Source: Scott Thomson
Business Tips – April 2013 (Vol. 2, Issue 5)
In this article we provide some more recession-busting tips that you can deploy within your business, and add to some of those already covered.
• Focus on Sales – One of the first signs that your company is affected by the recession is a decrease in sales. Naturally, with the economy in strife, people and businesses have less funds, and cut backs are made. In response to this, we advise that you maintain a degree of focus on ensuring that you have a sustainable stream of revenue from new/existing customers. The following points will outline some aspects you could consider, in respect of maintaining sales.
• Don’t pull the marketing budget! – Your company’s advertising and promotional activities are essential to keeping new customers coming through your door. Rather than simply reducing your marketing efforts to save money, you need to work out where your customers/clients are coming from – how do they find you, and how have they heard about you. From this information, you may find that there are certain promotional channels that aren’t delivering enough ROI (return on investment), and should be cut. For example, over the last couple of years, we’ve spoken to many of our clients that have used newspaper advertising, and upon evaluation, most decided to stop this form of promotion completely, as it has failed to deliver a substantial amount of new custom.
• Change your channels and approaches – What used to work before the recession will not necessarily work now, and you may have been subjecting your company to under-performing sales results, whilst you have continued to use methods that aren’t relevant enough in today’s economy. You need to look at the wider picture – because there are 101 ways to promote your business, and many of them are fairly inexpensive. Try a different promotional approach that you haven’t tried before, e.g. put aside a budget for some SEO for your web site, or attend some networking events (when you do this, give it enough time to properly test new approaches). Furthermore, you may want to continue some techniques that have brought positive results, where you could alter the approach slightly. For instance, if you’ve been networking for years and this has brought you some success, maybe invest in yourself to learn how to improve your approach to networking even more.
• People buy from people – Customer relations is becoming such an important facet to the marketing strategies of SME’s, with the digital age rendering communication as fast and effortless. Make sure you have a complete system and procedure in place to build relationships with your customers. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is all about loyalty – and when your customers need your services, you need them to think of you first, regardless of what they’ve been offered elsewhere. Develop a structure for all your staff and yourself to use, which encompasses following up after meetings, initial sales conversations, networking, etc. And procedures in place to keep in regularised contact with your customers in a way which is meaningful and personal to them. Many firms utilise CRM software for this, which can be very useful indeed. Additionally, you may have the names and details of customers that have bought from your company in the past – this is a list of qualified leads who may be interested in buying from you again.
• Be customer orientated – No business can afford to stock its shelves with products that customers have no interest in buying – nor is it sensible to offer obsolete services. Your customers’ needs change year-on-year, and to stay in business you need to track your market’s tastes, likes, and dislikes consistently. Sometimes, it doesn’t even make sense to you why customers aren’t buying a product or service you personally have faith in, or on the other hand they are buying something you didn’t expect to sell! When you speak to your clients/customers, ask them what they want to see in your shop, or ask what you could do to better serve their requirements. Gradually, you will build up a picture of what the market wants from your business, and change your offerings accordingly.
• Strategic partnerships – Usually a term coined for large organisations, however SME’s are using this technique expertly these days. Look out for opportunities to partner up with companies offering products/services that complement what you do. Make sure your offering is mutually beneficial to the other partner. This could be as simple as a collaboration on projects, or where the partner business refers customers to you on a commission basis.
• Keep your head about you – This recession is testing SME’s to the outer limits of all tolerance, and it is easy to get into the way of constantly questioning yourself, and asking if you’re doing the right things for your business. Don’t ever make important decisions when you can’t think clearly, even if this means take extra time to come to a measured and considered decision. Days may go by where you can’t gather your thoughts – we’ve all been there! Wait until you can sit down and weigh things up in your mind with the cool light of day. The business relies on you, and the course and direction of the firm is dependent on your ability to take the correct actions.
• Inner Discipline – We find this to be extremely important, and it is widely asserted that discipline is key to succeeding. Be disciplined in your work, and ensure that between 9-5pm, you work all the time you are working. Be productive, don’t waste time, and everything you do must contribute value to your business. Not only that, be steadfast in your vision towards your business objectives, and keep these at the top of your thoughts – never lose sight of them.
“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline” – Vincent Lombardi