Category: Analysis

Market analysis

How Market Research Improves Brands

One thing is sure in business — no company operates alone in the market. That’s the case with your company too. By the same token, your business has to interact with consumers if you want to achieve success in the market. That’s where market research steps in. If your brand already communicates with consumers, you probably heard about the importance of researching your target market. Stellar market research can improve your brand, and that’s what the biggest companies in the world realized long before they launched their products.

The market research process is an essential step that ensures whether your product or service meeting the needs of your target market. The result of your market research can have an impact on your entire brand image as a whole. That’s why every major company in the world uses market research to define the customer. Apple & Coca-Cola use the data that market search provides to ensure that their branding strategy is on point.

You have spent a great deal of time and effort on creating your brand. Part of the creation process is identifying your target audience and building customer loyalty. But how much market research did you perform during the process? Have you continued to research and communicate with your target audience?

What is market research?

Market research is comprised of tools and methods that allow you to understand the pulse of your customers. It tells you what they are looking for, what they are interested in, what motivates them, and how they perceive your brand.

Here are two research tools that any business owner can perform to understand better their customers, their opinions about the business, and insight into your competitors.

Focus Groups

In today’s business environment, focus groups can easily be performed in a virtual environment for market research. It is best to have a moderator not employed or affiliated with the business to ask the participants questions. Focus groups encourage free and open discussion, allowing you to get a deeper understanding of why they feel the way they do. Gather a handful of your loyal customers and be prepared with questions. Record the virtual focus group responses to understand the nuances best and hear and see their reactions to your questions. Here is a sampling of basic focus group questions:

  • What is your favorite thing about our business?
  • What is something our business needs to improve upon?
  • Do you frequent our competitors? Why?
  • What do you like better about the competitor?
  • What key differences do you notice between our business and our competitors?
  • Do you have suggestions for how we can improve?

Be sure to thank your customers for attending the focus group. It does take more time, especially if the group met in person. If the meeting is in person, you should provide beverages and snacks. In our virtual world, follow up with a gift card or a discount on your goods or services.


Surveys provide valuable insight when properly utilized for market research. Hire a professional to help write the questions so as not to lead the respondent in any way. There is an art to writing survey questions and the order in which they appear. Surveys are similar to focus groups but are performed at the customer’s convenience. Because surveys are done privately as opposed to a focus group, the customer is not influenced by the others in the room, nor are they intimidated by making an honest assessment, positive or negative.

A good survey should take no more than five minutes to complete. We are often asked about offering an incentive to complete the survey:

  • Incentives may drive an increase in responses
  • The customer may feel influenced to be kinder because you offered a reward.
  • The responses may not accurately reflect their opinion if they run through quickly to get it done and get the reward.

Focus groups are more qualitative and deliver greater quality, or depth, of information. The moderator can delve deeper into their answers and the why of their opinions.

Surveys are more quantitative because of the possibility of a significant number of responses. It allows you to speak with more customers but not in an in-depth way.

Ok, you have the data, now what do you do with it?

Best case scenario? There are no surprises. Your response to the information obtained will be to make suggested improvements, but you are doing pretty well for the most part. You have customers who are loyal and actively engaged; their perception of the brand matches yours.

When your market research shows surprises or makes you aware of something you were not, you need to evaluate what you are doing. Are there things out of your control? If so, that does not always matter because it is still the perception of your customers. Maximize the positives and address the negatives when possible. Most importantly, let your customers know what you are doing. Tell them why you did the focus group or survey. Share the things you are going to do to be better. We heard you, and here is what we are doing to improve. People appreciate the fact that you listened and took action. It enhances the customer experience and drives greater customer loyalty. You listened to them. You care about them.

What is the hardest part of the market research process? Listen and never argue. Their perception is what it is, and it is their truth. Tell them you will make it better…. then do it!

Do you want to know what your customers think?

Most business owners are unsure about tackling this on their own. They want to know what their customers think but need help.

In some cases, the owners have performed a survey or obtained research from various resources and are unsure how to interpret the data. We can figure this out for you and suggest improvements to your

Embrace it! Your brand may change and improve for you and your customers. The change came directly from your customers. It doesn’t get better than that! So, give us 30 minutes of your time, and let’s see what your customers are saying.

