Will the dragon year be dismal or delightful?
Since last Monday, people all over the world are celebrating the coming of the dragon year. A dragon year would typically promise ferocious successes but analysts' outlook is one of caution as Europe attempts to sort out its debt crisis and the US approaches another Presidential Election. How would Asia, Singapore in particular, fare this dragon year?
2011, the year of the rabbit was yet another year where analysts had predicted the worst but we seem to have survived it and in fact Singapore's economy grew by 14.5%, reversing the decline from 2009 by 0.8%. So while some would argue with fierce certainty that we're heading into another recession, we can truly only but speculate on what's to come. What can businesses do to look towards a prosperous year ahead? So here are my top 3 key business musts.
In a world where the only thing between communication is an Internet connection, there is no reason to be out of touch with our customers. Even in the small township of Fox Glacier where I was recently, with a population of about 375, there too was Internet connectivity. So there's no excuse to be unconnected. Be it a CRM system, blogs or Facebook, customers today expect to see, hear, talk to brands. Particularly if you do decide to carry on an open dialogue with your customers. Look at how your customers are engaging with your brand. How accessible does your business need to be? How do you want to talk to your customers or prospects? If your customers do want to talk to you NOW, who will front that conversation and how will that conversation transpire?
True value has never gone out of fashion. Singaporean consumers today are more discerning than ever and can easily sniff out a badly plotted marketing attempt. Businesses who consistently deliver good value or service for money can expect to retain and increase their customer base. The balance of power today has shifted to consumers who can make or break a brand overnight, fairly easily. There are certainly stories we've heard or even our own experiences when we moan about say, how great a movie was or how bad a meal or the restaurant's service was. Oh yes, service, we know how that conversation will go in Singapore. It's a topic worthy on its own. Yet, it's not always a "cheap and good" model that will excel in this market. Why do people wait in line for the iPad 2 when there are numerous options in the market today offering competitive functionalities and pricing? Having said that, there are only so many Steve Jobs types around. So how can you push perception of value from the functional realm to the emotional realm? You can start by delivering value in the functional sense by expanding your scope of services, or delivering more practical or insightful solutions. Then you have the emotional side of it where businesses compete beyond price.
Finally, please, make some noise. Unless you are say, Louis Vuitton, that almost everyone knows, don't expect your brand to be top of mind. Even then, they advertise in almost every known fashion or luxury magazine across the globe. Even in a recession, Apple invested heavily into advertising when everyone else was cutting marketing budgets. Like they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But beyond that, do not be afraid to be bold and be different. Brands that will do well are not only those that achieve top of mind recall, but those they create an emotional impact in the way they communicate and act with their customers.
So will this will be a good or bad year for Singapore businesses? As long as businesses keep those preciously earned relationships close at hand, offer great products and services, and make themselves heard, there will always be customers. Business means revenues and that, is good. In the meantime, a couple rounds of Fa Cai Yu Sheng can certainly serve well to bring a positive mindset and it truly is quite a delicious salad after all. I've had 4 and counting. A dragon year of successes and health to all! Happy Lunar New Year!
Gary Chin, Managing Director - Singapore (PH, VN & HK), Admax Network