The Apple Falls – From ‘It Just Works’ to ‘It’s Hard Work’

Something is wrong at Apple – they seem to be lost in a mire of confusion and missed opportunities. I started to feel this after the iPhone7 launch; the new MacBook Pro launch just cements it. I’ve long been a fan of Apple’s (well, Steve Jobs’) ethos: creating beautiful products that make your life better. I simply don’t think that they are doing that anymore. Their last two product launches have been disappointing to say the least, with poor decisions – dropping headphone jacks and USB ports – and lack of innovation. But more than that, their crown of creativity is now being wrested from them. Google’s Pixel phone is an iPhone killer. Even Chinese super-manufacturer Xiaomi is launching a phone that looks like the iPhone7 should have been. And now the severely compromised MacBook Pro’s. Apple’s product range used to ‘just work’, now it’s just hard work.

MacBook Pro Fails

The latest MacBooks have missed the point completely. In abandoning USB in favour of Thunderbolt ports, you now basically have to carry a bag of dongles and cables to connect your other devices. You can’t even connect an iPhone 7 with the cables they provide out of the box – epic fail! They also didn’t bother to increase the power of the chips – with similar RAM and processor specs to those released years ago (still 2.4Ghz as standard, so 2010. 2.9Ghz?, oh that’ll be $3,000…). And the Touch Bar not only fails to add real value (quick access emojis ffs!), it does away with the ‘Esc’ key – effectively alienating one of their core demographic –  programmers and developers. They focused too much of their energy on ensuring that apps and programs can communicate effectively and seamlessly through Cloud software but forgot the basics.

Lack of Innovation

The introduction of the Touch Bar had the potential to be innovative but they sacrificed the function keys to make room for it. It’s almost they said ‘You don’t need those complicated things! Look – shiny icons!” – it feels more like a distraction rather than an innovation. Apple are forcing users to divert their attention away from the screen whilst they scroll through selected icons to find the app or program they need. Microsoft, in the meantime, came up with the Surface Dial – a cleverly designed peripheral allowing users to interact with every millimeter of the display.

The Surface Dial is an all-encompassing control device which combines simplicity and practicality – bringing a new dimension to hardware and software interaction. When placed side-by-side, there are some obvious advantages to having a dial which can be placed directly onto the screen, rather than the Touch Bar – which users actively have to break their concentration to use. Compared to the Apple Touch Bar the Surface Dial is innovative, has almost limitless applications, and is perfectly targeted at its audience – creative designers and developers, an audience that used to buy Apple without question.

In the summer, I wrote a piece about how important it is to ignore your competitors and listen to your customers instead. Apple seem to have done neither of these things, preferring instead to  look to the past. Now even Microsoft – formerly the antithesis of Apple, creatively – are beating them at their own game.

I’m Out

On the one hand it’s great to see more competition at the top end of the tech market. Ultimately this is good for consumers – more choice, better products, lower prices. But I’ve long been a fan of Apple, and it’s sad to see them fail so hard. Steve Jobs changed the world with his manic desire for beautiful designed products that define perfect user experience. The limitations of the new MacBook Pro are simply too much for me. I’m ditching my iPhone and switching to Google’s Pixel phone, and i’ll take Microsoft’s Surface Studio, or the Lenovo Yoga. I don’t think Steve would be happy with this state of affairs.

How do you feel about Apple’s new developments? Have i missed some genius strategy in their product line-up, or are they now being left behind by Microsoft and Google? Let me know in the comments using #NewMacBookPro.

Snapchat Spectacles – 20:20 Vision Or Myopic Mistake?

The brand formerly known as Snapchat has been making headlines this week with two pretty big announcements. The first was the name change to ‘Snap Inc.’ (signifying a diversification of the brand away from simply video messaging apps); the second was that of Spectacles (‘Specs’) – the latest in wearable video technology.

Specs are modified sunglasses which allow you to record video clips of varying lengths – either 10, 20 or 30 seconds. They’re available in three colours (black, teal and coral); rechargeable (the case doubles as a charging dock); and store snaps internally until the user transfers them (via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) them to a smartphone to view and share on Snapchat (this is all eerily similar to the plot of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episode ‘The Entire History of You’).

 

There’s a lot to be said for the latest Snap innovation, and it comes in parallel a new brand direction (they are already now describing themselves as ‘a camera company’). This is a bold move for a brand who, just a few days ago, were known only for the sharing of ephemeral video clips.