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Managing Your Business Finances

To anyone not directly involved in finance, even the most basic financial management concepts can evoke a feeling of panic!

However, when you decide to start a business, you will need to keep a close eye, and a hand, on your business’s finances, if you expect any measure of long-term success.

Simply put, It’s your responsibility, as a business owner, to have a handle on your finances!

Here are a few concepts, simplified, that should help you to understand and manage your business’s finances:


Income sometimes also referred to as gross income, turnover, or revenue, is the total amount of sales made, before any deductions are factored in.

Keeping track of this is a simple matter of keeping records of your sales. Simple. Moreover, by preparing and keeping records of invoices, it is a simple matter to calculate your sales. Some companies, particularly those engaged in long term contracts, issue a proforma invoice at the start of a project, in order to get the income “on the books.” A final invoice is then submitted at the end of the project.


Expenses are almost as simple as income. Basically, your business has two kinds of expenses – direct expenses (salaries or payments to contractors) and indirect expenses – your overheads or running costs.


This is what we are all in business for – profits. Breaking even is a milestone, but for a business to grow, it needs to make a profit.

The simplest form of calculation would be sales less direct expenses. This figure is known as gross profit. To calculate your business’s net profit, you need to deduct your indirect expenses from the resulting figure.

Finally, to calculate the actual profit your business is making, you need to deduct income tax from this last figure.

If you have an amount left, you have made a profit. Also fairly straightforward when you think about it!

Assets and liabilities

Assets of a business are divided into two categories: so-called liquid, or short-term assets, and long-term assets. Generally, short-term assets are your bank balance (the cash you have on hand) and account receivable, or the money your clients still owe you.

Long-term assets are purchases, such as buildings, vehicles, or equipment, that are the property of the business, and that are retained for a long time. Note that assets are subject to what is known as “depreciation” meaning that they decrease in value over time. This decrease should be factored into your running costs or indirect expenses.

Liabilities, on the other hand, are any amounts of money that your business owes, either short or long term. Vehicle and asset finance falls under this category, as do loans, credit agreements with supplier’s etcetera.


Capital is the money that you put into, or need to put into, your business in order to start and run in.

Cash Flow

The last concept, and probably the most critical, is cash flow. This is the in and out flow of money in your business, and keeping a tight grip on this is probably the most important thing you will do for your business!

Consider this: your business is set to make a $ 5 000 profit, on paper. However, your suppliers require 30-day payment, and your client only pays you after 60 days. Essentially, if you owe your suppliers $ 2 000, you will need to carry this expense for a full 30 days after it becomes due, before you recoup it – something few new businesses can afford to do!

So keep a firm grip on cash flow, as well as making sure you understand and monitor your firm’s financial status, and you should be fine. Ignore it, and you could be in trouble!

Our expert consulting teams can help by providing custom guidance to help alleviate the components of your business that are holding you back from doing what you do best. Our teams can also help you build your business and plan for future goals.

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    Search Engine Optimization Consulting – Choosing Keywords

    As a professional practicing search engine optimization consulting, one of the keys to your success is to have a thorough understanding of how to go about finding, and then selecting the proper keywords that you want to target and then eventually get ranked for in the search engines.

    When it comes to keywords, it’s actually possible to make it to page one of the search engine results for any keyword you choose. But before you jump for joy, call your wife, and crack the champagne you need to remember something -Some keywords are going to be a LOT harder to rank for then others.

    If you have time, money, knowledge, and lots of patience you can get to page one of Google’s results for terms like “business”, “credit cards”, or even “shopping”, but in reality most of our consulting clients don’t. So how do we get a new website to start ranking well in the search engines then? This is where you, the keyword knowledgeable SEO consultant steps in.

    You see for every main keyword like “marketing” there will be thousands more related phrases that include that main keyword. In the SEO consulting world these related phrases are known as long-tail keywords. If we stick with our example keyword “marketing” some related long-tail keywords might be “Marketing in China”, “Internet Marketing Firms”, “Marketing Consultants”, etc, etc. Can you think of any others?

    By now I’m hoping that you’re starting to understand that there are literally thousands of keyword variations for each main keyword. The good thing about this for you and your search engine consulting clients is that it’s much easier to get listed on page one of search engines if you build your SEO campaign around these long tails.

