Business owners have forever been searching for ways to grow their market. It’s not a new concept, but it does get dressed up a bit with each new business word cycle – increase market share, expand your market, grow your market, tap into a new market, global market etc. Basically, if market = customers, then getting more customers is the translation of these up-market terms, and therefore the goal.
To just make the grand statement, “I want to grow my market” isn’t a case of magic wand waived and your business fairy godmother makes it happen. Expanding or growing your market should be constantly at the top of your fluid strategic business plan. You can never stop considering and working on what’s next. Think fashion and how far ahead they operate regarding seasons, fabrics, prints and colours.
To not think ahead creates a negative, which will inevitably result in your business going backwards. It’s too late when you’re tracking downward; you can only go into damage control and be prepared to take the hit until recovery. Even then, it’s a big ask to make up the loss.
It’s not uncommon, even for experienced business owners, to make the mistake of thinking, “It’s not broken so don’t fix it”. Business has changed and it now moves faster than it traditionally has done. In fact, saying something is cutting edge or the “next hot new thing” will no doubt be so yesterday by the time it’s consolidated into your business.
In the hospitality world that I live in, the sin of not being strategically creative and working on what’s next can mean the death of a business. In the last six years I have seen a 600 per cent increase in geographical competitors, all within a seven-minute walking distance of my café. They all have two things in common – wanting to take a piece of my existing market, and having a smaller footprint than me. Neither of which I can control. So I have to be smarter, lean and kick up so much dust that they can’t see ahead.
Sometimes I feel like my part-time job is being a gypsy, getting out the crystal ball and seeing into the future of my business. It’s too bad the lotto numbers don’t appear while I’m working my magic! There is no denying that you go out on a limb when you decide on the direction for your business to fuel market growth, or even just to maintain the level you have and make up for the natural attrition that all businesses has. We all lose customers.
My focus has been to revive our market. Relationships need to be rekindled and reignited – we want to excite our new customers and give a bigger smile to our existing ones. We are re-evaluating all of our stakeholders and being absolutely ruthless in assessment. They are either on the same page as us or they aren’t. I want my business to increase performance, profits and absolutely over deliver on customer experience.
You can’t be sure that the customers you have today will be there tomorrow. And if they are, they’ll need more than what they already have if they’re to keep coming back. Reviving your market is a good way to keep your customers coming back for more and a great way for enticing new customers.
This is especially important in markets that are intensely competitive and not unique – like the café industry. I don’t sell anything they can’t get somewhere else, so I have to give them a reason to cross the road, and there is always another new ‘it’ cafe opening up. Customers now have more choices, are better informed and certainly more demanding. Revive and survive. Last business standing wins.
Angela Vithoulkas is a small business owner and a passionate flagbearer for Aussie small businesses.