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Archive for January, 2014

Cluster with competitors or be somewhere different?

There’s a new Wendy’s opened not too far from where I live.  I suppose eventually we’ll check it out.  What made me think of it was that last night we drove past and there weren’t that many people in there.  Hardly surprising, given the huge number of fast food outlets in the area.  Which brings me to my point in writing this – is it such a good strategy, all the fast food outlets congregating in the same area of a city?

There’s an obvious benefit to doing so.  Customers get to know where to head to find food.  Once there, they pick from the selection.  If the other outlets are in one area, and your outlet is not there, you won’t be selected.  A bit like Lotto – you can’t win if you don’t have a ticket, but it’s a game of chance.  Maybe the customer will pick you today, and maybe they won’t.

On the other hand, if your fast food outlet is in a different area, and the only one there, the majority of customers in that vicinity are probably going to pick you, rather than travel further.  As long as they know you are there.  And if they are anything like my family, everyone wants something different, so going to a ‘cluster’ works well for take out, even if we have to travel a bit further.

Using a unique location seems to work well for ‘destination’ businesses, where customers seek out the unique products or services – examples include children’s specialty stores,  wedding outlets, ‘hobby’ related stores eg art supplies, dance/music stores,specific sports specialty stores and so on.  If your customers or clients are specifically seeking you out, then you might be based anywhere reasonably accessible, and in some cases, issues like free parking can be more important than location.

Locating close to competitors seems to work well where customers are likely to see you as similar to others, and choose the specifics once they get to the location, or are likely to choose while at a location eg shopping malls.  This is likely to apply to food outlets including fast food, cafes etc, general clothing stores, stationery store, and so on.

Professional services firms tend to ‘cluster’ around a CBD area in cities and towns.  This gives them a physical presence with signage in the area where many other businesses are located.  There is also an aura of prestige and success associated with inhabiting expensive inner city real estate!  Would you be any worse off locating your professional services in the suburbs?  That might depend on the segment of the market you are targeting, where they are located, and how far some would have to travel.  Some boutique firms do locate in the suburbs and they can provide at-the-door free parking for clients and staff, and reduce overheads through cheaper rents.

So what about your on-line presence?  In essence, the same principle is likely to apply.  If your customers are likely to choose between you and your competitors by comparing benefits, you probably need to be where they are.  Take hotels for instance, that list on sites like Hotel Club, Trip Advisor, Expedia and so on.  Professional services firms often list under their categories on Green Frog, Yellow Pages and other on-line directories.  It’s again like Lotto, you can’t get picked if you are not there.  However, some boutique hotels do very well without listing on such sites. Some professional services firms rely on promotion that is targeted to their client base rather than general directories.  These firms aim to be known within their market segment, and promote in other places that their more specific customer base are likely to see.  So where you serve a niche market or specific market segment, it might be more effective to target that segment differently to most of your competitors.

Jenni specialises in strategy selection and implementation in the professional services sector.  She encourages you to connect at LinkedIn, Twitter or via her Facebook page to find out more.

Categories: Business and Strategy

What are the possibilities?

School holidays are nearly over and I’m looking forward to focusing on my clients and future clients.  My goal this year is to help as many people as possible to see the possibilities – ie think strategically!

Without the motivation and ability to think about opportunities, risks and possible consequences of elements outside our own control, it is impossible to prepare your business (or career) adequately for the future.  Experience tells me that many people process information as discrete data, unrelated to other information.  I sometimes wonder if this is because of the way we chunk topics through school and university – learning about each in its own silo and not necessarily thinking about how that topic is part of a whole, influencing and being influenced by all the other topics being studied in other departments.  This discrete way of viewing information inhibits managers and professionals from engaging in systems and strategic thinking, needed for preparing and planning ahead.