    Ok this is all swell and dandy but how do you generate a list of long tail keywords? Well lucky for all you internet consultants out there our good friend Google offers a free browser based keyword tool that does it all for you.

    All you have to do is go to the Google keyword tool, enter your main keyword like “marketing”, select the region you want statistics for, and then press submit. Presto! Google will return a nice long list of long-tail keywords related to whatever you typed in.

    If you want to take it a step further and generate even more long tails for your keyword master list then take one of the more popular phrases that it returned, for example “marketing firms” and then put that back into the keyword tool. Can you see the power in this?

    So there you have it. If you want to do well in search engine optimization consulting you’re going to need to understand keyword research. Being able to generate a solid list of keywords is key – you now should understand how to.

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      In today’s world of mass digital media, giving a referral is as simple as posting a social media link. At Investment Solutions, we know that 90% of your prospective customers make buying decisions based on reviews and online mentions of your business. Digital reputation management is the process of monitoring, identifying, and influencing your digital reputation and credibility online.

      Every day, people are reviewing businesses with star ratings, comments, social media posts, blogs, and much more. Knowing what people are saying about your business is invaluable. Reputation management provides you with a chance to counter negative feedback. It also creates an opportunity to promote the experience of your positive mentions. An effective online reputation management strategy can provide you with new opportunities and insight on increasing brand awareness.

      The importance of having an online reputation management process in place is undeniable. Here are a couple of reasons to consider starting one:


      The reputation of a business is essential to its survival. Having the trust of your clients is a major component of success. Your clients discuss your business with friends and family. When they have a problem, they will spread the word about their experience. Data shows that if an organization has a good reputation, consumers will find that company more credible than its competitors. Even when competing businesses offer the same products or services for different prices!


      Having professional staff is the foundation for a successful workforce. In today’s world, 92% of companies are using social media for recruiting. A company’s reputation matters for employers more than ever before. It can have serious impacts on the quality of recruitment. Top applicants will research your company before they accept a position. Statistics show that 83% of respondents in a survey reported that they’re influenced by reviews when making application decisions. 46% of respondents report that company reputation influences their job offer decisions. 75% of people said they wouldn’t be willing to work for a company with a bad reputation — even if those without jobs.


      Having a successful corporate image is a necessary marketing tool for your company. If you warm the hearts of your customers, then you can expect them to always remember you. You won’t need to spend time trying to convince your potential customers to use your products or services. With a strong digital image, customers will continue to support your company.

      Google your business name and scroll through your results. Scan the first few pages of results. Did you find information that doesn’t accurately represent your business? If you did, we’re glad we were able to bring this to your attention. In a recent Moz study, research suggests that businesses risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find a negative article on their first page of search results. That number increases to 59% lost business with three negative articles. At four or more negative articles, it goes up to 70%.

      Don’t panic! You could spend every day searching your own company to see if something new came up. This could take you hours every day and you would continue to stumble over old things that were already known about. Investment Solutions provides a tool that runs 24/7 to scour public web space to find mentions, reviews, and websites that talk about your business.

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      Marketing Is Expensive. Is It Really Worth It?

      Why marketing is so expensive, and what plan is right for your business.

      marketing concept with financial graph and chart

      Sooner or later, most entrepreneurs have to face the reality that marketing is expensive. In the course of planning a new marketing campaign or trying to grow the business organically, you discover that to execute a strategy could cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, and to keep it going will cut into your bottom line.

      Why is marketing so expensive? And is it really worth the cost?

      What you’re paying for

      Let’s start by explaining why marketing is so expensive. Generally, marketing costs account for things like:

      • Salaries and human labor. According to Glassdoor, the average marketing manager’s salary is $65,834 per year. Most marketing strategies require extensive planning and execution, requiring many people coordinating together. Many of these people are highly skilled and highly paid.
      • Limited resources. Some marketing campaigns depend on the use of finite resources, and at least some of these resources will be in high demand. For example, there are only so many billboards on the side of the highway; if a bidding war starts, it could drive up the price of advertising considerably.
      • Risk, failure, troubleshooting, and support. Some marketers build in the cost of risk and failure; if their original efforts fail, they’ll need to double down and try again. We also need to consider costs for ongoing troubleshooting and support in addition to core marketing campaign costs.

