Whenever entrepreneurs consult or contract me to develop their startup business strategy there is one issue that I almost always find at the top of the list of what they expect of me. This is how to fix competition.

Even in cases where I feel competition is not a major threat, and it often happens with most businesses, I am forced to address it because of the obsession and weight most business owners put on it.

Apparently, most startups think their enemy number one to their business is competition. As a result they spend so much time worrying and thinking of how to beat the competitor than how to win customers, which is key to the success of the business.

Sometimes I ask very candid questions, who do you think is your biggest competitor? What do you think will happen if they closed shop from tomorrow? Do you think all their customers will readily come to you?

It is at this point that they begin to see the elephant in the room — that their worst enemy is not the competitor but a lack of marketing.  It is failure to acquire customers that hurt business more than the activities of the competitor or even the quality of the product.

Most startups fail at acquiring customers, not at building products. Building or developing and offering a product that is better than your competitors is not hard and many startups can, and actually do it. The real task that determines who wins the day lies in marketing. You need to tell your prospects that you have a product that can address their needs better.

It is common for startups to focus on product development and design but without good marketing no one will see and buy it. When a product fail to sell, they quickly blame competitors and in the process, commit another blunder — spending more time focusing on the activities of rivals than developing customer acquisition strategies.

Marketing is like mining precious minerals. To get one kilo of the precious metal one may have to dig and shove aside tonnes and tonnes of rocks and dirt. In addition, one has to be very good at prospecting in order to increase the chances of finding the mineral by focusing and concentrating all activities to certain areas with the highest likelihood of having the minerals.

Likewise marketing is a game of numbers.  You have to reach out to many people. Out of the many people you reach out to and tell about your products, only a small percentage will take time to consider your products and very few will actually buy. The secret is to reach many on continuous basis.

As a startup business owner, you first need to fight for attention and gain mind share before you gain market share. Once you get one customer, treat them so well that they will not only keep buying from you, but they will tell others about you so that you can grow organically.

Your satisfied customers are your greatest asset. Ask them for referrals and advice on what you need to do to get more people buy from you. Not everyone is your prospective customer. Avoid chasing everyone by narrowing your activities to people who are most likely to buy from you.

Improve on your prospecting by profiling your ideal customer, using your current good customers as the benchmark. Focus only on people who share certain salient characteristics with your current good customers rather than casting your net far and wide hoping to net many in the process.

Your success will largely depend on the quality of the people you approach.

Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Journey: From Employment to Business’. murorikiunga@yahoo.com.

This Article was first Published in Business Daily


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