Four ways to keep up with the competition

Traders feel ignored when people flock to the neighbour's shop

In Summary

• Up your game rather than decry witchcraft for your rival's success

Business competition
Business competition

Have you ever wondered why certain shops or market stalls seem to attract more customers despite the presence of competitors selling the same items? Why would people queue for service at a particular retail outlet while there are many others with similar goods and services?

It's a frustrating experience for entrepreneurs feeling ignored and not knowing why people are flocking to the neighbour's shop. No wonder rumours start to fly around that the popular entrepreneur got a bit of help from witch doctors!

In reality, there's nothing sinister about succeeding in business. It all comes down to having something that people are willing to pay for, a good location, innovative marketing and a memorable customer experience. It's also necessary to strategically position one's business in the community, as industry leaders advise.

Here are some tips for owners and managers of small businesses.

1. Networking is key: Chris Del Grande, an entrepreneur and business consultant, urges business owners to engage in networking activities with other businesses, experts and potential customers. "These connections can lead to valuable partnerships, referrals and insights into your competition," he says.

Attend local networking events, join associations and participate in online forums,such as WhatsApp groups. Furthermore, networking is a good stress reliever as it helps entrepreneurs get advice from others who have undertaken a similar path. In short, networking is a reminder that you are not alone in your journey.

2. Customer focus: Nobody will give you money unless you are nice to them. Why, then, do some business owners employ sulking, lazy and outrightly rude persons in customer-facing positions?

Worst of all is encountering disinterested staff busy looking at online videos or even sleeping at their workstations.

Customer service is among the key elements of business, but it is surprising how many small enterprises fail to live up to their maximum potential because of poor customer service.

Strive to offer personalised attention, respond promptly to inquiries, and actively seek feedback to improve your products or services.

3. Find a niche and specialise: You’ve probably realised most vendors of used clothing deal with specific products. There are those who sell only women’s shoes. Another will be dealing only with jackets. There’s another for baby clothes and another one specialising in men’s shirts.

You might find a grocer who is the go-to person for traditional African vegetables. This is a very valid business strategy. And so on.

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, cater to a specific customer segment with unique needs and preferences. This allows you to tailor your offerings and messaging to resonate better with your target audience.

4. Analyse the competition: Regularly monitor your competitors' activities to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Use this knowledge to either copy their best practices or identify opportunities to do things differently.

There's nothing wrong with learning from the competition. Visit other businesses in your area of specialisation and buy from them. You will find the knowledge you get from such visits is worth your time.

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