Are Specs the new Glass?

Well on paper they could be mistaken for the most recent incarnation of Google Glass – remember how well those devices did in 2012? Sure, they still see resurgences in certain niche sectors from time to time, but they never did reach the mass-market consumer heights Google was aiming for. However with the Specs there are some key differences:

1. Appearance

Google Glass was criticised for the ‘nerdy’ appearance and the fact that they seemed too futuristic or ‘dorky’. It took Google 2 years to take this feedback and transform the design into something more fashionable – and even helpful, with the incorporation of prescription lenses – but it seems to have been too little, too late. Specs definitely look more fashionable – though this is of course slightly subjective.

2. Price

Glass was originally priced at £1,000 for developers – the consumer-ready version never materialised. Whilst Glass appeared to be expensive, it incorporated a lot of features and had a wider range of uses than Specs do. Specs have only one function – recording video – and the price reflects that – at $130 (£100) for the Specs, charger and charging case, the price seems to be spot-on for early adopters. and for their target market: Ray-Ban wearing teens.

3. Marketing

Google decided to drip-feed Glass to the market, whilst pushing a high price and promising to change lives – this excluded a lot of excited adopters and limited the overall appeal of the device. However, Snap have a done a great job here – Spectacles are a cool design, simple to use, and will be sold at an accessible price point. They’ll be drip feeding the product to the market in limited numbers, much like Google did previously, but the price will not exclude those they seek to interest.

“We’re going to take a slow approach to rolling them out…it’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it.” (Snap CEO – Evan Spegal)

They’re also launching at the right time – the number of people using video doubled between 2009 and 2013. Video is more widely created and shared than it was when Google Glass launched – 54% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created, so the audience is already primed and waiting for this creation.

4. Privacy

One of Google Glass’s main pitfalls was privacy – they were quickly banned from public places including bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas. There were many difficulties in overcoming the public’s fear of being recorded without giving consent and ultimately, the limitations and fears overcame the excitement, causing the demise of the device.

Snap Spectacles offer the very same feature which caused the demise of Glass – in fact, it is the only feature, so how are they planning to avoid the same fate we have already witnessed with Glass? Lights. The Spectacles feature a light on the inside to let the wearer know that recording is taking place – as well as an external light alerting those around the wearer that the glasses are recording. Whilst slightly more prominent than the ‘recording’ light on Google Glass – this doesn’t really solve the issue.

Despite the design and product features that Snap have incorporated into the spectacles (that are all arguably aimed at countering the invasion of privacy issue that basically sunk Google Glass), I don’t think it’s enough. People are, more than ever, aware of privacy and the risk of having it invaded, either first hand (being covertly filmed) or second hand (having photos/videos hacked and stolen from online storage). However I don’t believe Snap fully deal with the main reason Google glass was essentially a wearables fail: privacy. Ok, so there are a features that have clearly been included to counter the whole privacy thing, but I don’t think they’re enough to take it mass-market.

I think the majority of people are still not comfortable with the prospect of being spied on by people wearing devices that record what they’re doing. For me this is a major hurdle that any wearables product needs to leap, and I’m not sure Snap have delivered enough here to do that. They may nail some key segments – 18-24 year olds specifically – who are more comfortable sharing everything they do online, and are already using their app all day. And in this they also have the potential to increasing their 63% UK market share; but they also risk alienating the more security-conscious technology adopters, who are likely to react this like they reacted to Google Glass.

What do you think? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital

Apple And The Innovation Paradox

I noticed that the recent batch of updates and launches from Apple have been met with more muted applause in the media than in previous years. I admit I was also initially underwhelmed by what they announced. Among the shiny new hardware (that looks almost exactly the same as the shiny old hardware) the updates seemed pretty trivial. Removal of the headphone jack; improved AI (Siri) capability; more emoji’s ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; faster processor speeds; better cameras; waterproofing  and GPS-ing the Apple Watch (why didn’t they do this when they launched it?). They don’t really set the heart racing, until you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Headphone Jack-gate

The biggest controversy was the removal of headphone jack – paving the way for wireless earbuds, the (instal-lose) Airpods. This is a long overdue move – there are now many other branded wireless headphones on the market and Apple have a history of getting in when the time is right and they can own it . Nilay Patel, for The Verge, says;

“Removing the headphone jack is an act of pure confidence from Apple, which is the only company in tech that can set off a sea changes in the industry by aggressively dropping various technologies from its products” 

But as they are also accelerating the rollout of Apple Pay, this move is also a big block to the current batch of plug-in contactless payment devices, from the likes of iZettle; Square, etc. A shrewd strategic move as this immediately grabs market share and provides an additional layer of protection for Apple Pay.

