Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Business Tips - Be Proactive About Customer Needs and Making Your Business Unique

An interesting phenomenon occurring in both large and small business is the diversification of their operation, services and products. There are two primary reasons for this: the first is related to increasing/improving their market share, and the second reason has to do with being proactive about customer needs. The increasing of market share is important because of the competitive nature of businesses today, as well as the advantage of cutting costs by merging different operations or running multiple (often similar) operations under the same strategic business structure. However, being proactive about customer needs is not something that businesses often think about, but the diversification of business operations has demonstrated to businesses that anticipating consumer needs can bring numerous benefits.

The most obvious example of service/product diversification is in pharmacies. It has always been typical for pharmacies and chemists to sell health care products, on top of their core business, which is to dispense prescriptions. However, if you look at the layout of the local chemist, many of them have a cosmetics section that would rival their health care products. One reason has to do with perception; perhaps that someone would be more confident taking advice about skin care in the setting of a pharmacy as opposed to the department store. Another reason has to do with combining necessity with convenience, and this is where being proactive about customer needs plays a big role in consumer behaviour.

In middle class families, needs (or necessities) come before wants (luxuries). If someone needs to buy both drugs and cosmetics, you would have to make a trip to both the department store and the chemist. Because you need the drugs more than the cosmetics (in most cases), you would go to the chemist first, and after spending your money there, if there’s any change left, you might consider buying the cosmetics. There are logistical and operational benefits with selling cosmetics and prescription drugs, but there is also the added benefit of convenience for the consumer. Furthermore, buy linking a trustworthy service (the chemist) to one of lesser qualities, you can contribute to customer confidence in your secondary service by indirect association.

Are there any little things you can do in your business to become more proactive about customer needs, or to help them make those little links in their minds? Try it and see the benefits.

Make your business an extension of your personality.

Virtually every business you can find today has hundreds, if not thousands, of competitors all doing something similar, or operating on the same business models. There are two ways to innovative in business: with new ideas or new modes of operation. While it is difficult to come up with new ideas (and even if you do, it will soon be copied by everyone else), it is much simpler to come up with new ways or approaches to operate a business. The biggest problem with operating a business on the global market is that you lose the uniqueness or identity of your business, which can often be the biggest asset in the current business environment that often lacks in creativity and innovation.

What do you like to do on a Friday afternoon? Perhaps a nice cup of coffee outside in the sun? Well, make that something you do with your employees on Friday afternoons. Do you like to participate in sports? Well, find employees that are likeminded, and participate in sporting activities as an organization, or as friends on weekends. Do you like your pay to be performance based? Well, reward your employees when they go the extra yard to contribute to the company’s value. Do you hate people who are not punctual? Well, make that a selling point for your services to always be on time, and take actions when employees are not punctual. Don’t just settle for employees that can do the job, but find people who operate and think like you, and you’ll establish a business that is uniquely you because it is an extension of your personality.

Very soon you’ll find that you develop a strong culture in your business, and that everyone who works for the business enjoys or shares that culture. The quality of your business is then reflected not only through your advertising, but also instilled in your employees, by the way the work, and the way that the business operates as a whole.


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