no cost in some cases. That is how “cruel” competition can deal with revenue.

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

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

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

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

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

Below, are ten of the tips I shared with my wife:

1. See business like a boxing match. In a boxing match, boxers fix their eyes on each other to counter every move of the opponent. In doing this, they have to be alert and conscious of their environment – a case of complete alertness. Thus, businesses have to be constantly alert – conscious of, and pre-emptive of competitors’ actions and inactions.

2. Do something extra….something special. Make your product very outstanding. Relate with your customers in a way your competitors are not known for. Give them a very competitive price, without lowering standards. Use marketing campaigns and strategies that your competitors have not explored or have not even thought of. Give your customers reasons to stick to you and give your competitors‘ customers reasons to cross over to you. Do not annoyingly stick to “the same old ways.” Be innovative. Let your business be identified as a pioneer and not a follower of business strategies.

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

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

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

6. There is no doubt that the human resource “drive” an organisation towards growth, stagnation, decline or eventual collapse. It becomes MANDATORY therefore for businesses to engage and maintain (through motivation and excellent welfare and staff development packages) goal getters and workers who understand what business growth and success is all about. Thus, merit and not nepotism or sentiments should be a business’ over-riding criteria in employment. These days business intelligence ranks superior to paper qualification. Why? Because, research has shown that a number of employers who employed graduates with first class degrees and some with multiple degrees have come to realize that paper and practice are two different things entirely. In the market place, a great attitude, innovative mind set, excellent knowledge of the business environment (factors affecting the business), foresight, excellent power of pre-emptive abilities and competitive strategizes keeps a business way beyond its contemporaries.

7. Of special mention here, is the caliber of top management personnel who take far-reaching decisions affecting the entire business. These days, wrong choices of who pilots the affairs of a business would be a costly mistake as it could place a business on the path of failure, stagnation, inability to stand competition, and then collapse. Decision-making, to me, is most delicate function of today’s business. It can make or break a business. A simple decision taken out of selfishness, ignorance or deep consideration for business implications, can destroy a business that has been doing so well for decades. This obviously paves the way for competitors to carry out the final kill.

8. Making the best use of first impression will is a very good means of dealing with competition. First impression happens once. Some customers are hasty with decision making. So, give them an irresistible first impression. This starts from the gate, to the first things they see in the premises, to the front desk office, to what they will see from there. It encompasses, personnel, furniture, fittings etc. pay attention to those things you would have considered irrelevant. Remember, first impression happens once. Make it a selling tool.

9. Use modern-day marketing tools. This includes skilled marketers who are no different from goal keepers about to catch a penalty kick. I am sure you have seen one in action before. If not, watch one in action. The business is the goal keeper and completion is the kicker. The internet continues to be a powerful marketing tool. The Social media and instant messengers have turned out to be money spinners for those who know how to use them. Well-crafted and managed blogs and websites have also been powerful marketing tools. Bulk SMSs and email marketing are also competition busters. The good news is that these are cheaper than the conventional means of marketing like using television, newspaper and radio.

10. Finally, always remember that there is no business that cannot collapse. So, every business has to be constantly innovative at evolving extension strategies to stay afloat and longer in today’s very competitive business environment

I hope you found my tips useful.

Thanks for your time.


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Michael M.

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