Entrepreneurship is always an offensive game

Johnni with entrepreneurs/customers

Like a sports team that plays to win, entrepreneurship is about being on the offensive. 

In my almost 30 years in entrepreneurship, it has been evident that entrepreneurs far too often end up being on the defensive and worry about protecting their acquired market share and react to the competitors’ moves and changes to the market conditions, rather than trying to outthink and outmanoeuvre both and gain more market share. 

I have over the years realised that being on the offensive, takes more than an aggressive attitude – entrepreneurship is less an MMA fight and more a chess game, and acquiring an offensive position takes practise, planning and wisdom – and only rarely an aggressive attitude (a respectful attitude is almost always more suitable and sustainable!).

So, as an entrepreneur, what can you do to break away from a situation where you are fighting to keep your revenue stable? How can you obtain a situation where customer attrition is limited and you can focus on acquiring new customers and grow your income – and hopefully profit (not always a given even with revenue growth!)? While you will not get around the fact that you must invest time on general planning based on a thorough analysis of your external reality and an audit of your internal reality, I will here focus on just one element hereof.

Key to many challenges for most entrepreneurs is to understand your customers. The customer is king – or queen! Truly, as your efforts as an entrepreneur are dedicated to improving their lives – or businesses – through your products or services. So not knowing who EXACTLY they are, and how SPECIFICALLY they derive value from you is missing the point of entrepreneurship altogether. Diving deeply into gaining this understanding will allow you to do two things that can shift your situation from defensive to offensive. 

Firstly, an analysis of your customers’ needs – from the obvious ones to the deeper seated ones – in relation to your offering will allow you to refine your product/service so it matches exactly what their needs are. This means either adding value-generating attributes to your product/service at as low a cost as possible – or, it means removing non-value-generating attributes from your product/ service and making a cost savings that means an ability to lower the price and thus the price-value ratio in the eyes of your customers; or keep that saving as profit that you can reinvest in your business’ further growth. 

Secondly, an understanding of these needs will also allow you to segment you customers in greater detail. This means your efforts to acquire – and retain customers can become much more customised and effective, i.e. less effort for the same result vis-à-vis new customers – or same effort for an improved result and an increased market share. 

This is naturally only the first step in the process, which is a complex one! One key aspect of a more refined customer acquisition campaign (which is a general point that should always be adhered to) is to be deliberate about the efforts and its aspects. Know, exactly what you are doing, what you are expecting as a result of your actions and be extremely diligent in your analysis of what worked as expected and what did not – building up this understanding over time, will allow even further refinement of your sales and marketing efforts. 

However, do not overcomplicate getting to know your customers. Keep it simple in the beginning – casual conversations will reveal more useful information than you might think. Later on, you can do more structured interviews alongside surveys, and then focus groups in various configurations and ultimately more advanced in-depth research, like A/B-testing and behavioural analytics. But remember a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step!