"In the same way as a mission statement tells customers what your purpose is, a business strategy shows your employees what the objectives are to work towards. "
Since COVID-19 forced the part-time closure of many UK businesses, companies must remain competitive in their market of operation. Although businesses can now reopen, it’s vital that you as a business owner continuously look for ways to improve and adapt your enterprise.
This all starts with a strategy. In the same way as a mission statement tells customers what your purpose is, a business strategy shows your employees what the objectives are to work towards. Here, we discuss four strategies to help keep your business current and competitive.
Understand your customers
Since the survival of all businesses relies on customers, it's vital that you place them at the heart of all business decisions. It’s important that you understand what they want to see your business provide and what their thoughts are on the current items available. The most effective way to understand your customers is to talk to them directly. Whether you operate in-store based or online, there are many effective ways to reach out to your current and past consumers.
In-store based businesses
For physical store-based businesses, politely asking them to complete a survey is an effective way to engage with your customers more. Take clothing stores for example, by asking customers simple questions such as “What are your favourite items in the store?” and “What is your least favourite clothing items?”, you can gain a further understanding as to what your customers want to see more of. Since many people tend to roll their eyes at the thought of having to take a survey, ask employees to fill it out for them instead. Rather than giving them the paper and pen, talk to them while they’re at the checkout and note down what they say!
As for e-commerce sites, there are many ways to understand your customers in more depth. Through the use of pop-up box style questionnaires that appear as customers are shopping, you can use these to gain further insight. This can work effectively for businesses operating in niche markets. Since buyer personas must include specific characteristics and demographics, conducting an online survey that asks both numerical and opinion-based questions can help gain a further understanding as to who your customers are and what they are looking for. To encourage more people to partake in the survey, reward them with a discount code to say thank you.
Assess your current products and services
Other than the value of your customers, it’s the products and services themselves that support your businesses financial success. Therefore, its vital that you assess your product portfolio to see which are performing well and which aren’t. There are many business analysis models that are put in place to help with this. Take the Boston Matrix, for example.
This product analysis tool groups your products and services based on how well they are performing and divides them into four groups.
Cash cows: These are the products that have high market share yet relatively low growth. If your business has been established for several years, you will have some products that continue to be popular with customers. Make sure these continue to satisfy their wants!
Stars: These are your products that appear to be gaining popularity in a rapidly growing market. For fashion-based businesses, ‘star’ products are essential since trends and tastes change all the time.
Question marks: Perhaps the main group of products and services to focus on, these are the ones that have the potential to drive sales to your business, yet don’t appear to be popular with your customers yet. For businesses in the likes of the electronics industry who have just launched a new product, this is the time where marketing is essential to spread awareness.
Dogs: For products that don’t appear to be drawing in much cash, remove them! For the likes of restaurants that aren’t selling enough of a particular dish, out with the old and in with the new.
Conducting this analysis will help outline what products or services remain competitive and which need changing.
Keep an eye on your competitors
What better way to compete with your rivals than watching what they are doing? To stay one step ahead of the game, keep an eye on what your competitors are doing to attract their customers.
See what your competitors are currently providing that you aren’t. For those operating in real estate, for example, perhaps competitors are providing customers with 360-degree images of properties. If so, step it up a notch and provide yours with live video tours.
See what mistakes they have made and learn from them too. Although learning from your own mistakes benefits all businesses, learning from others works in your favour.
See what opportunities your competitors are missing out on. Perhaps there are some products or services that aren’t currently being provided on the market. If so, add them to your business portfolio before your competitors beat you to it! Take convenience stores, for example – other than the basic food and drink items that are sold, both you and your competitors might be missing out on treating your customers with an on-trend fizzy slush machine to quench their thirst.
Keep up to date with government regulations
Since the UK continues to live through unpredictable times due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's vital that businesses persistently look for ways to adapt their short-term strategies to meet with government regulations. This is crucial for the likes of restaurant and pubs. Since new curfews and bans on multiple households mixing have been put in place, adapting your restaurant or pub to offer takeaways and home deliveries is an effective way to remain present in the market and stand out from the crowd.
It is more important now than ever that businesses remain current and competitive. Since businesses across all industries continue to be affected in one way or another due to the pandemic, you must do your best to stay ahead of the competition.