Five-Key-Competitive-Strategies-to-Improve-Your-Position

Five Key Competitive Strategies to Improve Your Positionstring(56) "Five Key Competitive Strategies to Improve Your Position"

I recommend that entrepreneurs, business owners, and managers take time to analyze your company’s competitive status. This will help you understand and emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition.

There is no single formula for conducting a competitive analysis; it’s mostly just good business sense. You want to stay aware of what your competition is doing and measure how your business stacks up against it. Some questions to consider are:

  • Do you compete effectively in terms of the quality of your product or service?
  • Are your prices competitive? Do customers who compare costs come back to you?
  • Are you viewed as the vendor of choice? Why do people seek you out?
  • Are you growing, losing ground, or just holding on to your market share?

After this analysis, if you find that your competitive position needs some improvement, I invite you to continue reading.

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract clients, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position. According to authors Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies to consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals in ways that appeal to a broad range of buyers [examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap clothing store is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream clothing styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

Staying competitive implies being aware of trends and reacting to changes faster than your competitors. Understanding the driving forces in your industry – growth rates, shifts in buyer demographics, product and marketing innovations, the entry or exit of other competitors, changes in cost or efficiency – will help to make you a top competitor. 

I strongly encourage you to analyze your competitive status and then review the five competitive strategies to determine which will be most beneficial for your company and your business goals.

All Networking Groups Go Through Cyclesstring(39) "All Networking Groups Go Through Cycles"

All networking groups go through cycles over the years of their existence. There are Up cycles and there are Down cycles. Some of the best groups in the world have struggled. And a group that is on top of the world right now may not be on top a year from now. The key is to know the different phases and recognize when the group is going through a down cycle.

I have identified four phases that I have seen with BNI® chapters over the past 36 years. These phases can apply to ALL networking groups. These phases are not necessarily chronological, and they can last for different amounts of time, depending on the group and its members’ response to the critical points in the cycles.

The Supercharged Phase

The first phase is what I call the supercharged phase; these groups are at the top of the cycle. They are the biggest. They are the best, and the most productive. Their leadership teams are committed to implementing and following the established systems and processes for success.

The members in these chapters are fully engaged, investing their time to build relationships that can lead to extremely lucrative connections and referrals. The excitement level in these groups is simply electric. They are not willing to settle for mediocrity when excellence is an option.

The Engaged Phase

The second phase is called the engaged phase. Groups in this part of the cycle exude high energy and a positive attitude. They operate in a friendly environment with a great culture of support. They have more members than average and enforce accountability in the group.

They also do more business than the average chapter because they stay within the structure and systems while developing close business relationships and having fun. This is a very effective and productive phase.

The Status Quo Phase

Groups in this part of the cycle have become somewhat complacent. They might have been in the Engaged phase and lost some of the spark that made them successful. Or they may be a smaller chapter that has begun to give up on growth and has accepted mediocrity. They think things are okay as they are, and they feel like the amount of business they are getting is alright.

They are not motivated to make improvements or to develop the quality or quantity of their members. They may or may not follow the established systems and processes for their organization. The members have lost their enthusiasm. The Status Quo networking groups are the poster children for accepting mediocrity when excellence is an option.

The Stagnant Phase

In this phase of the cycle, networking groups have numerous problems: attitude problems, referral problems, poor attendance. Most of the members in these groups seem to focus on problems rather than on positive solutions.

These chapters follow the path of least resistance and think it is too much work to engage in the process required for growth. They do not follow their organization’s established agenda, system, or policies. They resist coaching or assistance from the resources available to them. Some members lose interest and feel like it is not working for them, so they leave the group. Which can be okay.

I call this Addition by Subtraction. Sometimes you have to actually reduce the size of a chapter in order for it to grow. It is like rosebushes. You have to cut them back in order for the rosebush to grow and bloom. If a chapter loses some members, particularly negative, problem-focused members, it can be an opportunity to grow and thrive.

Almost all networking groups go through these Up and Down cycles. Successful groups spend more time in the Supercharged and Engaged phases because they have gotten very good at recognizing when they are near a down cycle and quickly start to make positive changes.

Groups in the Status Quo and Stagnant phases can benefit from identifying where they currently are in the cycle so they can work on solutions to their problems and get back to basics. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel; simply follow the proven system established for their organization.

Business Relationships

Focusing on Business Relationshipsstring(34) "Focusing on Business Relationships"

We are in a crazy time right now and we business owners need to be thinking differently than ever before. We need to be focused on two strategies. First, you need a plan to get through this current situation with your business affected by current events. Then, you need to plan on what you are going to do as quickly as possible when society returns to normal. We all have to do something and be proactive to really make a difference by focusing on business relationships.

Watch this video with Frank De Raffele about planning your own strategies to help your business these days.

Transactional versus Relational

People don’t make good decisions based on fear or anger, so don’t succumb to that. In the middle of any kind of serious challenge, it’s hard to see through the fog that surrounds us. Do not get distracted by all the noise, but focus on the solution. Therefore, change your plan from focusing on business transactions to focusing on building business relationships. Use online networking to build meaningful referral sources, referral partners, and strategic alliances.

Are you doing virtual one to ones with people and talking about the various types of referrals that you are looking for. These may be completely different than what you were asking for before due to self-isolation. Be creative and think of ways to stay in business while practicing social distancing. This is a perfect time to reconnect with the people that are already in your network. Go deeper into that relationship and ask them how you can help them. And it’s okay to ask for help from your network for people that you know and have a good relationship with them.

People need their network, more than ever before. You will have a business tomorrow because of the actions you take today. Yeah, a lot of people are going to go out of business, but those with a powerful personal network are not. The people that you have in your BNI network are very supportive and in BNI, we are all willing to share those networks with each other.

business blueprint

Build a Better Business Blueprintstring(33) "Build a Better Business Blueprint"

Take the time to re-examine your business blueprint biannually.  It is important to not only set your goals for the year but to review those goals in six months and take action to refocus yourself on these goals. Plus, I recommend that you look at why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you do what you do is more important than the actual doing of it.  You may think you know why you’re in business, but perhaps it’s been years since you gave it serious thought.

Ask yourself the following questions to create a blueprint for a successful business strategy. Do not rush the process. Take the time needed to write your answers and really dial in to your business mission and personal vision when answering these questions.

What is my business mission?

Beyond simply making a living, what are my long-range professional goals? Do I wish to become the standard by which my competitors are judged? Is it my dream to help make the world a better place?

Where is my organization going?

Am I achieving my mission? Am I making plans to accomplish it? How can I change policies, procedures or personnel to improve my chances of achieving my mission?

What environment is my organization operating in?

Are the current social, economic and technological trends effecting the way I do business and my progress toward my goals?

What is my marketing strategy?

Do I have a social media plan to support my business and do I manage this plan well? Is it time to get someone to assist me with this?

What are my core competencies?

Do I like to do what I am doing? What is it that I do better than my competitors? Do I have the skills to grow my business or do I need to hire someone with these aptitudes?

Is my business blueprint mission compatible with my values?

I’ve seen too many business professionals and companies make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Starting out with the fundamentally sound goal of finding a niche that will make them successful, they go astray by changing direction every time a customer or associate suggests a new product or service. The mission gets lost in a frantic scramble for business before the original idea ever gets a chance to pay off.

So, even if you think you know your mission, it will serve you well to pause periodically, analyze your business blueprint and, if necessary, refocus on your mission and philosophy to stay on track. Share which of the above questions you struggle with most in your business. We are here to help you to stay on track.

Andy Lopata

The A-Z of Networking: S is for… (by Andy Lopata) [PART 2]string(60) "The A-Z of Networking: S is for… (by Andy Lopata) [PART 2]"

This month, Andy Lopata shares more of his networking tips which begin with the letter “S”

  • Sales
  • Self Belief
  • Sharing
  • Silent
  • Simplicity
  • Slow Down
  • Smile
  • Specific
  • Speaking Up
  • Stories
  • Strategic

and more about Networking “S” previously in PART 1: click here

Click here to watch this video

Please click below to see Andy’s playlist of his networking tips from A to Z.

https://ivanmisner.com/category/a-to-zs-of-networking/

By knowing why you are networking and what you want to achieve, it is possible to plan accordingly and get great, measurable results. If you have any comments about Andy’s “S” list or any additional “S” words about networking you will want to add to the list. please leave me a comment below.

Andy Lopata

As a business networking strategist, Andy Lopata works with companies on how to use networking tools to develop their businesses. Networking is not just about sales. Whether for lead generation, breaking down silos internally, recruitment and retention of top staff or developing future leaders, networks and collaboration have a key role to play. Andy works with clients to help recognize that role and put the strategy and skills in place to leverage it.

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfaststring(35) "Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast"

VIDEO BLOG:

Culture is a blend of attitude, beliefs, mission, philosophy and momentum. As a result, culture helps to create and sustain a successful brand. The way people interact with one another and the overall growth of your company is affected by culture. What creates organizational culture? Culture is key in an organization for long-term success. It is the most important thing in an organization and it applies at all levels, from the top of the organization all the way down.  Rules, regulations, and operating standards are important, of course, because you have to have systems in place to guide activities. But culture is the factor that stands above all others.

The factors that go into building the organizational culture and will make your company successful are…

  1. TRADITIONS AND CORE VALUES
  2. VISION
  3. ENGAGEMENT

Please watch my video to learn more about these factors and share your comments below.

How to Create a Spectacular Lifestring(32) "How to Create a Spectacular Life"

Last week, I posted a video where my friends and partners in the Referral Institute® and I offered our individual thoughts on how to create a truly amazing business.  Today, I’m following up that video with this one where the four of us talk about what it takes to create a spectacular life.

Watch the video now to learn about what each one of us views as an essential key in establishing the ultimate, ideal life which you have always envisioned for yourself.  We also offer specific, actionable steps you can take toward achieving your unique version of a spectacular life, so make sure to watch the video the whole way through.

After watching the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the ideas we shared, and we’d also love for you to share your own ideas on this topic within the comment forum below.  Thanks so much for watching–we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

How to Create a Truly Amazing Businessstring(38) "How to Create a Truly Amazing Business"

I recently had the opportunity to get together with my partners in the Referral Institute® (Eddie Esposito, Mike Macedonio, and Dawn Lyons) to discuss a really interesting concept: What exactly does it take to have an amazing business and a spectacular life?

So, we decided to do a couple of quick videos to share our individual ideas surrounding this concept.  In today’s video, each one of us shares both a key idea and a surefire action step (to implement that idea) which we believe are crucial in developing an amazing business.

What I really appreciate about our discussion here is that each of us contributes our own unique and specific piece of insight, so the gamut of advice shared within this brief video is actually pretty comprehensive being that there’s such an element of diversity within our individual comments.

After watching the video, please share with us in the comment forum below your own thoughts on what it takes to create an amazing business.  And, be sure to check back next week to watch the subsequent video we filmed which will address what it takes to create a spectacular life. 

Follow the Money Trailstring(22) "Follow the Money Trail"

How many businesses would you say you’ve supported over the years by being a loyal customer?  Think about it, you could have been solely responsible for the new wing your veterinarian added to her office last year, just from all the money you’ve invested in your pet’s care over the last ten years.  For some businesses, not only may you have been a customer–you may also have recommended them to other people.  When was the last time those businesses returned the favor and helped your business succeed?  There’s a strategy I like to call “following the money trail” which shows you how to leverage the law of reciprocity with the businesses you have financially supported.

Before you read on and get deep into this strategy, go find your checkbooks–both personal and business.  I’ll wait . . . There, now that you have your checkbook(s) in front of you, it’s time to follow the money trail.  Scan your checkbooks for local businesses that you have paid.  You may notice regular expenditures, such as your hair stylist, veterinarian, physician, lawn care service, housecleaning service, dry cleaners, day care, pet resort, or grocery store.

First, let’s put this money trail into perspective.  Start by analyzing just how much you have invested in these businesses.  Get out a piece of paper and draw a table like the one shown below.

29PercentGraphReviewing these figures will help you realize just how much you’ve invested toward the success of some of your favorite businesses.  Staggering, isn’t it?  Now, what can you do with this information?

The law of reciprocity states that if I help you, you will, in time, help me in return.  I would venture to guess that most of these establishments have never been approached by their customers with a request of reciprocity.  What would you say to them?  How would they react?  Why bother?  You might wonder: What could a hairstylist do for me–or for a financial planner–other than style hair?

Seeking reciprocity begins with your willingness to ask the question.  Your request needs to be specific and needs to be supported by how much you have invested in their business over the last year or so.  Are you willing to approach your favorite businesses and ask them to support your business in some way?  If yes, let’s start with the example below and then consider what you could do for your business.

Example: Financial Planner Seeks Reciprocity from Hairstylist

First, the financial planner needs to take the hairstylist–let’s call her Joan–to lunch or coffee and engage her in conversation.

Financial planner:  Thank you for joining me for lunch.  I wanted to get some time with you away from the salon so I could talk with you about your business–and to ask for some help with my own business.  I’ve enjoyed being your client for the last five years, and I’m glad I was able to refer four other people to your salon who have become clients.  I wanted to ask if you might be willing to help support my business as well.

Joan:  I have very much enjoyed you as a client, and I really do appreciate your referrals.  What do you have in mind?

F.P.:  As a client, I receive your quarterly newsletter.  I see that you often have advertisements from community businesses.  Would you give me space in your newsletter for an ad for one year?

J:  Sure, but that would cost about $500 for the year.

F.P.:  I was hoping that you would give me the space for no charge in return for my past referrals and for being such a loyal customer, even after moving twenty miles away.

J:  I see your point.  No one has ever asked me to do anything like this before.  But it makes sense to me since you are actively supporting my business.  The least I could do is give you ad space.  Sure.  I’d be happy to help you.  Is there anything else you’d like me to do?

F.P.:  As a matter of fact, there is.  Could you leave one of my newsletters in your waiting area for your patrons to read while they wait?

J:  Of course–that would be no problem.

In this example, Joan was willing and able to help the financial planner expand her visibility.  Most people, once it’s pointed out to them, understand that the law of reciprocity goes both ways.  If they seem reluctant to help you, it’s time to reconsider your loyalty.  Should you continue to support someone else’s business when he or she flatly refuses to help your business in return?

As a client, you’re giving a lot to someone else’s business.  It’s not unreasonable to ask for something that supports your business in return.  Now think about your business and the businesses you support.  What can you ask of them?  Can you contribute to their newsletter?  Will they display your pamphlet?  Will they post your business announcements?  Can you leave a stack of business cards on their coffee table?  Will they pass out your business’ coupons to their customers at the register?  Will they sponsor your next event?

Make it a point this week to approach at least one establishment for help with promoting your business.  After all, when you follow the money you’ve spent on other people’s establishments, isn’t it about time some of it came back around to you?  Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this so please come back and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

 

“Glimpses of Heaven on Earth”–Improve Your Business & Your Lifestring(86) "“Glimpses of Heaven on Earth”–Improve Your Business & Your Life"

In this video I talk to my friend and fellow TLC (Transformational Leadership Council) member, Martin Rutte about Martin’s new book, Glimpses of Heaven on Earth.

Watch the video now to learn about Martin’s ideas on how we can all focus on ten fundamental values and take small, simple, easy, concrete steps on a daily basis to mold our own life into one that mirrors our individual idea of heaven on earth in all aspects from business to relationships to personal purpose and more.

After watching the video, think about what one action you might take within the next 24 hours to move yourself forward with beginning to implement Martin’s strategy for improving your business and/or life in general.  We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas so please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks so much and, as always, thank you for watching!

For more information on Martin and his new book, please visit www.ProjectHeavenOnEarth.com.

 

 

Build Business with This Networking Trickstring(41) "Build Business with This Networking Trick"

One of the most common networking questions I get asked is, “How do I generate referrals for other people?”  Well, this same question is exactly what I was asking myself in the early ’80s when I was just starting my consulting business. I came up with a technique that had a huge impact on my ability to provide quality referrals to others–which, of course, led to me getting referrals.

Photo courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I realized that I needed to be the person whom people came to if they needed a referral for anything–the “gatekeeper” of referrals . . .  the “go-to guy.”  So I composed a letter that I sent out to my client list several times a year.  Today you could send out a quick e-mail to your database, but you should send it at least once a year as hard copy just to stand out from everybody else who’s e-mailing your clients.  Here’s a sample letter:

Dear________:

I really believe in the process of referrals, so part of the service I provide is to be sure to refer my clients and associates to other qualified businesspeople in the community.

Attached is a list of areas in which I know very credible, ethical and outstanding professionals.  If you’re looking for a professional in a specific area I’ve listed, please feel free to contact me.  I will be glad to put you in touch with the people I know who provide these services.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ivan Misner

Notice when you read this letter that I just listed professions; I didn’t list names and phone numbers.  I wanted my clients to contact me so I could put the referral and the contact together–so I could build business relationships through being the go-to guy.  What began to happen was that others would ask someone on my client list, “Whom do you know who does XYZ?”  If they didn’t know anyone, then they would send that person to me.

The importance of becoming a gatekeeper is huge for anyone seeking to grow a business with word-of-mouth marketing.  It’s a strategy that gets people not only to contact you for a referral, but also to open up a dialogue with people about what your business is all about and how you can help them.  This, in turn, leads to more business with existing clients and new business with prospects.

