Business remains at a standstill in Kenya. The business community, like everyone else, is consumed by the Jubilee and NASA standoff. It has been like that for the whole of 2018.
Another standoff that has always consumed entrepreneurs is on whether to place emphasis on product or on the market. On which do you think the emphasis should be placed on?
Answer to this question is arguably the second most important thing you will think about, in your business, besides financing. It’s an issue of strategy. This means the choice you make will guide the long-term prospects of your business.
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Focusing on product
This is suitable for you if you are in a business that requires you to produce or avail more of your product or service. It is more pronounced in the manufacturing and processing industries. Unfortunately, these sectors have been weak in Kenya over the last 10 years.
When you focus on product your goal is to be as efficient as possible so that you can produce cheaply. Typically, you would react to a fall in sales by either reducing prices or improving on what you offer the market. Beside making it cheaper, you can also have the product or service be better. This kind of business focus works in Kenya because we have so many industries or markets that are not mature yet.
Vegetable shopping in Kenya is a nice example of product emphasis at work. Despite our claim that we prefer high quality vegetables we still buy from Mama Mboga. Let’s be honest, regard for matters like hygiene standards and quality are secondary to utility.
The great advantage of product emphasis is that it’s best for small businesses. Being an efficient and effective small business will turn out to pay greater dividends for you.
Unfotunately, a disadvantage is that you react much slower to opportunities. This is because your business is introspective in nature. Another disadvantage is that the Return on Investment (ROI) of improving what you avail to the market is ever getting smaller.
Focusing on the market
Market focus is considered the most modern orientation for a business. It requires that you not only create products or offer services but also that you create demand for them. This is in response to a consumer who is more informed on what is in the market.
If your business usually operates by reacting to competition then you are focusing on the market. When sales numbers decline, you will react by starting a marketing campaign. You believe people don’t like parting with their money (they actually don’t) so one has to nudge them to buy things.
Can marketing work for a small business? It is normal that big businesses will invest in marketing. They have breadth to fight for recognition among consumers. Small businesses do not quite have that advantage and need to be really creative to make it count.
First, let us get it out of the way that marketing is costly. Not only do you need to fork money but you must pay on the right kind of exposure. This is difficult because how do you know that your marketing insight is reliable? Also, it is not always clear what an entrepreneur really wants to come out of marketing. You want to increase sales volumes but by how much? For how much?
A smart smalll business will opt to focus on product if only because your expectations will be much more clearer. But the smarter business will combine both market and product empasis. Remember, you not only want to generate sales but also you want to retain customers. Selling the good stuff is simply not always enough. Yes, people always expect more and more.0