How to Stay Ahead of the Game

In life, everything must have a beginning and ending and this holds true in the business world. Each company starts as a small business at some point and throughout time they will either succeed, be forced to change a business model or fail. Therefore, being flexible is essential to meeting the needs of consumers, along with conducting necessary changes to the market conditions. According to Kotler and Keller (2012), “Companies can’t win by standing still” (p. 622). In any market condition, there are four mainstays businesses must adopt to sustain or eventually become market leaders in their respective industries: innovation, service quality, continuous improvement and knowing the competition.

Innovation of technology has greatly changed the world, especially in all categories of business and our personal lives. Looking back over the last decade, technological updates to the cellular phone has changed the way we communicate, entertain, and retain information throughout our daily lives. Electronic messaging has become the norm of society rather than communicating through phone conversations. This idea of nonverbal exchange between two or more parties has increased efficiencies for everyone. For example, Apple is the market leader for electronic technology and through their mobile division they strive to increase productivity of their consumers from business acquisitions to groundbreaking applications. As Steve Jobs the co-founder of Apple states, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” (Griggs, 2016). Apples’ business model remains innovative as the company stays ahead of competition by creating modern technology while finding solutions to problems, as seen through their product launches.

Service quality is crucial for every business no matter their strategy or rank from the leader, challenger or follower. As Kotler and Keller (2012) state, “Product and service quality, customer satisfaction, and company profitability are intimately connected” (p.131). Therefore, it is imperative for service quality to be the backbone of a company’s strategy in creating and retaining business relationships with their clients. The ability to deliver products and/or services on a consistent basis can and will cause challenges, however learning from mistakes that occur will make the business stronger. Acquiring and maintaining this element in business must be adopted from the top of the organization and delivered to all employees. Looking at the Toyota Corporation, they have hit highs and lows, from the multi-billion-dollar accelerator recall to maintaining a status of best-selling cars in the world. Reliability has been the primary driver of this company — although their vehicles are not the most stylish, they continue to have a large returning customer base that keeps them on the top of the automotive industry.

Continuous improvement is required for all businesses to create uniqueness from their competition to prevent being looked over. Kotler and Keller (2012) state, “Continuously improving the product can produce high returns and market share; failing to do so can have negative consequences” (p. 329). Subsequently, to grow this component, consumer feedback is critical, whether it be positive or negative. However, feedback can sometime be difficult to extract out of consumers, therefore a sense of trust must be formed with their consumer. Building trust can be hard between two strangers but finding common grounds will allow for the wall to be removed. The ideology of continuing to improve can easily be seen at the fast food market leader Chick Fila. Through their receipt survey program, they give customers food vouchers for their feedback, unlike competitors who give discounts on future purchases. The atmosphere of their restaurants invites customers to feel free and open to give feedback which allows for them to continually improve their service and food selections. Chick Fila has adopted the serving approach towards their customers, instead of asking “how may I help you?” their employees greet their customer with “how may I serve you?” this attitude along with cleanliness of their restaurants allows for an open door for communication and feedback.

Knowing your competition is vital when you are the market leader. Beginning with the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis as well as up to date business intelligence is also important. SWOT analysis is a necessity to evaluate the market when pursuing a business opportunity, however this process should never cease. Remaining in sequence with business intelligence is significant to maintaining market share leadership. This intelligence can originate from both satisfied and disgruntled consumers, financial statements and former employees. For example, Kotler and Keller (2012) state, “To maintain a market focus, salespeople should know how to analyze sales data, measure market potential, gather market intelligence, and develop marketing strategies and plans” (p. 554). Halliburton displays this example by utilizing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as their primary tool to maintaining its market leadership status in the Oil and Gas Services sector for US Land. Through won and lost bids as well as sharing intelligence between its sales teams, permits the organization to not only know the market but also dictate pricing moving forward.

In conclusion, to compete and sustain a leadership status, market leaders must operate as a palm tree that bend but do not break. A palm tree can be rooted in sand near the beach or in nutrient soil inland. It can sustain high winds that can cause its limbs to touch the ground, but it maintains a flexible trunk that allows for itself to spring back in place when the atmosphere is still, with no traces of damage. This expression is a primary example of how a business should plan in a competitive market. The four essential strategies presented will develop a small business into a massive organization, which will direct followers in the right direction.

References

Griggs, B. (2016, January 4). 10 great quotes from Steve Jobs. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/tech/innovation/steve-jobs-quotes/

Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2012). Marketing Management (14th Edition ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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