You’re convinced you’ve got a product or service everybody needs. You’re confident that your offering has no parallel in your locality or even in the wider world. You know that the skill set you possess, the service you offer, the product you’ve assembled or packaged is the bomb, but you don’t understand why you can’t seem to attract the kind of business your offering deserves.
It’s possible that you’ve taken a critical look at your business and isolated areas you consider key, just to make sure none is the reason for the low or no patronage your business witnesses. You may have considered the LOCATION or LOCALISATION, if it is at all of any consequence to your business fortunes.
Closely related to this are the OPERATING ENVIRONMENT and your MARKET. If your business is suitably sited where your customers or clients can conveniently walk in and receive the attention they need, then the LOCATION factor can’t be the culprit.
While the OPERATING ENVIRONMENT and your MARKET may be influenced by larger socio-economic and political forces, which may be beyond your control, formulating the right response strategies to mitigate the effects of any adverse government policies (or policy gaps) or even inimical environmental factors isn’t. If you’ve got a firm grip of the issues related to those factors, then they may not be the reason to blame for business not coming your way.
How you run your business is another factor you may have to examine. Do you run your business professionally with PROPER SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES in place? Do you use round pegs in round holes to guarantee that those who work for you have skills which match the job description of the roles assigned to them? Do your operations ensure EFFICIENCY? Do they promote excellent CUSTOMER SERVICE or unparalleled SERVICE DELIVERY? What’s your STAFF RELATIONS like? Does your philosophy and practice of employee relations embrace values such as mutual respect, cordiality and dignity of labour and of the human person? Does it espouse the ethics of fairness, honesty, probity and accountability? Does it accommodate reward for hard work and disincentive or sanction against indolence? Is it premised on the GOLDEN RULE of ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’? With your answer to these questions in the affirmative, you’ve eliminated one other possible culprit.
You’ve probably also considered PRICING as well as the activities of your COMPETITION. Once you’ve not priced yourself out of the market or underpriced yourself to the point that value-seekers look elsewhere, if you’re confident that the rate at which your goods or services exchange for people’s hard-earned money is perceived as bargain price for the consumer and good value for his money, then you’ve no reason to worry about the PRICE factor. However, you still have the COMPETITION whose activities can and will affect your business either directly or indirectly, whether you like it or not.
Keeping close tabs on the activities of rival businesses and/or industries as well as responding appropriately (either tactically or strategically) to them are two key action points smart business owners embrace. As a smart business owner, you probably have this factor well covered.
Let’s assume you’ve actually covered all areas identified above but still can’t find that human traffic that gives successful businesses healthy bottom lines. What do you do? Where else could you look? Rather than looking elsewhere, I’ll advise that you look more intently at your COMPETITION, particularly those very successful businesses in your industry or market that you envy. Are there things they are doing that you aren’t because you do not think those things are important or that they make any difference? There could be a number of things or areas but one largely downplayed and often-ignored area is promoting your business through effective marketing communications.
This leads to the all-important question: What is marketing communications and how can you use it to boost your business? Marketing communications, according to Wikipedia, is “messages and related media used to communicate with a market … (it) is concerned with the general behaviour of an organisation and the perceptions of the organisation that are promoted to stakeholders … (it) is primarily concerned with demand generation, product/produce/service positioning.” Marketing communications involve promotion through a range of activities including, but not limited to: ADVERTISING (above and below the line), BRANDING, DIRECT MARKETING, GRAPHIC DESIGN, PACKAGING, PUBLIC RELATIONS (and PUBLICITY), SPONSORSHIP, SALES, SALES PROMOTION, ONLINE MARKETING (or E-MARKETING and INTERNET PROMOTIONS), TRADE FAIRS and EXHIBITION. Any or a combination of any of these activities or disciplines, based on expert advice, can be adopted to boost one’s business.
The whole essence of marketing communications is creating the right (that is, the intended) perception that sublimely (or even overtly and directly) predisposes target of the communication to liking, favouring, adopting, buying or embracing a message, position, product, service, cause or organisation. It’s marketing communications that holds that “image is everything” and posits that “perception is reality”.
We often hear about the triumph of marketing over substance, an expression used to describe a situation in which products that are not up to scratch do well in the market because of the way they are promoted. Compare this with a situation in which a very good product, developed based on the latest findings of the manufacturer’s R & D (Research and Development) department, is a big flop in the market because it is poorly promoted or not promoted at all. This is a paradox which smart business owners do everything to avoid.
One of the most dangerous assumptions any businessman or woman could make is to expect that his product or service will become a market success only because it is very good or the best in its class. Not a few products of the highest grade have been known to fail in the market. The dynamics of today’s market preclude those conditions in primitive markets that made quality products succeed in the marketplace for the singular reason that they were very good products. Quality, as outstanding a characteristic as it is, is no longer a guarantee in and of itself of market success in today’s world of business.
One set of businesses that did not quickly detect the changing times was small and medium scale enterprises. But they seem to know better now. Among them was alternative or herbal medicine practice which today makes use of marketing communications. You may want to take a leaf from our herbal medicine practitioners who before now were publicity- and media-shy. They were forced to change their ways when they found out that developing and making available to the market alternative medicines that were more potent than their orthodox counterparts without promoting them was akin to winking at a woman in the dark. They were cocksure that they were winking correctly but the target wasn’t the least aware what they were doing. Now they know they needed to turn on the light so the target can see them winking. Marketing communications just happened to be the light switch they needed to press.
So quit wondering why your best-in-class product or service isn’t making the cash register ring as often as you would like. Now you know why and know what to do. Stop complaining and take the bull by the horns by going to talk with the experts.