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As some of you will know I am currently lost somewhere in the South of India (update: I am not this is an old post), fighting off advancing hordes of fire ants, being bled dry by ravenous mosquitoes, and sharing my bed with Chernobyl sized cockroaches…that and having a wicked time traveling. On my travels I tend to bump into people and they tend to get me thinking, which is never safe for anyone.
Why Read? (1500 words)
This post highlights a few lessons the Indian street sellers have taught me about business success which all you business owners and bloggers out there would be wise to check out. I reckon anyway…just read it.
Research Experiment 101
Rickshaw drivers, stall sellers and shop owners abound on the sidewalks all over India and they all have one simple aim in mind – to peddle as much of whatever it is they are selling or dealing in while avoiding the sun.
An amiable goal to be sure, and one that almost every successful Western business is also pursuing apart from the sun bit – increasing sales in order to make increase profits and keep shareholders happy.
However what this small mini ecosystem of people creates is an interesting small scale reflection of the larger business world and thus from this we can divulge some common business success ideas and see them operate in a short term, local environment. Here are the three major ones I have been thinking about.
1. Being Genuinely Interested In Your Customers
Anyone with white skin get mercilessly harassed in India and are pretty much universally regarded as walking, breathing ATM machines. How many of you treat your customers the same.
Over time in India, one develops coping mechanisms to handle the harassment and one of the first to develop is a capability to ignore Indians that can appear interested in you but are really only interested in selling you something. These make up about 95% of the people that approach you. The most overused opening line is “Where are you from?” followed by “You want x,y,z?” without variation or indeed waiting for a reply. They have no interest in you and can’t even be bothered to learn your name, all they want is to sell something and move on.
Generally I punch these people in the face (in my minds eye obviously, I am not insane).
Every so often, but rarely, someone gets past my guard and asks a different, seemingly more genuine question and even more rarely some just want to speak in English, even rarer still (this has happened twice and I have been in India almost 7 weeks) someone genuinely wants to know what your name is, how you are enjoying India and where you are planning on going next.
Just by showing some sort of genuine interest in the potential customer is enough to at least get me to stop. Most then ruin this by trying to sell to me after a few sentences and are promptly ignored. Those that show more genuine interest in me I have more time for and eventually when they mention what their business is I have more time to listen to them.
The same goes for our businesses in the Western world, we all seem so keen on selling to people we forget that every business is people focussed and our focus, as business owners, should be on our customers and finding out what they really need, then solving their problems to the very best of our ability, not just selling more things to them.
If our businesses are only about the bottom line and not about the customers, they will never become successful.
2. Offer A Product Or Service Of Value
Of the few that do finally get me to stop and listen because they first show interest in me, as a person and not a customer, almost all then go on and ruin it by trying to sell me crap of absolutely no value to me.
Most are peddling cheap goods for extortionate prices or services I couldn’t possibly have a use for. Few, if any are actually selling anything that I might actually want and none are at a reasonable price. Therefore I have yet to buy anything from any street seller in India.
In our own businesses, it is easy to charge too much and offer too little and then wonder why the sales are not pouring in. The really successful businesses in the world offer a lot of value and cost their product appropriately, not too high and not too low, but correct for the value they are offering.
I own Apple products, they cost a lot but they give a huge amount of value. I get more value from my Macbook Pro then the money I paid for it. Sony Vaio, however, charge around the same amount as Apple but offer no where near the value, and thus their product is overpriced in my eyes and probably the major reason why their sales are nowhere near the level of Apple. Being expensive isn’t a bad thing, as long as you are offering the value that justifies the cost. Sony can kiss my ass.
The street sellers fail on both accounts, they solve none of my problems and they give me no value and so they make few sales and none from me, no matter how much time and effort they put in. They would be better spending that time finding out what I need and then finding a way to offer me good value to justify their prices. “Because I need to feed my kids is not good enough” I have been reliably informed that most of them don’t have kids; lying to your customers is also not good business – take note Indians.
This was a wakeup call for me in my own business as I began to wonder if I was offering enough value to my customers after a dip in sales. I came to the conclusion that I was offering value but it wasn’t enough, I needed to offer more to justify the price. Thus I will be implementing changes to my company over the next month or so to add more value for my customers.
The reason I spent a long time recently redesigning my site was to offer more value to you, my blog customers. I wanted the free content to be easily assessable to you and to make sure you didn’t have to crawl through thousands of words to find the information you want and will help you. I wanted to offer more value, I hope you agree the changes have done that.
3. Find Your Niche
All the Indian street sellers are all selling the same thing. The market for just about every piece of crap jewelry or overpriced taxi ride is completely saturated.
In such a massively saturated market one would have thought that some initiative would spawn niche markets among this community, offering products and services that people actually need. It seems not.
From the outside it appears obvious to us but then how many of us have created businesses in niches that are completely saturated also. Think website design, print, marketing, blogging and SEO. All these markets are incredibly competitive and yet so many people go into them thinking they can make it big offering less than whats already there. Either you offer substantially more than whats on offer in a competitive market or you will drown. Better to focus on a less competitive niche and become a leader in this.
My business is in a very small but lucrative niche, however competition is starting to spring up and so I have to start offering more value then anyone else in order to stay on top. This is the challenge and the joy of running a business and is what, personally, I relish. The competition baby. Bring it, competitors.
For you bloggers out there, there is massive competition from incredible individuals of great talent who offer a lot. If you are serious about your blogging and want to make money off it then you have to offer more than these people and I know it’s a big ask. You have to offer value to your readers, if there is no value they will leave. The people I follow offer me a great amount of value.
Individuals like Glen from Viperchill offers incredible value on viral marketing and advice on SEO.
Colin from Exile Lifestyle offers great value on lifestyle design and free goodies for improvement. His is a blog I always benchmark mine against, if I am not offering at least as much as Col then something is wrong.
Cody from Thrilling Heroics offers insane value on marketing oneself online and is a great networker of influential people. He offers high quality free products and if I were to pay someone to develop my online presence I know from his blog that he would offer great value.
Definitely check this three awesome blogger out, you won’t be disappointed.
To Sum Up
The Indians have been a incredible wake up call for me personally. I know the lessons but only by having had experienced the negative aspects of not following them have I realized that I need to change things. To be successful in Business or Blogging you have to be genuinely interested in your customers and solve their problems. You then need to offer incredible value to them, although this doesn’t necessarily mean your products have to be cheap. Finally you have to be sure you find a niche you can compete in. If you can compete in the saturated ones then great, if not then look for another or create your own.
Good luck with your businesses and blogs people.