Gaining Market Share

You gain market share during tough times. This is when many of your competitors are pulling back; not advertising, not investing in technology and not looking for innovative products and solutions.  Tucking in and waiting for the storm to blow by is the surest way to give up market share.

An article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago talked about creating innovation communities within organizations.  While speaking to different business groups since then, I realized many small business people don’t utilize these sorts of ideas, they dismiss the concept as “big company”.

Are you looking for ways to grow your business? Wondering which products and services you should offer customers?  Ask your staff!  The people on the front lines dealing with customers on a daily basis are in the best position to give valid input.  ASK THEM!

Don’t be surprised if the first time you ask, they look confused and stunned.  No one has probably ever asked before.  In your next staff meeting, talk about the challenges of the economy and the impact it is having on your business.   Point out that since they interact with customers on a daily basis, they likely have valuable insights they may not even realize they have.

Stress to them the importance of sharing this information and their ideas so that your company can continue to not only survive, but grow and offer more opportunities for them in the future.  Repeat this often enough and soon they will become more aware, tuned in and serve as great customer feedback receptors.

Innovation communities is just a fancy term for targeted brainstorming sessions. Do you have too much inventory?  In your team meeting, ask the staff for suggestions on ways to convert this merchandise into much needed cash for your business.  Should you list items on E-bay?  Put a table outside to take advantage of lunch traffic?  Email a discount coupon to loyal customers?

Want to attract new customers? They may suggest using social media or services such as Groupon.  Empower staff to check out these potential avenues and come back with detailed information so you can decide if it could work for you.

Even if you only have a staff of 2 – that’s 2 more brains working on problem-solving! When I owned my retail chain, we routinely involved top sales people in the product selection process with the manufacturers.  Who better to know what they needed to be competitive than those who actually sell the product day in and day out?  Plus their enthusiasm for the new products they helped select guaranteed a better than average sales rate for those items.

Innovation doesn’t have to be on the scale of the iPad, sometimes it’s a simple solution to a common problem – something your competitors have not even realized customers want or need.  Innovative if often just involving other members of your team – likely something your competition hasn’t thought to do!

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