Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Many years ago when I was growing up in the small town of Banket, family occasions were joyous moments.
Weddings, graduations or the birth of a new baby all saw family and friends gathering to celebrate and share the joy. However, one thing brought more excitement to us kids than the actual event: the sight of a photographer with an enormous set of camera equipment hanging down the front of his neck. It was a chance to get a picture taken.
Cameras were very expensive those days. I remember an uncle who had this black machine that we were not allowed to even touch in case we damaged it. You would see my uncle proudly unwrapping the bright orange and black Kodak film, insert it into the camera before starting to take pictures. I think at that time Kodak was the only type of film commonly available.
Kodak was a giant company which was founded in 1892. It led the way in popularising cameras, films and home videos that enabled families to preserve memories of special occasions. Having been in business and dominating the market for the better part of its over 130 years history, the giant company filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2012. It will start all over as a smaller company in the next few weeks, with a focus in commercial printing while working to reduce its huge debt.
What happened to the iconic Kodak to see it collapse like that? It failed to stay relevant in the fast-changing digital world. Although Kodak was among the pioneers in digital imaging, it failed to adapt its business model fast enough, resulting in younger and more nimble firms taking over market share.
Digital cameras and cheaper, high quality printers made Kodak's film business obsolete. Mobile phones and digital cameras capable of taking high resolution pictures took the place of traditional cameras.
What happened to Kodak can happen to you and your business. The business world is changing fast. Those who keep on doing what they have been doing before will be left behind.
New ideas and new products are coming out all the time. You need to think of new ideas and innovate so as to stay relevant. How many companies can you think of that are no longer around? Or products and services that were once popular but have disappeared? Most likely they failed to adapt to a changing business world and were replaced by more relevant products and services.
How to avoid irrelevance
Here are a few ways to help you stay relevant in a crowded marketplace.
Stay awake. You need to be awake to what is happening around you. As a business owner you need to know what your competitors are doing all the time. You can gather market intelligence from various sources, such as customers, news reports, industry specific publications and friendly competitors. This will help you spot new products, new competitors, market trends or changes within current competitors' offerings.
Listen to your customers. It is important to have an ear on the ground in your market. Make it easy for customers to communicate with you so you can hear about their thoughts, concerns or what they think about your product as well as competitors products. Easy to fill feedback forms are useful here, and so is an email address or toll free number to which customers can direct their feedback.
Continuously reinvent. Over time your products or services just stop completely meeting customers' changing needs. You need to keep on improving on your offerings and creating new ones that satisfy customers better. Look at how Pepsi has introduced 300ml PET drinks which sell for 50 cents. These are cheaper than the one dollar 500ml PETs as well as more convenient than the glass bottled 300ml drinks that required you to bring an empty bottle or to pay a deposit for it.
Stay visible. Is it easy for your ideal customers to find you? Keep your business visible through effective marketing, advertising, online and social media presence. Your competitors are getting more and more aggressive. If a potential customer does not easily find you they will find your competitors instead.
Don't walk alone. You cannot operate successfully in a vacuum. You need other people, professionals, mentors, advisors and partners who can help you analyse new ideas and troubleshoot your problems.
My friends Brendan and Sally Palmer have organised the "Ignite Your Business" workshops which will take place weekly during the month of September. The purpose of the workshops is to provide a jumpstart to success for people who are frustrated with their current level of success in business and will share methods and techniques used by the most successful people throughout history. You will find more details on their website www.sabrebusinessworld.com.
Until next week best wishes in accelerating your growth.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs.