Building a business is a long process from initial idea, to start-up tasks, to identifying and reaching a market. And then it happens, your business is a success. You’ve captured a market share and have a loyal following. Now you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Right? Wrong.
Especially in today’s fast changing world, you can’t afford to shift into cruise-control and hope you’ll retain your position in the marketplace. All you need to do is to look at the big five publishers and chain bookstores to see what happens when businesses rely on past success to carry it forward. Ebooks and self-publishing have changed how readers get books, but for too long the big five publishers and chain bookstores didn’t recognize or ignored the change. Even as iPods transformed how music is delivered, publishers didn’t consider that books could undergo a similar change.
Change is coming whether you want it to or not. To stay relevant, you need to use the ABC of retaining brand dominance. You need to Always Be Creating. Apple is the best example of a company that is always creating. It has a long history of innovation that has revolutionized how people listen to music, connect with others by cell phone and work on the run. It could have stuck with Mac computers, which have a large loyal following, but it didn’t. Its founder, Steve Jobs, had a knack for knowing what consumers would want, before they wanted it. One has to wonder, what great ideas he left with the company before his passing and will the company be able to continue making innovative products now that he’s gone?
Apple retains brand dominance much in part because it’s always creating or recreating, such as the iPod to the iPod touch or the iPad and the iPad mini. But with each new release of a new or revamped product, loyal Apple enthusiasts line up outside stores to get them. When was the last time you saw a line outside the store for a new Motorola phone? Not that Motorola isn’t a good company, but it doesn’t dominate the market like Apple does.
So how do you keep creating to stay the leader in your market?
1. Avoid getting cocky or complacent. Seth Godin in his book, Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck? says, “The problem with brand exceptionalism is that once you believe it, it’s almost impossible to innovate.” In other words, once you think you’ve made it to the top and you’re the best, you stop creating. If you’re the best, what is there left to create, right? But loyal customers will leave you the instant something better comes along. Blackberry discovered this when the iPhone came out. The answer is to be the business that is always providing something better.
2. Always be wooing your market. Don’t assume your current customers are going to stay loyal or that the market will choose you because of brand recognition. Constantly find ways to generate attention, connect with your market and earn loyalty.
3. Constantly get better. There is always room for improvement in business. The best source for discovering how to get better is to stay connected with your customers. You can use surveys or follow what’s being said on social media to discover what people like and don’t like about your business or what they wish you offered.
4. Be daring even if it means risk. Not everything Steve Jobs’ touched turned to gold. After being forced out of Apple, he created the NeXT computer, a powerful workstation for use in universities. The computer didn’t have the success Jobs wanted and eventually it was scrapped and the software, NeXTSTEP, was bought by Apple. Although you don’t want to take risks just for the sake of taking a risk, don’t be afraid to step out into the unknown. All great innovators from Edison to Jobs, took calculated risks that sometimes failed, but nearly always was followed by success.
Failure to stay interesting and relevant to the market can allow other businesses to swoop in and take customers, even the loyal ones, away. The answer is to Always Be Creating, whether it’s through improving existing or designing new products and services, or through new marketing strategies that attract and retain customers.
Leslie Truex is a career design expert who has been helping people find or create work that fits their lifestyle goals since 1998 through her website Work-At-Home Success. She is the author of “The Work-At-Home Success Bible” and “Jobs Online: How To Find a Get Hired to a Work-At-Home Job”. She speaks regularly on career-related topics including telecommuting and home business.