      Differences in price

      It should also be obvious that different types of strategies will differ in price. Depending on your approach, marketing could end up being very cheap or ridiculously expensive, often based on variables that include:

      • Strategy choice. Some strategies are more expensive than others. TV ads are often expensive because of finite supply and high demand. By contrast, search engine optimization (SEO) is often less expensive because there are unlimited opportunities for development; that said, even SEO can be pricey under the right conditions.
      • Scale. Most marketing campaigns vary in scale; a small mom-and-pop business and a large corporation aren’t going to use the same tactics or the same number of resources. The larger your campaign is and the more people you’re trying to influence, the more you’re going to pay.
      • Freelance, in-house, or agency. To execute a marketing campaign, you can do the work yourself, hire a freelancer, hire someone in-house, or work with a professional agency. Each of these options has different costs, as well as different strengths and weaknesses. For example, working with a freelancer can help you save money, but it might be hard to find individuals who fit your needs, and they might not be reliable. An agency is more expensive, but it’s often worth the money because of its reliability.
      • Quality and experience. In marketing, you get what you pay for (at least most of the time). Individuals and agencies who have more experience and skill tend to charge more because of their abilities. Accordingly, in many cases, an expensive campaign is a good sign; it means you’re getting the quality work you need. Of course, there are exceptions, and it’s possible for high costs to be excessive.

      The nature of ROI

      One of the most important factors you’ll need to consider when budgeting for and planning your marketing campaign is your return on investment (ROI). In other words, how much value are you getting out of your campaign compared to what you’re putting into it?

      In many cases, you won’t be able to concretely measure your ROI until you actually launch the campaign. However, you might be able to come up with a reasonable estimate that’s based on your past experience and the knowledge and experience of the professionals you’re working with.

      Your ROI matters more than the absolute dollar amount you’re spending. For example, let’s say in campaign A, you spend $500 and generate $1,000 in revenue. But in campaign B, you spend $1,500 and generate $5,000 in revenue. Campaign B is objectively more expensive, but it also yields a much higher ROI, both proportionally and in total amount.

      Because of this, you should never rule out the possibility of a campaign just because it’s expensive.

      Operating with no marketing

      We also need to consider the prospect of running a business without a marketing campaign. There are examples of businesses that have gotten successful without traditional marketing or advertising (including famous examples like Arizona Iced Tea). However, without marketing, you’ll be exclusively growing your business through word of mouth and reputation, which can take a long time and can be extremely unreliable. For most businesses, marketing and advertising are practically necessary for steady growth.

      Is it worth it?

      Is an expensive marketing campaign worth the seemingly excessive costs? The issue is far too complicated to reduce to a simple answer. However, in many cases, there are plenty of justifications for the high cost of marketing, and if you execute a reasonable campaign, you should be able to get a high ROI and more than make all your money back. Although some types of businesses can get away with little to no marketing, most companies will strongly benefit from a marketing investment — even if it looks costly on paper.

      Credits: Entrepreneur

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      What is Portfolio Management? (And Why You Need It)

      Portfolio management is different from project management in that it encompasses the entire lifecycle – from ideation through the realization of the benefits it set out to provide. Portfolio management includes project management as a phase of the project lifecycle which focuses on, and is best at, the execution phase of a project. But as we all know, projects are more than just tasks and issue solving. Projects truly begin at the ideation stage and although some do not make it through execution to the realization of benefits of the investment, portfolio management accounts for that entire process.

      Let’s take a look at the lifecycle of a project that is reflected in portfolio management: Ideation stage, creating a business case, prioritization of the initiatives that warrant investment, selection, planning the process and resources to carry out the initiative, execution of the initiative, and ultimately ROI. For each stage, there is a process, and IT leaders understand that while some projects are inevitable, others are strategic. And the strategic ones are the ones that make the difference.

      Portfolio management is important in business because there are factors to consider that affect the success of the project, and thus the organization, as well as unexpected benefits from the investment. For example, sometimes it is what a Project Management Office (PMO) chooses not to do that is the most important. By prioritizing and consciously choosing not to undertake projects that do not benefit the business or take away from time and resource capacity from higher priority projects, PMOs become more efficient and are better able to focus on the projects that matter. This focus results in better and faster execution or project management.  