Siri-ously

Siri, the iPhone’s AI and personal assistant can now communicate with other apps. You can now ask her to book you an Uber, WhatsApp your missus and find a decent restaurant for your date night. I called this back in the summer in a post about the how brands were ramping up their AI development and the opportunity for consumers. This just Apple setting out their stall and ensuring app developers and brands develop into their ecosystem. Strategically, another strong move.

iMessage update & Emoji-plus

Whilst this may seem underwhelming, to say the least, there are logical reasons behind competing against standalone messaging apps and keep iMessage relevant. They are consolidating their use of their message tool, developing new features to appeal to the Snapchat generation.

But where was the innovation?

Lets flip this around: why do they need to? They own the premium handset market globally with a devices that arguably have the best hardware and software design. If it ain’t broke…

They’ve upgraded the processors in the iPhone 7 and added market-beating camera technology. They’ve done enough to keep themselves on top. Innovation isn’t need when the product is right – why take a big risk now when they don’t need to. Is this necessarily a good thing for the consumer, though? Marketing guru Seth Godin says

“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”

I think this is partly true with the iPhone, they don’t yet need to find a new path. However a company the size of Apple has the resources to research and develop big, innovative leaps in tech. We need to see more of this. There have been discussions for some time around Apple’s entry into new product markets. Cars and TV’s have been rumoured to be getting the Apple treatment (though they’re clearly having a re-think about the former if they’re laying off a bunch of the Project Titan team). I’d like to see them betting a bit bigger on some of these, and other, tech projects. The risk of not doing this is that they are more likely to miss out on the next big feature that’ll take their business to the next level.

My verdict – Apple have done just enough for now to keep their smartphone hardware and software at the top of the market, and delivered some strategically important updates to protect their proprietary features. This time next year I hope to be talking about how the iPhone 8 also doubles as a hoverboard.

151020-hover

IFA Berlin – Why Crazy Tech Is Great News For Everyone

I love Berlin – it’s got a rich history, gothic charm and baroque tradition; and, as one of Europe’s top tech startup hubs, also has it’s eyes firmly fixed on the future. It’s architecture is a mash-up of new and old with a strong creative edge. It is therefore somewhat fitting that this week ,rolling into Berlin, came the IFA Global Innovations Show, which heralded a slew of new, risky and innovative tech from some of the world’s leading consumer brands.

 

Innovation (However Left-field And Crazy) Should Be Encouraged

What I found exciting about this year’s batch of IFA product announcements was a return to pushing the boundaries of what is expected from new technology. Stepping away from “conventional” tech, some brands – Lenovo, Acer, HP – are taking risks with their products, both to stand out from competitors and also to engage their consumers. By way of comparison, Wednesday’s Apple event – announcing the iPhone 7’s and Apple Watch 2 (plus a Pokemon app and some insta-lose ‘Airpods’…) – seemed like a bit of a snooze-fest in comparison. Slimmer, lighter, whatever!

A particular highlight for me was a new laptop from ACER. They seem to have listened to their niche gamer audience and announced one of the talking points of the show with their Predator 21 X laptop – a step into the future of gaming and full of design quirks: fully customisable mechanical keyboard, customisable backlight settings per key (!), built-in wrist supports, a curved screen and clamshell case… It’s a product unashamedly for the hardcore gamer. At an unwieldy 8kg it is also not for the faint hearted, but the sheer amount of tech inside makes it both ludicrous and groundbreaking, both in it’s field and if you were to drop it!

Likewise the Lenovo Yoga Book with its innovative halo keyboard and built in stylus, 3-axis hinge, lightweight design and beautiful aesthetic means has marked it as true original in a market full of Macbook-a-likes. The ‘Halo’ keyboard alone makes this a product miles ahead of the competition. Essentially this is a laptop with two screens, that can utilised as a tablet, laptop and an artists pad all in one. A true leap into the future.

 

Elsewhere, we have the HP Pavilion Wave, which has a dual functionality as a high-end Desktop computer tower and a speaker unit. Utilising a unique textile approach, the entire device is wrapped in a lush fabric coat. Where the dressing adds nothing to the tech, it certainly lends the whole package a pretty design quirk, and stands it out from the crowd.

Finally, the Botvac Connected from Neato is a nifty innovation in vacuuming that is internet connected, can laser scan a room to map its path and route and has a handy homing beacon and “find me” function if it gets lost around the house (yes, really) that be activated via your smartphone. You can also plot its routine and course on your smartphone via the app. Add a GoPro and you could have hours of fun chasing your cat around the house.

 

It’s A Core Principle Of Entrepreneurial Enterprise To Test And Learn

It’s great to hear how some consumer brands are taking risks. It’s important for product innovation and for consumers. It’s a return to the test and learn, risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit that has been largely missing from the Samsung and Apple tit-for-tat product launches. Having over-engineered gaming laptops and a robot hoover with a location beacon gives me hope that manufacturers will once again push the envelope and deliver innovative new products.

Even in the face of fashionable trends and common sense amongst your peers – a daring new product can make your company for the next ten years – or end you in a heartbeat, and this is what innovation is all about.

In an earlier blog post I spoke about how it’s more important to listen your customers rather than your competitors. When developing my own services and brand, I made the conscious decision to stop watching my competitor’s every move to make sure that I was in line with them. I can see why people would ask how I could be sure that my business was relevant, if I didn’t know what my competitors were doing. To be honest, I didn’t know whether my products were on par with those of my biggest rivals, what I did know was that my products matched what my customers wanted and answered their needs.

More brands need to push the envelope with risky innovations, give their customers the excitement of trying new tech and listen to the feedback. It’s great that leading brands are taking these risk with design, aesthetic and the expectation of their consumer base – this variety of product, of design and of idea is good for the companies, the consumer and – most importantly – keeping the field interesting and moving forwards. The only way we’ll get to the future is by taking the big risks to get there.

What new tech is getting you excited? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital

The Startup Mentor: Product Development and Adaptation

Uncertainty is still a huge issue for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, especially in these Brexit times. The economy and the business landscape are very much in the hands of both politicians and the future business leaders. After discussing why now is the best time for business owners and start-ups to make their own mark on post-Brexit Britain, I want to now discuss how exactly to go about doing it. Following last week’s post on the importance of agility in start-ups, this week I want to narrow the focus to product development and how the ability and willingness to flex and adapt to the surroundings of the business are the key to navigating and staying afloat during the uncertain times which lie ahead.

Agile Principles

Lean product development is the application of a process to ensure that the product development cycle is responsive and flexible, so that changes can be made almost on the fly. A flexible approach allows start-ups to modify their products and services quickly to adapt to changing demands and respond to feedback in a sharp, intuitive way. By allowing for small, constant changes, businesses and start-ups eliminate the need for lengthy product development cycles, which can cause frustration to investors and cause them to lose interest in what may eventually become a successful product. An example of how lean development can be applied to digital product cycles has been investigated by PC Quest. 

The key lesson here is in bringing prospective clients into your circle of trust. There is always the option of creating a team of clients who get access to early versions of your product on the basis they give you honest feedback. You could even call this type of thing an ‘innovation committee’. If you have built a good relationship with some of your clients, they will value input on innovation. It gives them a sense of primacy and kudos that you respect their opinions; they will also appreciate having prioritised access to new tools or services that may give them a competitive advantage.

The Lean Methodology Checklist

1. Determine whether the product is interesting.

A common mistake made by start-ups is to rush head-first into designing and creating a product that they think people want, and then approaching investors with a prototype after internal reviews. In reality, talking to prospective investors – the businesses and organisations who really may be interested in the product – before creating anything beyond a brainstorm or an idea, is the best practise.

When I started I was meeting prospective customers before a line of code had even been written! The idea is to position it as a passive request for their opinion and expertise: “I’m planning on building something that would work like this, what do you think? Would this be useful in your space? How can I improve it? How could I make this an easy decision for you”.

 

2. Keep the initial ideas basic

Start-ups don’t need an extensive master plan, the key to being flexible is taking a more laid-back approach to developing products. A rigid, unyielding development strategy offers no flexibility and can be shaken apart by the slightest unforeseen complication.

That is not to say that start-ups should not be looking into all possible eventualities. As we discussed last week, having multiple basic plans to account for a range of possibilities is better than one military-style plan which will not hold up if external factors differ from the expected.

