The occasional description of the business world as a jungle is apt in many ways, not least because the frantic competition between plants to reach the sunlight above the jungle canopy is very similar to the struggle of businesses to stand out from the mass of their competitors.
Nowadays the competition is more intense than before, says Anton Roelofse, regional general manager of Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), because the internet and globalisation makes it possible for the public to compare local businesses with their competitors throughout the world. More than ever, standing out from crowd is a matter of survival.
Here are seven ways in which businesses can differentiate themselves in an overcrowded global market place:
- Remain hungry:
Only business owners who remain hungry for improvement and maintain a desire for more efficiency, productivity and new and better ways of doing things are able to make their businesses stand out. Business owners who become satisfied with their business’s performance and stop improving will soon find their enterprises disappear among a mass of competitors. Only those who can remain ambitious and optimistic – attitudes that can be adopted by choice – can grow their businesses to reach above the jungle canopy.
- Live your business:
A business cannot stand out if it does not do marketing, and the core of the marketing of any owner-managed business is the business owner him- or herself. You must be your business’s best advertisement. Business owners who take a personal interest in their business’s marketing efforts are able to build the highest profile for their businesses. Even outside of business hours, at social gatherings, don’t miss the opportunity to let people know about what you do and why you are proud of your business. You don’t have to be a single-minded bore about it, but don’t hide it either. If you pitch it correctly, your passion for your business will be infectious.
- Learn to manage money well:
The business world is so full of bad financial management that simply by becoming good at it, you will immediately stand out from the crowd. There are many good plumbers in the market, for example, but very few of them are good plumbers and good money managers. By being economical, building up reserves, refraining from spending on luxuries, and paying timeously, you can build up a formidable reputation as a reliable and healthy business.
- Break from the pack:
If you simply do what all your competitors in your industry do, your business will never stand out, even if you do it fairly well. But when you do something that no other business in your industry does – when you offer unique value – then your business will stand out as a leader in your industry. You do not have to be the biggest business to lead your industry. Rather, the industry leader is the business that sets a new standard of quality and service, even if it remains one of the smaller players. There are plenty of ways in which you can enhance your offering to become the industry leader: introduce new technology, cut out a middle man, provide a unique guarantee, develop the best after-sales service, go out to the client when the rest of the industry expects the client to come to them. Resist trying to be the cheapest, or at least consider such a strategy very carefully. Usually, competing on price is the preserve of the industry giants who have the economy of scale to keep their prices low.
- Sell solutions and experiences, not just products:
A business that can train its staff to sell more than just the product on offer will undoubtedly stand out from the crowd. For example, a nursery that offers free gardening advice will certainly draw customers away from competitors whose sales staff know little about gardening. Deep industry knowledge allows the sales staff to offer solutions to the customer over and above the product, which provides ample opportunity for up-selling – convincing the client to choose a better and often a more profitable purchase. And by adding services that turn a trip to your business into an experience – a nursery, for example, can host a good coffee shop, gardening demonstrations or a play area for the kids – you will be able to leave your competitors far behind.
- Communicate constantly:
It’s no use offering a ground-breaking service in your industry, but your lesser competitors beat you in the communications race. Even if you offer the best service, you cannot stand out if you don’t have a substantial presence on social media and the internet, and if you do not constantly communicate with your market.
- Keep on learning:
Even if you stand out today, you can easily disappear tomorrow if you do not constantly keep up with the latest knowledge and best practice. Business owners who listen, read, explore and investigate new and better ways of doing things are always able to rise above the rest of the jungle.