I have some favorite methods of increasing your capacity to think more strategically.  Here’s three of them:

  • When you read or hear news items, ask yourself how this could impact on you or your business, on your suppliers and on your clients.  Think through 2 – 3 levels of impact.  For instance, in my daily today, there was an article about how my city’s river might have to supply water to a larger city.   I wondered how it will affect manufacturing, farming and other local businesses dependent on water supply (my level 1 thinking).  And if they are affected, how might that flow on to my clients (service firms) – my level 2.  Level 3 would be the impact on my business.  I also wondered what benefits my city might gain from this – what would we want in return?  I thought about how that would affect everyone here in our typical ‘drought’ months, when we already have restricted water use. These are just some of the many aspects that I could relate to this topic.  But you get the idea.
  • Deliberately access a wide variety of information.  Read about topics unrelated to your normal reading.  Ask yourself how you can use the ideas in the articles in your own business, and how trends in these other areas could affect you or your clients.  It’s easy to access a wide variety of topics on-line, and off-line the magazines in cafes, doctors and dentists waiting rooms are good ways to extend your exposure to new ideas.
  • Mix and mingle with professionals and specialists in areas other than your own.  A scary idea, I know, but you’ll be amazed at their different world view, and also their predictions for the near future.  Just as you know lots about your area or industry, they know what’s happening in theirs.  And what happens in one place, sooner or later impacts in others.

In business, thinking about a range of scenarios and preparing for new risks and opportunities always beats out being forced to respond with no forewarning or preparation.  You can’t predict everything, but you can be regularly thinking about possible impacts and be ready to respond to change, whatever that change may turn out to be.

Categories: Business and Strategy

Are we having fun yet?

While ‘beliebers’ fret over the fate of their idol, the rest of us have more strategic matters to consider as we head to the last week of the first month of 2014.  Things like:

  • It’s election year (in New Zealand).  How active is your business in relevant associations that could influence legislation?  And should you be, or not?  (This actually applies even if it’s not election year where you are).
  • How do you think the economy is going to trend this year in countries that impact your business?  Here in New Zealand commentators are saying we have a ‘Rockstar’ economy, but what does that mean for you?  And why is unemployment remaining high, with more layoffs still occurring?  How could that affect you if you need to recruit?
  • Now that the holidays are pretty much over, have you clarified your goals for this year, or have you fallen into the New Year resolution trap, and already lost your way on your key priorities? (It’s not too late – get to and set them now, with actionable steps).
  • What are your clients’ priorities this year?  Do you know?  How can you help them achieve their goals?

Finally, arTurn new year resolutions into actionable stepse we having fun yet???  If you’re not loving your business or career, and we are only in January, it’s time to review.  Make 2014 the year you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and keep making a difference!

Jenni Murphy-Scanlon is the owner of Strategies Direct, and loves helping her clients find fame, fortune and future-fit in their chosen markets.  She offers you a free report ‘How to think strategically’ at http://www.strategies-direct.com

How will this affect you?

If you could produce items you currently use on site, right when you needed them, how would that improve your efficiency and customer service?  And if your clients could do the same, how would that affect the services you provide to them?  This is the looming reality of 3D printers.

How will you prepare for 3D Printers asks Jenni Murphy-Scanlon?

If you haven’t yet got your head around 3D printers, it’s time you did.  While they are not affordable for most businesses, yet, it’s only a matter of time.  And once the market for them picks up, there will be a raft of adaptations and improvements that widen their use.  So while some might ‘print’ (but manufacture is perhaps a more accurate term) in plastic, others might do so in metal, and yet others in polystyrene and so forth.  The idea is that when, for instance, you go to get your car serviced, rather than wait overnight for the relevant part, your mechanic will ‘print’ it to order on site.  Apply this to any scenario where you need a reasonably common item.   Logically then, businesses, and the relevant people within them, who currently serve a purpose in the process of manufacture, ordering and transporting – are required much less (the end user will still need material supplies for the printer).  It’s the ultimate ‘just-in-time’ process!

And while this sounds amazingly efficient and customer-centric, the bad news for SMEs is that this may be yet another investment many are forced to make to compete.  And the cost of maintenance and replacement is likely to sit with the end-user business, where at present, manufacturing businesses spread that cost across a larger number of items and customers.

Like other impacts that your business has little control over, the advent of 3D printers is not so much a question of ‘if’, but rather of ‘how are preparing for that?’

Jenni works in the services and professional sectors helping clients develop unique and workable strategies that ensure they are ‘famous and future-fit’ in their chosen markets.  You can access free resources at her website http://www.strategies-direct.com 

Categories: Business and Strategy
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