A blind spot?

25 March 2008

Only yesterday, I was driving along the freewayon a sensational Sunday morning on our way to a family picnic. It was one of those days that life was great and you could not wish for more.

Now I have been driving for twenty years and I think you would agree that if you have been doing something for so long, you become quite formidable at it. But on the freeway yesterday, something unexpected happened.

It happened as I approached my exit. I needed to change into the left-hand lane, so I checked my rear view mirror, indicated, and glanced to the outside left-hand mirror, all in a smooth action. The lane was all clear and I began to change lanes.

It happened. From nowhere a truck the size of a house came screaming past with horns blaring and tyres smoking. In a split second of panic, I managed to swerve back into my lane avoiding an accident.

It was a very lucky escape. Or was it my years of experience that finally paid off?

You may as well have had a similar near miss – something coming out of your blind spot. As an owner of a small to medium size business, I pose the question – how many lucky escapes have you had from unexpected problems that have come from your comp pot? Will you always be lucky, and will you always be able to rely on your years of experience?

Is there something that could jeopardise your business that you are just not seeing? Even businesses with a clear business plan and goal can still be surprised and unprepared by something from their blind spot, something that you just don't see coming.

There are a number of elements in your business that can punish you when you least expect it. Insurance claims, taxes, economy slowdowns or recessions can affect most businesses. Incorrect cash flow management, loss of major accounts or key staff, impending court cases or family and personal troubles can all come out of nowhere. They can, however, be properly managed and controlledwhen it ha through correct and continued diligence. How often are you looking over your shoulder and checking the blind spot on these common problems?

There is a 21st Century blind spot issue, which I increasingly see more and more businesses fail to consider. That issue is keeping abreast of the increasingly fast pace of change. The fully laden semi-trailer that is lurking in your blind spot is technology, and more specifically the online revolution.

Industries such as the travel and airline businessblind have totally accepted the online business transition. Today you can book and organise a complete overseas vacation, online, without talking to a single person. The banking industry, news and media publications, as well as learning institutions, are all fast adopting the change as well.

The ultimate question is how is your business going to stand out or have a point of difference in the online world? If your customers are viewing your business purely online and deciding to use you or a competitor based purely on what they see, without any human interaction, what is going to make them choose you?

If it is price, you have become purely a commodity and have gone backwards in the business evolution process.

Smart party and event operators around the world fully realise that price should be a secondary consideration for customers, whereas reliability, rapport and trust should be the major considerations before price.

In the party and event industry are you selling the customer chairs and tables, perhaps a marquee and various accessories – or are you selling the customer a more intangible product of trust, reliability, and value? Is it one, or the other, or both?

A common statement I continually reinforce into my sales staff is simply this – “you are not overpriced – you are just undervalued”.

So in a cyberspace world, what is going to make your company stand out from your competitors? Richard Branson and the Virgin business model have started to capitalise on what will define the ultimate successful 21st century business model.

It is quite simply a strong branding association that has an intangible link with whatever the service or product they offer. Virgin will come to represent – quality, service, guarantee, a young energetic (maybe hip) business and expertise, in whatever product or service they sell.

Whilst I do not propose that every business needs to acquire the advertising or branding prowess of a big international company like Virgin, what it does need to do is to express those intangible qualities through the online medium.

If you don't, your customers will be comparing you purely on price.

In this four-part series of how you and your business will stand out in this cyberspace marketplace, we will look at your communications effectiveness, your online profile and lastly your marketing capabilities.

For over a decade I have heard people say that we are heading towards a paperless society and computers will be an integral part of every business and personal life. That prediction is fast approaching reality and the evolution of cyberspace and the online world dwarfs the industrial and agrarian revolutions in size and in speed.

The fully laden semi trailer that is lurking in your blind spot is that of the online revolution. Sometimes having someone in your passenger seat double checking that the lane is clear is worth the investment paid.

Consider who is constantly checking for your companys pot? Who is riding shotgun in your business?

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