 

3. Experimentation Is more effective than extensive planning

Smaller changes and trying something new is much more effective and adaptable than planning an extensive design without any feedback. Make smaller changes based on first impressions, rather than redesigning the entire product at each stage. Over-engineering causes start-ups to lose sight of the goal – which is creating a product which has an advantage over competitors and piques the interest of investors.

Regarding over-engineering… What is often see is that  businesses load up on features and they think that they will offer so much that people can’t say no. This is generally a fallacy. If this is a new-to-market product it actually makes it harder for people to understand. Look at the iPhone, when it was announced the CEO of Blackberry (RIM) stated that he wasn’t concerned because they didn’t have the features the top of the range Blackberry, specifically a qwerty keyboard:

The most exciting mobile trend is[…]full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up. People are running out of their two-year contracts and they’re coming into the stores and they want to be able to do Facebook and they want to be able to do instant messaging and they want to be able to do e-mail and they ask for those features thinking that they’re going to get another flip phone and they’re walking out with a (BlackBerry) Curve or a Pearl because they’re the best devices for doing those kinds of activities. And so what is the defining factor? The keyboard.”

What he demonstrated by saying this was; whilst Blackberry were busy trying to build ‘features’, Apple simply made a product that was easier to use- and therefore easier to choose – and we all know what happened after that…

 

4. Keep it small, keep it simple

Small changes are quicker to make and easier to plan than large changes – the best changes are those which respond to the external feedback without affecting any other factor of the product. As a simple example, a plastic-cased product which receives the feedback ‘This would be more exciting if it were available in metallic silver’; the answer is not to recreate the casing in metal, but to apply a layer of paint or use a different colour of plastic. This keeps all other factors – ones which have not received any complaints – intact.

 

5. Maintain feedback

Little and often is the key to maintaining an adaptable approach to product development, where small, regular changes are the aim, feedback which suggests a lot of changes, but which is only received occasionally will not be practical.  A regular reporting system, and a ‘one feature at a time’ approach is much more useful.

 

Product development is arguably the most important focus when planning a start-up, each improvement leans toward a more successful end product and early interest and input from investors give start-ups the opportunity to create a product that the larger clients will already be familiar with and connected to. If this is a problem that you are facing right now as an entrepreneur, or if you have a totally different take on it, I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below, or connect with me on Twitter: @bradindigital

The Importance Of Agility

Now, more than ever, it is important for start-ups to look at the way they operate, and plan ahead to ensure that they are able to handle whatever the economy, politics and the business world tries to throw at them. The residual fallout from the Brexit results has shown that the unpredictable is always possible, even if it seems unlikely and start-ups find themselves in a vulnerable position in uncertain times such as these. So, how can new businesses prepare themselves for the journey ahead of them?

The founding principle of a start-up plan needs to be agility – or the ability to pivot an idea in reaction to – or even preparation for – an uncontrollable external factor.

 

Competitive Advantage

Adopting an agile, or flexible approach to your business gives you a competitive advantage. Big companies and brands are used to working with the larger agencies, where almost every business process seems to take twice as long as it should to be completed! Big companies will weigh the risks of working with start-ups against the sheer hunger, ambition and desire to raise the bar which is often seen in independent start-ups. This leads to the larger brands often working with smaller businesses and start-ups, in order to access the best talents and innovation on the market – regardless of how big business has been carried out in the past. This sort of change is already happening at places like financial services firm Fidelity who are using small incubator teams to solve specific problems.

Big organisations are also fond of working with businesses who are able to work around them, evolving and developing their products and services to match the brand’s needs perfectly. Being agile means that start-ups can bring Clients into their team and build products around them. Also, when you are a start-up working with a top tier brand, there is no question over who is the big fish and who is the little fish. When companies deal with large suppliers, they often feel like there is a power struggle. So the little start-up where the founder is on the phone can sound very appealing.

 

Changing Your Outlook – Becoming Agile

It may not be easy to change your outlook on business practices – education, tutorials and journals seem to be set in a certain mind-set of ‘this is how it’s always been done, therefore this way is correct’. However, a different way of thinking about how you market your products and how your products and services will benefit clients during times of uncertainty will make a huge difference to your business operations.

 

Meera Kaul, writing in Forbes, advises that start-ups should plan for the future based on their own rules, without trying to imitate those followed by small companies. She poses:

Start-ups are not companies. And they never will be. The parameters and thesis that define corporate success may not apply to them. A start-up is an experiment. The entrepreneur or a group of people with the acumen to identify an opportunity and match their skills, create a solution to meet the opportunity or gap. They possess the necessary skills to execute the vision, or have the capability of executing the skills.”

