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Why Your Customers’ Cravings are Your Key to Success

Getting the right product to market — and making megasales — starts with understanding what your market wants.

Peter S. Cohan

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Most start-ups fail. But if you want your start-up to avoid that fate, one thing you must do is to grow faster than the market into which you are selling your product.

Your start-up’s survival depends on your ability to overcome the natural reluctance customers have about doing business with you at any price.

How do you discover the right group of customers and build a product that relieves their pain? You need to discover them before your venture runs out of money.

I call that discovery process prototyping — building cheap, crude, fast versions of your product; giving it to customers; and studying what they like, don’t like, and believe is missing.

The purpose of prototyping is to try, fail, learn and try again. Often a start-up will cycle through this process eight times and fail in the first seven. By the eighth time through, it discovers the right product.

The good news is that if your start-up is competing with a big company, you can get to a winning version of your product after the eighth try faster than that big company can get its first version to market.

Quantum Value Leap

Here’s an example. One start-up is growing at 500% a year and expects to go public in 2014. Its success flows from a product that saves companies huge amounts of money in storing copies of their data.

The founder observed that those copies were stored in different ways, including magnetic tapes, hard disk and paper hived away in boxes.

Companies kept anywhere from 13 to 120 copies of their data. He wanted to give them a way to copy their data at a much lower cost, cutting the number of needed copies down to one.

Companies found it painful to realise that keeping all these copies was a waste of resources that they could have been investing in activities that would help them become more profitable.

The entrepreneur saw a huge market — over R30 billion — open to his start-up if he could free up potential customer resources.

He developed a product costing between R50 000 and R1,2 million, depending on customer data volumes, that was in such demand that his start-up began growing at 500% a year.

The start-up’s product delivered what I call a Quantum Value Leap, meaning a huge increase in the ratio between the value of what the customer gets from a product and the price it pays the seller.

Some of this start-up’s customers cut their costs for backing up their data by nearly two-thirds and for every rand they spent on the company’s products, they saved R15.

If you find unrelieved customer pain and soothe it with a product that provides a Quantum Value Leap, customers will beat a path to your door.

Where’s your quantum value leap?

How do you give customers huge value while charging a premium price?

Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates a management consulting and venture capital firm. He is the author of Hungry Start-up Strategy: Creating New Ventures with Limited Resources and Unlimited Vision (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

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PR & Publicity

How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business

Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.

Neli Moqabolane

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At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.

Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.

In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.

Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.

Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.

1Respond professionally

Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it. 

Related: A Guide to Optimising Your Business’ Social Media Usage

2Show how you solve problems

In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.

3Make your brand visible

brand-recognition-marketing

When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.

4Offer samples 

If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.

Related: How To Impress The Press

5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you

You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.

6Refer them to a relevant business

Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.

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How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’

Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.

Allon Raiz

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As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.

There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.

Perception versus reality

What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.

I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.

“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”

Beware curated reality

In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.

Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.

In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.

Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:

  • Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
  • Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.

Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:

  1. Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
  2. Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
  3. Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.

Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.

They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.

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6 Simple Ways To Build Brand Credibility On A Tight Budget

How to build media credibility for your business in 2017.

Mongezi Mtati

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Tight Budget
  • Old school: Unlimited marketing budgets.
  • New School: Smart and cost-effective ways to get noticed — despite an over-crowded market.

It’s no secret that when there is an economic downturn, advertising and marketing budgets — even in big businesses — take a knock. Most SMEs have much smaller advertising and marketing budgets, and we need to constantly find creative ways to build trust and credibility with potential clients, as well as increase our share of voice in our industries.

One way to do this is to build credibility with the media and generate exposure for the business to increase visibility, which in turn can translate into sales.

Where would you start?

1Follow and listen

Seeing your company’s name grace the glossy pages of your favourite magazine or your spokesperson appearing on your favourite business show can be very rewarding and lead to more opportunities.

The reality is that media outlets, editors, journalists and producers are bombarded with more stories than they can work on and most of those stories are irrelevant.

The key to increasing the likelihood of your business story being featured starts with understanding your chosen media. This includes drilling down to a specific journalist and the editor on whose platform you would like get coverage.

Do your homework, find out who their audience is, what sort of features they publish, and who they view as thought leaders. Start by investigating what the chosen platform is likely to focus on to ascertain whether or not what you have to share will be relevant and appealing to it.

Related: 7 Creative Strategies For Marketing Your Start-up On A Tight Budget

Just as you researched your market before you tried to sell to it, learn who their target market is.

Editors and producers balance audience interests around their platforms, which is critical to their growth, and they also need to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace to increase advertising in an era of dwindling advertising spend. Aside from being featured by the media, listening to existing conversations and following target platforms is significant if you and your business story are to be relevant.

2Share industry changes and stories

The advantage of living in this era of information and content overload is that information and data are everywhere. But, most of it is not well organised. The ability to organise information in ways that make for interesting and insightful reading can turn media attention towards your business.

How often have you read a story and found comments from people who are industry experts? Sharing knowledge and becoming the go-to industry voice builds credibility and positions your business as a team of experts, and most people would rather buy from companies that are specialists in their field.

3Share your progress

business-progress

Part of the challenge of starting and building credibility with the media is the lack of ‘story’ behind the business and the new idea. A silver lining that emerges from the sad finding that nine out of ten start-ups fail is that when small businesses make progress, it is worth celebrating.

This may not always be a cover story or sought after article, but making contact with key media about progress in a year or two sometimes leads to mentions and these can attract more coverage.

4Review a relevant event

Industry and business events tend to have interesting nuggets of information that sometimes go unnoticed and if you attend these events, there could be interest in a post-event write-up. One of the stories that we shared which garnered solid traction was about various speaker’s insights from an overseas conference that we attended.

The African continent is becoming more interested in local voices, in developing what the continent has to offer as solutions. Some of these solutions emerge at events that are not attended by media, which can give you the opportunity to write a publishable opinion piece.

Related: How To Budget Better: A Guide To Smarter Spending

5Share an industry success story

It’s tempting to write a press release that focuses on your business and hope that the spotlight lands on you. It’s like putting up your selfie in a public domain, but with the potential to be seen on TV or in print. Avoid at all costs.

Similar to sharing your progress, talking about an industry colleague — without overly marketing them or the competition — can make you the source of relevant industry information. Most industry commentators whose insights are sought after, are perceived to have relevant industry information and this also leads to more coverage linked to your business. Position yourself as the insiders with insights to share.

6Make it newsworthy

For your story to attract attention, it should interest the editor or the journalist and must be newsworthy. Unless you are someone important, and can offer an audience a new perspective, a personal story without a newsworthy angle increases the probability of your email address being redirected to the spam folder.

The notion of what makes news varies from one title to the next, from one show to another and listening to what is important in a handful of chosen platforms increases the chances of becoming a story that is worth telling.

As you build your credibility in the marketplace, foster relationships that will be valuable over time and build them by offering useful content that separates you from industry peers. After all the people with whom your business interacts and builds value can be its greatest asset.

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