Top tips to building a successful business in Malaysia

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According to CEOWORLD magazine’s compilation of the entrepreneurship index in 2021, Malaysia was ranked 14th as one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, topping larger countries like South Korea, Canada, and even China. Home of some of the most advanced innovations and successful business ideas, and listed as one of the top 20 countries in The World Bank Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rankings, now might be the right time for entrepreneurs to start a business in Malaysia. 

While the idea of owning your own business can seem daunting, all the hard work put in towards the start of your entrepreneurial journey can prove to be rewarding. So how can you start a successful business in Malaysia? This article covers all the key aspects of running a successful business.

What are the steps in establishing a successful business?

Besides applying for the right licences to run a business in Malaysia, several strategies can be leveraged to start and grow a new enterprise or to scale an existing one. And most, if not all of these strategies have to be customised to fit the product that the business intends to market. If you’re not sure where to begin, determine the specifics of the four Ps — product, price, promotion, and place.

1. Product

The first P, the product, indicates that building a successful business requires one to fill the market gap by offering a novel product or a service that will effectively address the pain and passion points of your target customers. This means actively seeking out products or services that solve a problem commonly faced. By doing so, there is a higher chance of customers searching for your product rather than having the product constantly marketed to them to generate conversions.

2. Price

Once you have established a product or service to sell and market, you will need to thoroughly study the marketplace and analyse any competitors in the industry to define clear KPIs. Setting revenue and profitability goals is especially crucial since marketplaces are constantly evolving with innovations. This means the price of your products should both meet the needs of the target market and your business goals.

3. Promotion

Once you have your product and price confirmed,  you’d want to consider your promotion strategies – how will your target market find out about your business and products? From traditional to digital strategies such as working with micro-influencers, there are plenty of options available. What you need depends on the type of market you are targeting, their behavioural patterns and where your business stands in the competition.

4. Place

The next step is to look for the right place to get your products to your customers. This goes hand-in-hand with promotion – target your customers where they spend their time the most. Whether these are e-commerce marketplaces, social commerce platforms or the wider online sphere, gaining visibility in places where your potential customers shop is a big win.

That’s not all. 

Ask any entrepreneur for tips on how to be successful and they’ll tell you that you’ll need to have a superteam to back your brand. Hire the right people to be a part of your team, develop a clear training and onboarding strategy and get organised. Ensuring an organised company in terms of your documents and records also goes a long way in running a successful business. 

Examples of successful business ideas brought to life

To better understand what makes a business successful, take inspiration from Malaysian entrepreneurs like Anthony Tan, the founder of Grab. A company born in South East Asia, Grab and its car-booking app grew exponentially by providing the fundamental services that consumers genuinely cared about — safe and affordable transportation, food and package delivery, mobile payments, and financial services — all in one app. Distinguishing the brand from then competitor, Uber, Grab is now revered for its ability to improve people’s lives through food, transportation solutions, payments and financial services with a click of a button. 

From this real-life example of companies that are successful and growing, it is clear to see that building a business in itself is not inherently difficult. But rather, the success of a business is highly dependent on how it stands out from its competitors and the innovation behind the product or service being offered.

What defines a successful business and how to measure it

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As the saying goes, “the customer is always right.” Any successful business would have their customers at the heart of their vision and mission. Beyond that, cultivating a sense of trust among the customers, as well as establishing authority and expertise in the field, will ensure that your business is constantly taken to new heights.

According to a double-blind survey of 3,600 business buyers and 12,000 consumers from around the world conducted by Salesforce Research, 78% of consumers stated that they would forgive a company for its mistake if they had previously received excellent service. 83% of customers also expect to engage with someone instantly upon contacting the company. Pair these with the fact that 66% of customers expect businesses to understand their unique needs and expectations, and it's clear to see the importance of delivering a great customer experience. 

Just as impactful as the product you are selling and its cost, customer service has evolved to become more than a mere resolution of customer enquiries and problems. Capable of leaving an impression on buyers in the long run, customer service is a huge contributor to a business's success. 

According to Infobip, the customer experience level by companies in Malaysia is rated lower compared to the Asia-Pacific region, scoring 3.8 compared to the region’s 3.9. With convenience still being king, businesses can leverage this gap and establish ways to make quick purchases and provide more cutting-edge offerings to simplify customer service. From self-service account portals to Chatbots for simple customer service, it is now easier than ever to gain a competitive edge over other companies. Once the relationship between the business and the customer is nurtured, everything like trust and recognition of expertise will follow through naturally. 

How do you then measure the success of your business? By checking for customer satisfaction. While checking income statements to measure the profitability of the business offers a black-and-white method of determining profits and losses, amazing reviews left by customers, a growing loyal following and a spike in new customers are all great ways of measuring success and predicting potential growth. 

Challenges of growing a successful business

While it can be hard to determine the exact challenges that may arise throughout an entrepreneurial journey, there are a few common challenges that one will face. Some of these include constantly having to come up with new solutions to keep up with the evolving marketplace, problem solving on your feet, and welcoming changes that were initially not part of the business plan.

Something might be in-trend today and out the next, and even the most loyal of customers are bound to change ship and hop on to another brand that provides a better deal or solution. Since all of these issues have a direct or indirect impact on cash flow and financial management, it is important that market research is done consistently to ensure that your business does not run on out-of-date trends and information. 

The rising need to go digital

Amidst all this uncertainty, customer expectations and behaviours have also shifted radically due to the rapidly shrinking physical world. With the digital transformation that many businesses avoided tapping into for decades reaching its tipping point due to the pandemic, businesses have to innovate like never before. As customers develop a digital-first behaviour, businesses are expected to digitise their operations and offer omnichannel solutions. While sticking with legacy systems and old methods of doing things may work, the rising digital engagement is not something to be missed if a business seeks to be successful. With 69% of customers agreeing that the pandemic has elevated their expectations of a business's digital capabilities, cashing in on mobile commerce and e-commerce can do wonders for the growth of a business.  

Riding the digital wave to business success

As mentioned, Malaysia ranks highly from a global standpoint for successful entrepreneurs and already boasts a range of successful start-up businesses. However, entrepreneurs must do their due diligence on multiple logistical and administrative ends before finding ways to improve customer retention and further boost the growth of the business.

Navigating an inter-changing industry like e-commerce can be challenging, and sometimes a secondary partner may be needed to provide alternative solutions, especially when trying to run a small business successfully. Since the global digital landscape has forced many businesses to move to the internet, choosing a reliable shipping and logistical partner to do the basics such as handling shipments from Malaysia to Singapore can take a weight off your shoulders.

For more tips on how to build a successful business, check out our guide to starting a business in Malaysia to navigate the administrative duties you would have to settle before beginning your entrepreneurial journey.