Two Cents April ’15
Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
How do we improve our chances of winning customers faster when entering a market that’s already saturated with many companies offering similar products?
Whether you’re a late entrant or an existing provider, if you follow these simple five steps you can stand out from the competition and be rewarded with an ongoing profitable business. First step you need to make is to find out who your primary customers are. The notion of selling to everyone is delusional. What about companies that sell milk, you may ask? Even such companies need to target key customers. For example, are they after price-sensitive buyers, big-family consumers, or athletes with interest in high protein and enriched milk? The answer to this question affects product development, advertising, packaging, pricing, and more. It all starts with knowing whom you’re going to sell to. If you don’t have a clear and specific description of your key target audience, you’re already on the wrong path.
The next step is to know what such customers want to buy from your industry. Basically, learn which products and/or services matter to them the most and why. Third step is how to give them what they want in a way that’s better quality, more convenient, faster, higher value for money, or whatever other way to differentiate yourself. Fourth step is figure out how to deliver the same standard consistently. The word ‘consistency’ is the foundation of professionalism and trust for successful brands. Your final step in the setup process is to find out how to communicate the value of what you deliver in clear and motivating ways that customers can immediately understand and act upon. However, if you’re bluffing, they’ll know; and your next question to me will then be, “How can we stop our financial bleeding?”…and that’s just my two cents.
My company pays me well, I must say. I’m good at what I do because of my experience but it’s not fun anymore. Should I stick to what I know or find a new job?
Comfort poisons development. One of the most dangerous enemies to continuous learning and growth is the satisfaction generated from familiarity. Familiarity breeds a sense of comfort that makes it difficult to leave that zone and push through obstacles and challenges with no guarantees for success. If you’re knowledgeable in your field, it becomes tempting to keep doing what you do without much change because it works, it gives you recognition, and it’s safe. So why bother rocking your own boat? For many reasons, most importantly, you don’t learn much by applying what you already know. Also, times change and what worked ten years ago may not work as effectively today. It’s also good for your mind and ego not to assume you’re always right and to question your own techniques.
Japanese anime master, director and writer Hayao Miyazaki, known for anime films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle, is co-founder of Studio Ghibli. They have more than 400 employees producing these award-winning productions. There’s a sign inside the studio that reads: “Please quit if you: have no ideas, always rely on others, avoid responsibility, or lack enthusiasm.” Miyazaki once said in an initial strategic meeting to the first team of Studio Ghibli that if he won’t be learning new things and enjoying work, he’ll quit and he asked the employees to do the same. Having said all this, the definition of professional success differs from one person to another. For one, it’s more money. For another, it’s the quality of the journey. Figure out yours…and that’s just my two cents.
Who should you invite from the staff when you want to hold an important brainstorming session?
While the classic description of ‘brainstorming’ is generally understood as ‘holding a group discussion to produce ideas’ according to the Oxford Dictionary, there’s another definition – in the same dictionary too – that explains it as ‘a spontaneous group discussion to produce ideas and ways of solving problems’. I find the word spontaneous to be misleading. A brainstorming session is a combination of structure and spontaneity. You need to know how to design the system and environment that gives room for spontaneous thinking to run free for a while. Why for a while? Because if the ideas remain wild and in all directions, your brainstorming session will fail to achieve its objective. So the flow of a successful brainstorming session is freedom followed by logic. The question now is who’s responsible for each part?
Research shows that high IQ is not a guarantee for creativity. You need people who are filled with curiosity, ability to take risks, and rebels in a way. These traits form a style of divergent thinking, a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. This is where the freedom part thrives. Once these ideas are on the table, you need other participants with traits that promote convergent thinking, a set of logical steps to arrive at one solution. Therefore, inviting senior managers alone or specific titles because of their roles is the wrong selection criteria. Look for three participants with divergent thinking style and three with convergent thinking style. Let the former group lead the first half of the session, and the latter lead the second; you’ll have a blast…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.