Whatever your political leanings, the next few months and years will bring significant change to the business landscape. And whether you believe those changes are for the better or not, if your business does not adjust in line with the new economic circumstances, you will risk being left behind.
Michael Gerber, in E-Myth Mastery, says “Change is the one constant for every business in today’s global economy, and your success will depend as much on your ability to embrace change and use it as a resource as it will on the production of your product.”
However, many business owners and managers find “change” difficult, or at the very least challenging to implement across the enterprise.
Gerber is clear that all businesses need to evolve and change as the landscape changes (although I don’t think he would have envisaged the pace of change that we now face!). It can be an opportunity to test out systems and processes, and learn more along the journey. It can give you the freedom to innovate – not necessarily develop new products, but also new systems and business processes. It is also not necessary to invest a lot of money in the exercise – although time is a precious resource, and has a cost.
Many prospects come to me to look at implementing new systems, but the barriers are likely to be time and resistance to change, rather than budget in pounds. And there is no point throwing money at a business issue, if there is no investment of time and effort to implement it fully into the business.
So, what do we need to do? (And I must include myself in this!)
Change can fuel your company’s growth in ways that money and technology can’t.
We need to develop a vision for our business. Yes, there will be new challenges, but in many cases that will reveal new opportunities.
We need to build the best structure in our business to deliver the vision. This does not just mean the “org chart” – it’s the entire process and way of doing business.
We need to get engagement from our team – Gerber is also keen to point out that “compliance” is not enough – the team needs to be fully involved in the entire process, and they need to have the right tools, and the training to use them.
We need to develop a culture in our enterprises that embraces change – to be ready for the challenging times ahead!
If you’re interested in looking at your business systems and processes then get in touch for a free discovery call!
A Whale of a Time
I recently read Seth Godin’s blog (well worth subscribing to) on “The management of whales”. I was unfamiliar with the concept of gaming “whales”. Two main themes emerged from this blog
Firstly – you need to know which of your customers are “whales” that may be consuming more of your time / resource / product than they are in fact really paying for. Seth uses the analogy of gym membership. Pricing is determined based on the fact that not all the members who pay every month will use it much (many never use it at all after January!) – but there are also super-users who spend a lot of time there. If you had to build a gym to accommodate all the potential users all the time it would be somewhat large – and the costs would increase, and therefore the membership fees! So – this model relies on the fact that not everyone will fully use the facilities.
If you offer an “all you can eat” buffet you also have to rely on the fact that only a few “whales” really can consume more food than they are paying for!
You may not run a gym or a restaurant, but you really do need to understand your customers and their behaviour?
An IT support company, for example, will offer support contracts. These have to be priced at a level that will be acceptable to the end-user, but you have to take into account the fact that some clients will never (or very rarely) call, and some will never be off the phone!
Whatever your business – make sure you are keeping records of the “consumption” of your clients. That may be time face-to-face, or on telephone calls, or answering endless emails. Some activities may look as though they are low-cost or cost-free, but your time (or your employees; time) is valuable. You need to know how much time and resource is being spent on each client – and a good CRM system will give you that information.
You can then decide if you want to have a universal pricing system, or price the service according to usage – but without this information you will be stabbing in the dark!
Seth also makes a point regarding customer service – if you know who your best customers are then make sure you are treating them well so that they will become your best advocates!
I’ve just returned from a short break in Mallorca. I had booked airport transfers, but it wasn’t a great experience.
On the way out, despite having booked a “speedy transfer” of no more than 4 stops, I was on a coach for nearly 2 hours and 19 stops!
On the way back I attempted to change my pickup time (in plenty of time) using their mobile site and was unable to do so, so tried to contact them. Long story short, we got to the morning of my return journey and it still wasn’t resolved.
I had managed to make contact via twitter (sad that that seems to be the only way to get companies’ attention these days) and so after a brief conversation via DM they advised me to get a taxi and they would reimburse me.
