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Standing Out In Business

University of Otago research that has uncovered the secrets of business success is being presented in workshops throughout the country.

The university's Marketing Performance Centre is holding workshops for managers in 22 centres throughout the country on what researchers have learned about the competitive advantages that lead to satisfied and loyal customers, and better profits.

“Two key things give a business the ability to out-perform its competitors – strong brands that are well recognised and trusted in their community, and highly skilled and motivated staff,” says centre director Brendan Gray. “All the businesses we surveyed recognised the importance of reinvesting profits in staff training.”

He says businesses with a competitive advantage bring in more money, have good customer relationships and good customer databases. They might also have intellectual property rights over their processes and ideas.

Researchers found the top firms were market-oriented, meaning that they measured customer satisfaction, and were aware of what their competitors were doing and how they might react. They also found that some of the top performers not only benchmarked themselves against similar businesses, but also with firms that weren’t in the same industry. One, for example, measured its complaints process against Federal Express, which is regarded internationally as having a good customer complaints handling system.

The Marketing Performance Centre, set up in 1992, began the present research three years ago. The project – funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology – entailed analysing data from 400 firms and then interviewing top people in 30 high-performing companies and those in 10 low-performers.

“All these companies provide services to businesses. The companies include legal firms, accountants, business consultants, transport services and engineers,” Dr Gray says. “However, the results are applicable to all businesses.”

Research findings and a self-diagnosis tool to assess a company’s “competitive health” are also available on a CD-Rom.


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