Allow this to open the door for reciprocal sharing and giving.  You’ll be amazed at how much more business you’ll find you’re able to do as a result.

The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organizationstring(119) "The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organization"

BNI-30-Year-Logo

BNI’s Official 30th Anniversary Commemorative Logo

30 years ago this past Thursday, I put together about 20 people in a small coffee shop in Arcadia, California for the very first meeting of BNI® (Business Network International).  The organization was run from a small bedroom which was converted into an office inside my house in La Verne, California.

The House Where BNI® Began

The House Where BNI® Began

I am humbled by the fact that today the organization has over 7,000 chapters in 60 countries with over 170,000 members world-wide.  In addition, we have over 30 BNI staff at HQ and more than 3,000 BNI Directors and Director Consultants working for the organization!

I don’t believe any of the two dozen or so people who were present at that first meeting fully realized that this was the beginning of something amazing. 

That realization came to me almost a year later between Christmas and New Years as I looked back in amazement at having opened up 20 groups during the year.  At this point I recognized I had struck a chord within the business community.  We don’t teach networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, and business people are hungry for referrals. They simply had no viable way to generate them regularly back in 1985.  It was during that week that I sat down and put together the outline for a plan that has evolved into what BNI is today.

I was recently asked by a BNI Director what the secret to this growth was.  I’ve taken some time to write down some of the key factors I think contributed to our success as my answer to his question.  These are factors you won’t find in most business books, and they weren’t taught to me in graduate school.  But I think they were critical to our success in this organization and they may be relevant factors to you, too.

BNI's Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

BNI’s Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

Lessons I Learned in Developing BNI:

  1. Set Goals. I know – everyone says “set goals,” but let me give you a slight variation to this concept.  I recommend you set three levels of goals.  By setting goals in this manner, you give yourself some flexibility in where you want to go over the next year (or years).
    1. High – set a goal that is a stretch. This is one that will be very difficult to reach, but it is definitely possible.
    2. Target – set a goal that you are confident you can reach. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible.
    3. Low – set a goal that if everything goes wrong, you are still confident you can reach this.
  2. Reverse engineer your goals. At each level above – where do you want to be at the end of twelve months from now?  That number would be 100% of your annual goal.  Now reverse that.  At nine months you should be at 75% of that goal.  At six months, you should be at 50% of that goal.  At three months, you should be at 25% of that goal.  Check your progress every month.  Stay on track.
  3. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times! I think one of the big mistakes businesses make is that they jump from one bright shiny object to another. For me, success has come by being like a “dog with a bone!”  I have taken techniques that I’ve seen work, and then I’ve done them over and over and over and over.  Six things, a thousand times.
  4. Create a larger vision. It’s never too early or too late to create a larger vision.  Create something that is a unifying concept for you, your employees, and possibly even your clients – something that resonates with people and creates a long-term vision for the company.  For BNI this began with our philosophy of “Givers Gain.”  It has been inculcated throughout the organization and has been the guiding force of our referral-marketing program.  It led to our vision statement of “Changing the Way the World Does Business” which is all about businesses collaborating and cooperating through our philosophy.
  5. Maintain personal engagement. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be personally engaged in every aspect of the business.  That means you must make choices.  However, you must continue to be personally engaged as much as possible.  Technology has enabled me to stay engaged with members and directors (through my visitations, video messages, this newsletter, my blog, the BNI Podcast, our social media, and BNI Connect, to name a few). Nothing replaces personal engagement.  The more you remain engaged, the more your vision can thrive.
  6. Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is that I can teach people “how” to do something (including network).  I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom to get retrained.  The only thing better than “ignorance on fire” is “knowledge on fire.”  If I can take someone who is on fire and teach that person how to succeed, our organization becomes unstoppable.
  7. Do what you love, and you’ll love what you do. As a business person, you are either working in your flame or working in your wax.  When you are in your flame, you are on fire.  You are excited and energized.  When you are working in your wax, you are drained and fatigued.   As a company grows, it is easy to get caught up doing more and more in your wax.  Find out what your flame is, and then do your best to work more in that flame.  Find people whose flame is your wax and put them in the roles you no longer love doing.  This will free you up to work in your flame.

I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or observations that you might have about the BNI organization whether you’re a member of the organization or not and I’d also really like to hear any key lessons or tips for success which you’ve learned through your own experience in the world of business.  Please share your thoughts, etc. in the comment forum below–thanks!  

 

 

 

 

 

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