I have now had an email advising that they are reimbursing me AND refunding my total booking cost.
They have also taken on board various comments I made regarding their mobile “friendly” site!
So what have we learned?
That things can – and do – go wrong. In this instance, it was the local transport company that let down the company I had made my booking with – but they took full responsibility and refunded me.
Big Question – would I use them again. Well I have to be honest, I am not 100% sure. But I at least don’t feel that I would never, ever use them again. And I am also not going to write snarky comments on TripAdvisor. As business owners and managers, we just need to make sure we do all we can to satisfy our customers and give them a great experience, and then even if something does go wrong, then do our utmost to resolve the issue.
How Buyer Personas can help you attract the customers you want
We all know the customers we like working with. The ones who “get” what we offer and who value and pay for our products and services. So wouldn’t it make sense to find more of them? Wouldn’t it make sense to attract more of them to come to us? Shouldn’t all our marketing be directed towards finding those prospects and customers?
There’s an easy way to start – think about defining your “ideal customer” or Buyer Persona. Depending on your business, you might need more than one. You might be thinking – if I am too specific then I will miss out on all the other customers – but that’s not the point. You will still attract them too – possibly even more than before – but you really want to focus on those golden customers, that need little encouragement to spend their money with you, and focus your marketing on them.
Let’s look at the Wee Sticky Company* that makes jams and chutneys. How would they define their ideal customer or their Buyer Persona?
We will start off by thinking of some customers they have already:
Age: 35 – 45
Family: 2-3 children
That’s quite easy, but what about more detailed information – remember the closer you can define the exact characteristics of this customer, the better!
Job: are they employed, full-time or part-time, professional or less skilled?
Lifestyle: do they embrace healthy eating and exercise, will they favour locally-grown ingredients and locally-produced goods?
Challenges: they are probably cash-rich and time-poor
Research: where do they spend their online time – surfing in general, social media platforms used (you need to know where to “meet” your ideal customers!)
You get the drift! B2B is similar but would look at the industry the persona works in, their role etc. Consider spending some time questioning existing customers and prospects to get to the bottom of the profile of your best customer.
In future blogs we will look at what to do with your personas but in the meantime, now you understand why they important, why don’t you have a go yourself – download the B2C and B2B templates and sample research questions. Of course if you have all this information in a CRM system then it should be easy to analyse the top industry sector, what the job roles are etc. for your top customers.
*made up name – but it may exist somewhere, and if not, it should!
Let It Go!
Nope – no apologies for you having the earworm now! (I had to endure it whilst writing!)
So – what are you letting go of? This piece was prompted by a conversation with a networking contact who said that she (let’s call her Elsa!) would like to start “letting go” of the business and maybe only working a 2-3 day week. She has staff who can run things whilst he is not there.
What has to happen in order for her dream to come true?
She has to “let go”. She has to get her business organised so that there are proper processes and systems to enable her employees to run the day-to-day business without having to “ask Elsa”.
Some questions you could ask (there are loads more!) – and this assumes that the staff members are competent at their own jobs:
- Do the relevant members of staff know and understand the pricing policies?
- Are there consistent processes for dealing with sales enquiries? (If the person answering the phone is not able to close the sale, is there an effective process to ensure that someone follows up and deals with the enquiry)?
- Can staff members purchase supplies where necessary – perhaps to an agreed level of expenditure with approved suppliers?
- Are their agreed processes for invoicing – perhaps for a part-time book-keeper to deal with?
- Can people deal with customer service enquiries – maybe late deliveries, or issues with product quality.
These are just a few of the areas to be addressed – but in order to make it easy for Elsa to step back, and not have to be at the end of the phone or tied to the laptop when she does want to be away from the office, these should be at the top of the list.
Are you Experienced?
It’s all in the experience
One of the biggest buzzwords (phrases) of 2016 has arguably been “customer experience”. This really encapsulates one of the most important business concepts today.
