During the past weeks, we reviewed at length the applications which can be successfully applied to solve the mountain of challenges faced by small companies. In this article, we add a few more applications which can be used by companies with limited resources and continue to develop their position in the market.
Focus on specialty products that command premium prices.
Leave the commodity price segment to others. Practice marketing your product with specific applications, which forces you to get closer to your customers
and their problems.
For instance, look at the following possibilities for your products: Promote more frequent usage of your product among existing customers, find new users for your product, find more uses (applications) for your product, find new uses for your product’s basic components.
Establish long-term interactions with customers
Encourage trust with customers so that sensitive information can be shared for mutual interests. If possible, utilize them to design product features, propose product options, or identify new services.
New product opportunities come in many different forms. (a) Modification, [alter a product feature] (b) Line extension, [add more variety] (c) Diversification, [enter a new business] (d) Re-merchandising [create a new impression in market] and (e) Market extension, [enter a new market]. Rarely will the five new product categories be used separately. They lend themselves to combined applications for maximum impact. Moreover, you will probably want to try a package approach to maintain steady growth. For instance, line extension is often used with remerchandising or market extension. What remains essential, though, is that the prospective customer perceives a difference worthy of consideration.
Maintain a market-driven orientation throughout your organisation.
Organise a strategy team made up of individuals that represent a variety of functions. Then use the team’s business plan as a guide to market opportunities. Strategic business planning and strategy team’s duties and responsibilities were discussed in detail earlier.
Investigate opportunities that complement your long-term objectives.
Seek joint ventures or exporting situations that can expand your presence in the existing markets, as well as secure a foothold in developing markets.
Partner salespeople with customers to handle customers’ problems.
Go beyond traditional forms of sales training. Instead, teach salespeople how to think like strategists, so they can help their customers achieve a competitive advantage.
Also, consider offering training as a value-added service to your customers using online or live workshops. You must think like a professional strategist. Some guidelines are given below.
Search for opportunities in poorly served or emerging market segments
Penetrate new and expand the existing market segments. Improve products and services. Stretch product lines. Position the products to the needs of the customers and against the competitors.
Identify ways to create new opportunities
Participate in current technologies, initiate product and service innovations and explore new delivery systems. Pioneer something new or unique.
Look for opportunities through marketing creativity
Promote image, quality, performance and training. Explore fresh approaches in Internet marketing, social networking and other online activities.
Monitor customer relationships and retention rates
Discover dominant reasons for strong customer relationships. Identify reasons why customers leave. Measure retention rate. Isolate causes of customer defections. Calculate lost profits. Determine types of value-added services and differentiation approaches to retain customers.
Monitor changing buying behaviour
Practice segmenting markets according to changing behavioural patterns.
Identify clusters of customers who might buy or utilize different services for different reasons.
Learn from competitors – and adapt strategies from other industries
Understand competitors: How they conduct business - what products they sell - what strategies they pursue - how they manufacture, distribute and price - what weaknesses, limitations and vulnerabilities they exhibit.
Use strategy to create and maintain competitive advantage
Create differentiation in areas such as quality, function, service, warranties, etc.
Challenge the status quo
Look for ways to: Introduce new products, modify the existing products, alter the perception of products in the customer’s mind – pursue new customers and increase the product usage by the existing customers.
Identify your team’s distinctive competencies
Highlight and exploit such areas as: Special skills unique to your firm - marketing abilities - customer/dealer relationships - product innovations - ability to build market position and retain - customer loyalty - capability to confront competition without hesitating.
Recognize that emerging competitors can hurt you more
Maintain a comprehensive market and competitor intelligence system that focuses on customers and competitors built around a Two-zone strategy
Understand that timing is as important as strategy choice
Use speed. Maintain movement when the competitor is unable or unwilling to respond. Time actions are most conducive to dealer support and customer response. Use strategy to unbalance competitors into making wrong moves.
Understand the quality of your personnel and company culture
Uphold a customer-driven company culture. Work closely with the staff in creating opportunities. Pay close attention to the psychological dimension of your people, identified by attitude, morale, state of mind, overall way of thinking.
Monitor your company’s and product’s image
An image evolves from a multitude of factors. It can include the choice of a company or brand name, the symbolism used or any other part of the entire marketing spectrum, including product design, pricing and promotion. The symbolism also contains logos, slogans, jingles, colours, shapes or packaging.
Remember - Design provides aesthetic appeal. Colour sets a mood. Shape generates recognisability. Package connotes value and function. Name expresses central idea. Slogan, jingle, logo creates memorability. Advertising, personal selling communicates benefits Sales promotion stimulates interest. Price suggests quality, value, prestige. Warranty establishes believability. Service substantiates product support.
Be sure, however, that the image is consistent with your long-term business plan.
Identify market niches that are emerging
Reassess how you segment your markets. Search for additional approaches beyond the usual criteria of customer size. Frequency of purchase and geographic location. Look for potential niches related to just-in-time delivery, performance application, quality or technical assistance.
Use information technology to link your customers and business partners.
Encourage a continuous flow of information by engaging in ongoing communications from product concept to delivery of a product to a customer. Effectively applied, informational technology performs as a powerful competitive strategy and an effective link that allows you to be more virtual with customers and suppliers.
Search for various forms of partnering as keys to success
To make alliances work requires a high level of trust and willingness to achieve mutually agreed-upon, short- and long- term goals.
That means that your company’s culture — expressed as values, ideas and behavioural patterns — has to be compatible with the culture of the other firm in the alliance, if you expect the relationship to succeed in forming healthy interactions with customers, suppliers, and employees.
Specifically, success relies on understanding your company’s core values, maintaining a positive mindset and an orientation that is totally customer driven.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at [email protected])