I think she is right, start-ups cannot be defined by the same rules as companies, especially those who have a reliable business model, which is so ingrained in society that changing times seem to leave them unaffected. Start-ups must be more experimental, ready to change and adapt with the times and flexible – just to survive long enough to become established.

Planning for Every Possible Outcome

Alison Freer advises that start-ups and small businesses need to plan for every potential outcome – even those less savoury and unwanted outcomes. Planning ahead gives the start-up the opportunity to see each eventuality and have a solid plan in place to overcome, circumvent and weather whatever situation happens. There’s a lot to be said for positive thinking, but denial that other outcomes are possible is sheer naivety.

As the effect of Brexit become more and more volatile and apparent, you will see more big businesses beginning to question the necessity of expenses as margins are squeezed. This means that highly agile and cost-effective suppliers are far more appealing. Therefore, providing that the start-up is themselves cost effective – i.e. not having a Soho office and a company Mercedes – you have the opportunity to take away business from the big guys,  especially when the barrier to entry is now so low.

Why You Should Ignore Your Competitors

In the WWDC announcements earlier this week, Apple revealed that their voice recognition AI, Siri, will be made available on desktop. But the bigger news is that Siri is to be opened up to third-party developers to enable users to access third-party apps through Siri commands. This news has been met with varying opinions, but the loudest appears to be that Apple are falling behind when it comes to beating competitors to the punch. However, I am not so sure that this is true.

 

Too little, too late?

The popular opinion seems to be that Apple is having trouble keeping up with their competitors. Cortana was opened to third-party developers over two years ago, whilst Amazon’s assistant AI, Alexa, was released to developers almost a year ago – with the added incentive of a development fund for innovative uses of the software. Google appeared to be slightly late to the party, releasing their software only last month, so is Apple playing catch-up?

Amazon,  and Google already have stand-alone devices on the market, powered by their AI assistants, all released over the past two years, whilst Apple have only recently announced that they are developing their own stand-alone command centre for homes

The CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Washington university professor, Oren Etzioni, has said “Is it too little too late? Siri is five years old and still trying to learn how to play well with others.” (source)

 

My Take

Watching your competitors is one way of making sure that your products are relevant, but a much more effective method, is listening to your customers. If you are hearing your customer’s demands and working to make them happy, you don’t need to concern yourself with what your competitors are doing.

Apple have long proven that they are innovators, releasing amazing product, after amazing product, they refine their software and products based on the feedback they receive from their customers, which eliminates the need to copy what Amazon and Google are doing.

Although the announcement is still fairly new, Apple have been developing their stand-alone product since before Amazon Echo was released, taking the time to make sure that they are delivering a product that their customers actually want.

This is the best approach to handling competitors as it ensures that they are delivering products that their customers will want to buy. “A lot of our customers have told us they would love…” is a phrase that featured in many of their announcements, for example.

When developing my own services and brand, I made the conscious decision to stop watching my competitor’s every move to make sure that I was in line with them. I can see why people would ask how I could be sure that my business was relevant, if I didn’t know what my competitors were doing. To be honest, I didn’t know whether my products were on par with those of my biggest rivals, what I did know was that my products matched what my customers wanted and answered their needs.

By asking the right questions and using the information our customers provided, we were armed with all of the knowledge we needed about our market. Our customers didn’t want imitations of existing products – they were looking for innovation which answered their calls.

Whilst you are busy ignoring your competition and paving the way for satisfied customers yourself, there are a three key things to avoid:

  • Don’t give your competitors bad press, focus on your business, your innovation and keeping your customers satisfied and the rest will fall into place
  • Don’t assume that customers will fall into your lap; amazing products come with an amazing brand and maintaining world-class customer service will endear your customers to you even more.
  • Don’t price higher just because you can. Fair prices make everybody happy. Don’t be tempted to price too low, you still need to make a profit. On the other hand, do not fall into the mind-set that you can charge the earth just because you meet the customer’s needs better – many people will be tempted to accept lesser value for a more affordable product.

Remember that happy customers are the key ingredient in great business. Exceptional customer service, products which push all the right buttons, and prices which match your target market’s lifestyle will lead to better reviews and an increase in word-of-mouth marketing. Happy customers will lead to more customers. Increased trust in your brand leads to increased profits, and better quality of feedback, leads to better quality products, fuelling the cycle once again.