Tips for combating competition

                                                        

I kissed my mentor goodbye the day he gave me the advice “if you cant beat them, join them”. I believe, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

Agreeing but not conceding that a vivid gape at competitors in the contemporary market place could not only be discouraging to the new bud but even greatly demoralizing. I also agree that the size, strength and capacity of certain competitors could be daunting enough to make an upcommer deflect towards another profession, but I insist, “there has to be a way”. And not only have I found one, I have found ten!

1. The “No” way

A young Firm has to learn to say ‘No’ to those that are either unwilling or unable to pay for services rendered. Fix your price and insist on it. There is little or no risk in doing this as the Firm is to decide whether or not to proceed with the engagement based on initial fee communication or the clients ability to pay the fees. Thus, rather than wasting the Firms resources, the service provider is at ease to spend time that otherwise would have been spent servicing the non-paying client to develop clients who are willing and able to pay.

2. Dont prostitute – Specialize

No one wants a generalist. Every client wants a specialist for their problems, and specialists will invariably win in competitions against generalists.

3. Take a colleague to lunch

Small Firms that specialize should create a network with other Firms that specialize in other fields for the purpose of referrals on the basis of specialization. In-bound and out-bound referrals should however be monitored and tracked to ensure that the implicit quid pro quo actually develops, and to maximize the asset value of outbound referrals for business development purposes. That way, everyone will benefit; your practice, other colleagues and of course, the clients.

4. Be an “Old school boy”

Keep your old friends close and enemies even closer. College friends, acquaintances and relatives should always be maintained. They are potential clients. Join your school’s Old Students Association and meet people who are thriving in other professions. Give them your contact details and wait patiently. They will either need your services someday or know someone who does!

5. Become famous

Make a few friends in DSTV, Channels, Silverbird TV or even The Guardian or Businessday. Volunteer expert opinion on critical industry related topics. The essence of press coverage is to increase your profile and gain more visibility. Sacrifice a pro bono representation for an indigent party that has received public recognition for an eggregious harm. Such will generate high positive profile and make potential clients covet you for their selfish interest. Who cares? Let them come…and pay! 

6. Use what you have to get what you need

Join one or two organizations or activities and contribute fairly. You may even assume a leadership role. This will maximize your penetration of the local market

7. Personalize your existing clients

Marketing experts say that 80% of the business development potential of an organization comes from existing clients. Clients are potential sources of repeat businesses and referrals. Let them always have a few documents from you lying around their houses and offices. Make a few visits to them, preferably in their offices. Meet their managers, employers and even employees. But try not to always “be in the neighbourhood”

8. Dont only hang around colleagues

Colleagues could be sources of referrals, but they could also be beneficiaries of referrals meant for you, except you are highly specialized. Trade associations in which clients are members is a rather excellent investment for your time and resources.

9. Revamp your practice

There is a limit to advertisement that can be done, but you can always spruce up your practice by making it appreciated by clients. Investment in technology is always an ace up your sleeves, and these technology investments should be made obvious to clients. They will either adore you or overrate you. Neither is harmful.

10. Mind your pocket and your watch

As a teething firm, overhead cost should not exceed 50% of revenue. Also ensure that you make regular and diligent follow-up on receivables. Discipline and hardwork would also always be an added advantage.

Truthfully, in the increasingly competitive marketplace where the shrewdest survive and the most daring breaks barriers, the uphill tasks remain the success secrets for the upwardly mobile. And meticulous adherence to the above ten tips, should definitely get you far from the mire.

Sanmi Abiodun (2012)

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