Innovation, and then, competitionVishnu Vardhan Chikoti
Since early days of career, there are so many times we would have heard of the word “innovation” and were probably given the guidance from senior management to “be innoative”. 90% or more of the times, we would have ended up thinking that its currently not something that we can do or may be would have tried but would not have got any idea.
When someone gets an innovative idea, I believe that itself is an achievement irrespective of whether it gets implemented. Getting an innovative idea is an outcome of deep understanding of the current market/trends combined with the ability to connect everything and finding gaps or newer ways of doing things.
While doing something innovative is exciting, once the product/service is built, rolled out and successful, the hard truth is that it attracts competition. After all the hard work of thinking through it, validating it, building it and marketing it, someone somewhere simply copies it. It may not be just one but multiple players who get into competition and they all vary in the amount of “money, mind and muscle” they have.
Competition is inevitable and it is always good to plan for the competitive future while the product/service is being built. The good thing is that there are certain known factors/ways to stay ahead of the competitor(s).
Great products/services are built by visionaries who have a strong team to support their vision. It is this team that helps in building, marketing and sales for the product/service. While there are ups and downs, the team as a whole makes progress. Put every effort to not lose the team members.
While a niche and less competitive market has premium prices, discounting has to happen once competition increases. However, care should be taken so that discounts don’t lead to losses. Its fine to have a thinner margin but not a loss.
Feature/service roll out
If there are multiple game changing features/services, it is better to roll out them one after the other to keep the competitor one or more steps behind. And don’t let the information about the next step “leaked”. Never talk about the next release until its time to do the actual release.
Though bootstrapped and run on their own for a while or may be on a longer time, some of the businesses at one point need funding for further growth.
While funding can be used in multiple ways, I am a strong believer that funds should be used to make the product/service stronger or to strengthen the team by onboarding some great talent. This I feel is much better than using the funds to attract customers with sign-on offers and giving some more offers to retain them.
If funding is one way to grow bigger, finding other companies who can bring in complimentary skill sets/product/service and providing a combined solution with them is another way to offer a larger solution.
Always stay informed of multiple things - what your competitors and other firms in the industry are doing, where the industry as a whole is heading, changes in economic conditions, regulations, etc Think of the impact of de-monetization to someone trying to sell lockers to keep cash at home.
Retention over acquisition
While its important to keep acquiring new customers, it is even more important to retain existing ones. The same applies to retaining talent in the company.
Another way is to keep expanding horizontally into newer locations. This again can be done via funding or JVs or a steady expansion through profits made in other markets/locations.
If you know other ways for companies to stay ahead of competition and keep growing, please feel free to comment on this post.
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