“Fear makes come true that which one is afraid of.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
That quote by Austrian Philosopher Victor E Frankl is a great place to start this post. Because the world of business is marked by unpredictability, instability, and an ever-constant environment of change - and that’s when times are good.
However, as any seasoned business owner, entrepreneur or department manager will tell you, you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of until you’re tested and even then, testing for success by design means that you have to fail at some point, in something. Otherwise, how would you know when you’ve succeeded?
With that being said, one of the biggest challenges that business owners face in today’s markets is how to remain relevant and competitive - when everyone around you is focused on achieving the same thing?
We have some thoughts.
We all know the basics, right? These days if you’re not online, you’re not anywhere. If you don’t have a creative sales force, you’re not selling. If you’re not continually evolving your product line quality or service bouquet, you’ll be dated before you know it - and that leads to irrelevance even faster.
In the climate that surrounds business right now, what we used to know as the solid foundations and staples of doing good business are fast disappearing and being replaced with new, innovative, and smart solutions.
It used to be that providing excellent service, a solid product, a reliable service, honestly, integrity - all the good stuff, would be enough. Well, to a certain extent that is still the truth, but now it all comes down to how you package yourself as a business that matters first.
Today’s consumer takes on average around 20-seconds to make a purchasing decision. Think about that. 20-seconds. Savvy customers have subliminally or otherwise learned how to decode logos, corporate communications, and buzz words, spurred on by endless “hashtags” and Instagram posts, today’s consumer doesn’t need to be told what they want anymore.
All of these elements and more have given rise to the ever-important and increasingly critical must-have in your value proposition: client experience.
Consumers are looking for experiential buying that speaks to the heart or core of why they’re engaging with you. They want to be seen using your product or service and they look for peer recognition in doing so, all at the same time, and that brings us to the main topic of this post: How are you going to remain competitive (add: relevant) in an increasingly competitive market?
“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” – Jerry Gregoire
KNOW YOUR BUSINESS, THE WAY YOUR CUSTOMER DOES
Sure, we all want to think of and identify ways that will make our customers’ lives easier, but what does that mean in this crazy, constantly changing business environment?
Well, to know the answer to that question, you first have to know how your consumers are engaging with your business in the first place. There are various ways of achieving this. You have the good and trusted “customer experience survey” (but honestly, who has time for that?) or you can engage with your clients on social media (better - but not there yet), but for some brutally honest feedback, your mission to know your customer should start with a secret shopper.
LEARN HOW TO EXEMPLIFY YOUR STRENGTHS
The danger with posts like these is that they can lean towards inspiring fear instead of, well - inspiration and we mean to achieve the latter. But as Marry Poppins alluded to all those years ago, you need your sugar and your medicine. Secret shoppers can give you valuable insights into where you’re excelling - and where you are not.
When you know who you are as a business, you’ll know what your strengths are. From a strictly non-egotistical base (OK, you’re allowed just a smidge), you can work back and discover your loopholes, and the areas where you’re service offering leaves something to be desired.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT SKILLS
No man is an island (even if your business is a one-man show), you are at some point going to have to engage the talents of workers or agencies that enjoy skills beyond what you’re capable of delivering. If you are an employer, this means attracting better talent or upskilling your existing team.
If you’re a sole entrepreneur then you’ll want the help of B2B agencies to get you access to networks and exposure beyond your primary marketplace.
ANALYZE YOUR DATA AND STAY AHEAD OF TRENDS
As you embark on understanding your customer experience and where you’re meeting goals or falling short, that data needs to be analyzed and thoroughly understood. Beyond the obvious bits of data that you can glean from running surveys or studying your competition, you can also learn where markets are heading by knowing what your competitors are providing and where they’re doing better than you are.
INFORMATION IS POWER
Many traditionalists have fallen short here. In the old days business used to jealously guard information and sharing was considered a sure-fire way of losing. Now, you do need to exercise responsibility and caution when dealing with information but when you know and truly understand the processes that are involved in delivering your product and service to your end-user successfully, you can innovate and troubleshoot all at the same time.
Take a car dealership for example. Do you think they should publish and distribute service and maintenance booklets, or keep them secluded at the dealership? If you have a Ford and you want to know what’s wrong with it, would you prefer to have Ford dealership repair manuals at hand or make the mission to head into town to pick them up?
Certainly, having access to the information you need when you need it, will more than likely turn you into a consumer sooner rather than later.
UNDERSTANDING IT ALL
Being competitive is more than just aggressive pricing models and fancy communications. It’s being able to understand, anticipate and deliver on your client expectations in a way that makes their lives easier, is cost-effective, and creates the desire to do repeat business with you.
Go back to the drawing board, keep it simple, and have a great time doing it.