Basically, if your company or brand is not viewed positively at every stage – from initial contact (whether that be on twitter, or someone visiting your website) through to final sale (and beyond) then you risk losing customers.
Let’s look at some of the stages:
Initial contact – how do people first find out about you? Is it through advertising, or personal recommendation. Remember that the latter can be negative, if someone says they didn’t have a great experience, even if you sell a fantastic product. Is it via sites like Trip Advisor? Do they see your vans being driven well (or otherwise). Is it a telesales person calling? Is it you, as a business owner, tweeting? The list is virtually endless, but the point is that an impression can be made even before you have a “sales” conversation with a prospect. And yes, the Customer Experience journey begins long before you even know that the customer exists!
The sales process – whilst you are still “acquiring” the customer. You may think that it’s only the salesperson that can influence the prospect, but the above list still applies, and no matter how good your sales team is, if the prospect’s experience of interacting with your company is negative in other ways then they may still lose the sale. The prospect may call the company to speak to the salesperson – how are they treated when they call? Does the person answering the phone know who they are, and can they provide the detailed information that the prospect needs, without having to “get Jim to call you back”? You may not perceive that as a bad response, but sometimes prospects are subconsciously looking for ways to make a decision, and that might lose you a sale.
You made the sale! Great, but the journey doesn’t stop there! You may want repeat orders, or recommendations. You want to ensure that every time that customer thinks about you, it’s in a positive light! So handling deliveries, or problems with products, or customer queries well is vital.
Once the customer is engaged with your company as a prospect, then it’s important to have systems and processes in place that ensure that they are dealt with in a consistent manner, and that things don’t get forgotten. So, if a prospect calls to speak to Susie and you say she will call back – make sure that there are mechanisms in place to ensure that Susie knows that she needs to call – and record the outcome of the call. Sticky notes really don’t work very well!
Does this look like your to-do list? If you’d like to talk about how you could manage your internal processes better then please get in touch!
Who’s on the (Sales) Team?
In the last week or so I have been marketing a new service – a sales process workshop – to enable businesses to improve their sales processes. When I have been talking to people at networking events I tell them I am looking for businesses with sales teams. Many people looked at me and solemnly told me that they don’t have a sales team in their business.
OK – so you don’t have a team of guys (and gals) in sharp suits and shiny BMW’s out there hustling and closing deals. But you do have a sales team, if you have more than one person in your business. (If you are solopreneur then YOU are your sales team).
In many small businesses, it’s commonly the business owner who’s out there meeting new prospects and bringing in new orders. But what happens when they get back to the office, or (possibly worse) they send a vague email to someone in the office to “make it happen”?
If that’s your business and it’s working for you then I’d like to propose that you are probably just a bit lucky. But for many organisations in such a state the cracks can start to show quite quickly. Who is the prospect? What exactly is the deal? What terms were discussed? When is it to be delivered? Crucially, can we deliver what was promised? The list goes on.
And in larger organisations with bigger sales teams then these problems are multiplied – and it can cause chaos! Balls get dropped, customers get hacked off, deals don’t get closed.
My point is, the people in the “back office” who need to service these clients are part of the sales team. They probably need to send out proposals, or order confirmations, or schedule deliveries. They are probably the people who will need to call the customer, or take calls from them, when queries arise. And crucially, they can influence the sale. Before the Purchase Order can be written, a conversation with someone in the office who doesn’t know what’s going on (because there are no systems or processes) can give the customer a poor impression.
There may also be a “sales team” who deliver a service – IT engineers are a great example of this. They can have the best relationship with the customer as they are on the ground – so are in a great position to offer new products or services.
So have a think about your own business – anyone who is in contact with a customer or prospect is a salesperson. And they need to be fully engaged in a robust sales process in order to deliver fantastic customer service – which starts the moment the first person from your organisation starts a conversation with a prospect.
Who’s on the team now?
If you’d like to discuss further then please get in touch!