We are living in ever increasingly competitive times in business. The normal way of business is changing with the advent of the internet, cheap imports and national chain stores. These new competitors have bought pricing pressure and an every increasing ranges of products for consumers. We are also in an information age, allowing customers to be a lot savvier as to the products available and options.

More than ever business has to be aware of what clients want, know the products you are selling, but more than anything have a point of difference and be prepared to do what a clients wants. This may mean that you need to get out of your comfort zone and listen to the clients more.

I can remember years ago I was told a story about a kitchen fit out in a new house. When the owner went to inspect the new cabinetry the walk in corner pantry had a raised floor, it was more a big cupboard than a walk in pantry. The owner questioned the cabinet maker and commenting that they wanted a ‘pantry’ not a cupboard. The answer they got was simply that is what we always do. Problem there was that they did not listen to the clients, they did what they thought, and they did not think outside the square or get up with changes in their industry.

In an article I recently read there was also the comment being made of the lack of perceived quality available in Australia or that items simply are not available here. This may be a perception issue, but many consumers feel we get second rate products in Australia. This can be seen as a major opportunity for local manufacturers to produce world leading products for discerning consumers. The example in the article was referring to the ability to purchase customised or high quality home safes often available overseas. After talking to many Australian companies they had their standard products and simply got the take it or leave it feedback. After much research the author found an Australian family business offering customised installations. The problem is they do not advertise, since they have an endless amount of work coming through their doors.

The lesson for all businesses is they you need to listen to what the clients want, provide excellent quality and service and be prepared to adapt and provided continually improved products and services. Remember companies like Apple are designing items that consumers don’t even know that they want yet, just like the iPad. What do you need to be doing for future clients?