      Many projects also begin by supporting overall business goals and for one reason or another, by the end they no longer serve that value. Either the business goals have changed, more important things have come up, new technology has come out that changes the project (this especially happens in product development projects), or the project has simply lost value because the main stakeholder is no longer a stakeholder. For any of these reasons or others, projects often change directions, and organizations need to adapt along the way. By managing projects as part of a portfolio, the dynamic changes because you enable the portfolio to be successful – even if some of the projects in it fall short – and help drive the desired outcome for your organization.

      Here are a few benefits when moving to a portfolio management approach:

      Strategic Alignment

      Portfolio Management is an inherent way to strategically align your projects with the goals of the business. As you map out your portfolio and your resources that are to be assigned to certain projects, you make sure you they are the projects that support the needs of the business. However, we know this changes as you go along and you need to adapt. By managing a portfolio of projects, it becomes easier to identify the projects that are better suited to meet your needs, and reduce the investment or abandon projects that no longer serve the needs it intended to. In doing this, your business benefits from investing in projects that are the highest likelihood of added value and ROI.

      Strategic alignment is especially strong in top-down portfolio management approaches. Top down is an “alignment-first” approach to portfolio management where requests are only accepted if they are aligned with business goals. Projects are prioritized and resources are assigned based on those prioritized projects, and executed from there. Essentially, planning and reporting are the critical elements where goals are identified and benefits are realized. Conversely, bottom up portfolio management puts the emphasis on the execution of projects, making sure tasks are executed, and thus increasing project success through individual contribution. In either case, by managing projects in a portfolio, you have the advantage of executing the right projects for the business.

      Resource Management

      Resources are an organization’s most valuable asset; and also the biggest challenge more often than not. Managing those resources in an effective, efficient, and optimized manner is extremely challenging. For most organizations, resource management is one of those things that may be done “well” but you always feel like it could be “better.” For better resource management, managing a portfolio is much easier to think about. You can see resources across the portfolio, utilization among various projects and across applications. By having a good understanding of what resources are actually up to and a realistic representation of what their utilization looks like, project resources becomes much more manageable from a portfolio perspective.

      Planning and Reporting

      We all want to know what we are getting out of our investments before we take the plunge. But there is always some degree of risk involved; if all projects were a sure thing, it would take the fun out of managing them. However, some level of predictability is comforting, and by having a systematic way of continuously improving the forecast of the projects with each new addition helps too. With portfolio management, planning for projects (and resources) is continuous and evolutionary as projects progress and people get shifted around. Reporting also plays a big role in this, as you are able to see the results of the plan after it is executed to adjust planning moving forward, and understand the benefits of the investment. Whether you are reporting on different metrics, gaining visibility, or arguing for more resources, having the ability to report on the portfolio as a whole as well as individual projects or programs is a major contributor to business success. According to recent Project Management Institute Pulse of the Profession report, organizations that are effective in portfolio management had 76% of projects meet or exceed expected ROI, compared with 56% of project success without portfolio management process in place. And success is what we are all about.

      By including portfolio management as part of the project management approach, you can manage projects throughout their lifecycle, and against one another, to achieve benefits far beyond what you would get by managing projects in silos or in stages. For more on how portfolio management can give you end to end project management, take a look at our services portfolio management.

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      Business Strategy: Definition, Levels, Components & Examples

      Different businesses have different goals and take different routes to fulfil those goals. These routes constitute the business strategies of these businesses.

      While it is easy to understand the definition of business strategy, sometimes it’s an uphill task to form and execute a successful one.

      Here is an article to help you understand business strategy to fullest by answering your questions and clearing your doubts about everything related to it.

      What Is Business Strategy?

      A business strategy can be defined as the combination of all the decisions taken and actions performed by the business to accomplish business goals and to secure a competitive position in the market.

      It is the backbone of the business as it is the roadmap which leads to the desired goals. Any fault in this roadmap can result in the business getting lost in the crowd of overwhelming competitors.

      Importance Of Business Strategy

      A business objective without a strategy is just a dream. It is no less than a gamble if you enter into the market without a well-planned strategy.

      With the increase in the competition, the importance of business strategy is becoming apparent and there’s a huge increase in the types of business strategies used by the businesses. Here are five reasons why a strategy is necessary for your business.


      Business strategy is a part of a business plan. While the business plan sets the goals and objectives, the strategy gives you a way to fulfil those goals. It is a plan to reach where you intend to.

