Continuous growth is critical to sustaining market presence. However, threat to business sustenance, if you like, call it business continuity, is real. But it can be dealt with by having an effective strategy. Strategy describes the ‘how’ of overcoming a particular challenge.
Some of the challenges that confront businesses these days include how to renew to match trends and changing consumer behaviour. The challenge also includes managing scarce or finite resources, the unpredictability of competitors’ next move, the necessity of coordinating functional responsibilities over time, control of marketing tools and the nature of government.
Every business must renew, stretch and refocus some time in their lifecycle. But these cannot be done haphazardly; else it may mar a good intention..
Take this first. When entrepreneurs sense that business is drifting, they must renew their search for purpose. From our experience, it will require asking probing questions such as:
- What is our business?
- What do the customers really value?
- Who are these customers?
- What is our future with these customers?
Answers to these questions will create a clear picture of present circumstances, that will help match reality with mission.
It is not unlikely that a business will not drift sometime as it begins to expand. Focus is difficult to maintain during expansion. One example is MTN Nigeria, the telecommunications firm that put pressure on Nigeria’s first mobile telecom service provider, Econet. Pity, the latter would have had a first comer advantage, by rolling out its services, penetrating deeply quickly the country and giving subscribers in the hinterland access to phoning services for the first time. But it was too slow in doing that and left gaping holes everywhere for MTN to tap and win major shares of the market.
Subsequently, there was MTN too forgetting to scale, renew and match trend quickly, providing its own gaps. First was the lower income segment that needed more affordable, flexible billing. The second was the young people who wanted offerings that appealed to their lifestyles. Into these gaping holes new competitors built formidable niche. Logic should have suggested to MTN that targeting every place and people would warrant serving every pocket and lifestyle within the best means.
The Nigeria Bottling Company and Guinness have been in fierce battle to win more market share in the liqueur market. But Guinness noticed the battle ground was getting more bloodied and strategically diverted into the herbal drink market. Coca Cola would always price Coke close to the most popular drinks in any country it enters. In India, Coke was sold at a price close to tea, the most popular drink in that country. This is to give Coke a more competitive bargain and local preference. Coca Cola also deploys intensive distribution to make sure the product is closer to every thirsty person either in school dorms via vending machines or restaurants. To suppress the global campaign against caffeine and too much sugar, its positioning keys into the fun and passion of young people who are just forming new habits thereby edging old rival PepsiCo.
Marketing is a game of survival. It is prevalent among large firms; it won’t be otherwise for start-ups and SMEs which strategy may be starting out as a market follower or a nicher.
For both large firms and start-ups, here are four market growth strategies that can put the business back to winning ways amid fierce competition:
- Make more sales to present customers without change to product – this may involve cutting prices, increasing advertising, seeking more conspicuous store display and getting the product into more stores. Coca Cola is promoting the ‘sharing’ experience and has even cut price 5% to get more people to drink coke. As well, a business may want to increase usage of its product by present customers as in the case of toothpaste products such as Close Up by urging consumers to ‘brush twice’ or Hypo bleach to ‘use also for cleaning toilet’.
- Identify and develop new markets for current products – a business may review its demographic market and geographic market. The telecommunications firm MTN once developed special offerings for its Northern Nigeria subscribers and a different offering to those in the South.
- Offer modified or new product to current market – This will involve new size, new styles and colours. During recession, manufacturer has learned to package their products into small affordable units. Dairy products like Promasidor’s Cowbell comes in small affordable packages for the lower end of the market, the same goes Unilever’s Lipton. Nike, a US-based kits manufacturer produces varied versions and colours of sneakers that appeal to the tastes of young urban kids.
- Start-up or buy businesses outside of current market – When a business wants to maintain its focus while seeking new growth opportunities in an attractive industry through it opts for diversification by starting up a new company. However, where the capability required starting from scratch is daunting, the business may acquire an established business. Google bought Youtube; Facebook acquired Whatsapp. Half the secret of success is to enter an attractive industry to future-proof the business and open up new opportunities sound financial base.
In a constantly changing marketing environment, a business must continually seek growth. No business can base its future on current market reality. Innovation often trips businesses that have become too comfortable. The four (4) strategies for stimulating marketing growth will ensure a business is continuously probing new areas to shore up market share and profit while maintaining its focus.