      Strengths & Weaknesses

      Most of the times, you get to know about your real strengths and weaknesses while formulating a strategy. Moreover, it also helps you capitalise on what you’re good at and use that to overshadow your weaknesses (or eliminate them).

      Efficiency & Effectiveness

      When every step is planned, every resource is allocated, and everyone knows what is to be done, business activities become more efficient and effective automatically.

      Competitive Advantage

      A business strategy focuses on capitalising on the strengths of the business and using it as a competitive advantage to position the brand in a unique way. This gives an identity to business and makes it unique in the eyes of the customer.


      It also decides the path to be followed and interim goals to be achieved. This makes it easy to control the activities and see if they are going as planned.

      Business Strategy Vs Business Plan Vs Business Model

      The business strategy is a part of the business plan which is a part of the big conceptual structure called the business model.

      The Business Model is a conceptual structure that explains how the company operates, makes money, and how it intends to achieve its goals. The business plan defines those goals, and business strategies outline the roadmap of how to achieve them.

      Levels Of Business Strategy

      The business goal is achieved by the effective execution of different business strategies. While every employee, partner, and stakeholder of the company focus on fulfilling a single business objective, their activities are defined by various business strategies according to their level in the organisation.

      Business strategies can be classified into three levels –

      Level 1: The Corporate Level

      The corporate level is the highest and most broad level of the business strategy. It is the business plan which sets the guidelines of what is to be achieved and how the business is expected to achieve it. It sets the mission, vision, and corporate objectives for everyone.

      Level 2: The Business Unit Level

      The business unit level is a unit specific strategy which differs for different units of the business. A unit can be different products or channels which have totally different operations. These units form strategies to differentiate themselves from the competitors using competitive strategies and to align their objectives with the overall business objective defined in the corporate level strategy.

      Level 3: The Functional Level

      The functional level strategies are set by different departments of the units. The departments include but are not limited to marketing, sales, operations, finance, CRM etc. These functional level strategies are limited to day to day actions and decisions needed to deliver unit level and corporate level strategies, maintaining relationships between different departments, and fulfilling functional goals.

      Key Components Of A Business Strategy

      While an objective is defined clearly in the business plan, the strategy answers all the whats, whys, whos, wheres, whens, & hows of the fulfilling that objective. Here are the key components of a business strategy.

      Mission, Vision, & Business Objectives

      The main focus of a business strategy is to fulfil the business objective. It gives the vision and direction to the business with clear instructions of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and who all are responsible for it.

      Core Values

      It also states the ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ of the business which clarify most of the doubts and give a clear direction to the top level, units, as well as the departments.


      A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a rundown of the company’s current situation. It is a necessary component of a business strategy as it represents the current strengths and opportunities which the company can make use of and the weaknesses and threats which the company should be wary of.

      Operational Tactics

      Unit and functional business strategies get deep into the operational details of how the work needs to be done in order to be most effective and efficient. This saves a lot of time and effort as everyone knows what needs to be done.

      Resource Procurement & Allocation Plan

      The strategy also answers where and how will you procure the required resources, how will it be allocated, and who will be responsible for handling it.


      Unless there are no control measures, the viability of a business strategy can’t be assessed properly. A good business strategy always includes ways to track the company’s output and performance against the set targets.

      Business Strategy Examples

      Creating A New Market

      Hubspot developed an executed a perfect strategy where it created a market that didn’t even existed – inbound marketing.

      It created an online resource guide explaining the limitations of the interruption marketing and informing about the benefits of the inbound marketing. The company even provided free courses to help the target audience understand its offering better.

      Buying The Competition

      Facebook’s buy the competition strategy has been successful ever since the company was launched. It focuses on buying the pioneer or the competition instead of creating the technology of its own to compete with it. So far there have been many notable acquisitions by Facebook like Instagram, Whatsapp, Oculus, etc. to increase its reach and user base.

      Product Differentiation

      Apple differentiated its smartphone operating system iOS by making it really simple as compared to Android. This differentiated it and built its own followership. The company has been following a similar strategy for its other products as well.

      Cost Leadership

      OnePlus launched its flagship product OnePlus 6T with similar features to iPhone X but at a price which is less than half a price of iPhone X. This strategy worked for OnePlus making it the top premium phone brand in India and other countries.

      Credits: feedough

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      What digital finance means for emerging economies

      Financial services are the lifeblood of an economy, enabling households and businesses alike to save, invest, and protect themselves against risk. Yet in many emerging economies today, the majority of individuals and small businesses lack access to basic savings and credit products, which hinders economic growth and perpetuates poverty. Two billion people in the developing world lack access to a bank, and 200 million small businesses cannot get the credit they need to grow, a gap estimated at $2.2 trillion.

      The solution can be summed up in two words: digital finance, the idea that individuals and companies can have access to payments, savings, and credit products without ever stepping into a bank branch. This is possible through digitization, which can essentially turn a smartphone into a wallet, a checkbook, a bank branch, and an accounting ledger, all in one.

      Financial inclusion could help boost economies, especially in parts of the world that need it most. Now is the time to make this a priority. The ubiquity of the mobile phone, even in remote areas in emerging markets, makes it possible to bring financial services to people who have never even considered opening a bank account. Already, mobile networks reach nearly 90% of people in emerging economies and 80% of adults have a mobile phone subscription.

      Digital dramatically lowers the cost of providing financial services. Digital accounts can be 90% cheaper than conventional ones for banks and other providers to maintain, costing as little as $10 annually per customer. This makes it profitable to provide accounts for lower-income people. The long-held goal of financial inclusion — for individuals and for micro and small businesses — can now become a reality.

      Our research shows that digital finance could enable 1.6 billion people in developing countries to access financial accounts, loans, and other financial necessities (and lower the cost and increase the convenience for the 2.4 billion who already have bank accounts). Many new customers would be among the poorest 40% of people in the world; more than half would be women. The balances that these new customers accumulate can then be loaned out, providing up to $2.1 trillion in new loans for individuals and micro, small and mid-sized businesses.

      What’s more, we estimate that improving access to financial services could add $3.7 trillion to the GDP of emerging economies by 2025, or 6% — equal to 1.5 times the current GDP of all of Africa. The additional GDP could create up to 95 million new jobs. The lowest-income countries stand to gain the most, adding as much as 10% to 12% to their GDP.

      There are several building blocks that need to be in place for digital finance to take off. One is the right infrastructure, which includes widespread phone ownership and network coverage at an affordable price; a robust digital payments system; and widely used ID systems preferably with digital authentication. What’s also needed is the right business environment where a range of providers can compete on a level playing field and innovative new digital finance products and services. This requires regulations that strike a balance between prudence to avoid undue risk, and innovation.

      Businesses of all sizes stand to gain in big ways. Businesses could save 25 billion hours of labor by switching from cash to digital payments. Some 90% of transactions in the developing world are in cash, but having to protect piles of currency deters owners from expanding, since they cannot be in two places at once. Firms that accept or pay with mobile payments gain ready access to sales records, allowing for better inventory management. In addition, digital payments create a data trail that enables lenders to assess the creditworthiness of even micro-enterprises.

      Financial service providers have a big opportunity as well. They could cut costs by up to $400 billion annually by evolving from bricks and mortar to digital strategies. And because they can expand their customer base at relatively low cost, they could collect more than $4 trillion in new deposits—money that can be converted into loans. Savings that are currently stored under mattresses can be put to work, adding more activity and liquidity to the economy.

      Governments benefit, too. Digital payments could improve their finances by reducing opportunities for corruption, targeting spending more precisely, and improving tax collection. We estimate that they stand to gain $110 billion per year by digitizing payments. Many government services, such as education and healthcare, stand to gain. For example, parents in the Côte d’Ivoire used to pay school fees in cash, but robbery and bribery were common. So beginning in 2011, the country began introducing mobile money payments. By 2014, nearly all school fees were paid digitally, mainly by phone. Parents and students no longer had to worry about being robbed—and more money made it into school budgets. Mobile money providers got new transactions, plus fees from the government. The education ministry saved money and gathered more and better student information.

      While financial inclusion is far from inevitable, all the trends are moving in the right direction. The wireless infrastructure is mostly in place. The idea suits our times.

      This article originally ran in Fortune.

      In emerging economies, using a smart phone to provide access to financial services, could help boost the economy, write James Manyika, and Rodger Voorhies in Fortune.

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