Your business can be divided into 2 equally important elements… Continue reading →
It takes far more time, effort and money to win new business from a new customer than it does to win repeat business from a current customer. That being the case, why do some businesses focus almost all their efforts on the former and very little on the latter?
How much time and effort do you spend on attracting and converting new customers versus keeping your best customers happy and loyal?
One of the most common reasons for a small business struggling to grow, or even to keep on top of current business, is that they spread themselves too thin. They have too many customers spread across too many sectors.
When you start out you just want people to buy your products and services and you don’t care who they are and what type of business they have – you just want their business.
This is perfectly understandable because right now you have no customers. Maybe you’ve left your job because you are good at what you do and you’ve had enough of making money for someone else or you may have been made redundant or you have a burning ambition to follow your passion and dream and for it to deliver the return you seek to have the life you want.
Whether you’re an accountant, a marketer, a web developer or a graphic designer, if someone will pay for your expertise then that’s great because their money is as good as anyone else’s.
This is fine to start with because hopefully you have enough connections. You have people who know you and know your capability and who are therefore pretty warm prospects – some of who will become customers.
Having worked through those who know you what then? Unfortunately, this is where things often start to go wrong.
Last week I visited the Electronica trade fair in Munich. The overriding message when I asked how the year had gone and their expectations for 2013 was pretty sour. “We did ok, we came out flat.” Was one message I heard a number of times.
For 2013 the general message was that they had no real idea how next year is going to pan out, that there is no sign that business will be any better and could be even worse. (Of course there were exceptions, but this was the general feeling.)
All businesses have cycles and the electronics industry in particular experiences major peaks and troughs which people have got used to over the years. This downturn may be particularly bad, but we know why that is.
The thing that struck me was that, even though we are in unusual times there was little hint of these companies doing anything but “business-as-usual”. There was little evidence of doing anything differently, of any creativity and innovation but instead of carrying on business as they’ve always done it and hope things will get better.
What I wasn’t sure of was whether people were carrying on “business-as-usual” (even though business is far from usual) because this was just another down part of the industry’s many cycles, during which they batten down the hatches and hope recovery will come soon, or because they don’t know how to do anything else.
In August last year I wrote a post called Hope is no longer an option in these unchartered waters. In it I said that leaders need to carry out a thorough assessment of their company, markets and risks and think about how they can make sure their business not only survives but comes out stronger.
Easy for me to say but not easy to do, so I also listed 7 areas that business leaders should look at to help get them started. Here they are again…
1. Company – Are you on course to hit your goals? Are there weaknesses in your company that you really must address before they hurt your business? Are there strengths that you can exploit further? Are your processes aligned and working effectively? Do you have the best business models which help you capture as much customer value as possible? An annual self-assessment is a vital part of setting the right goals and plans. Regardless of where you are in your fiscal year, in these extraordinary times, don’t wait, do one now.
2. People – your people are your best assets…look after them. Make sure they’re motivated and achieving their targets. If they’re not then take responsibility for that, find out what’s wrong and help them. You don’t want to lose them and so make sure they have the training, tools, direction and support they need to return the business you need. Do they know and embrace your vision and do you empower and involve them when deciding how to implement your plan? Make sure they know how they contribute to the success of the company and how much you value them.
3. Relationships – Your relationships are crucial, are you looking after them as much as you could be? What would be the effect on your business if they closed? Are you delivering what your customers need? Could you be doing more? Are they struggling in any areas where you could help or introduce another organisation who could help? Aim beyond demand creation. What of your other stakeholders? If you will struggle without them then speak to them, check to see how they’re doing and what help you might be able to give each other. Form stronger strategic partnerships that will help you both survive and grow.
4. Markets – Are you delivering what the key players in your target markets need now and are likely to need in the future? Are you aware of what your competitors are offering? You may not need to deliver something better but you need to know if what they offer meets customer needs better than your solutions. Technology advances at an ever faster pace. Are you abreast of these changes? Can you exploit them? There are a number of external influences that can impact your market segments. Don’t be caught out by them; prepare for them and use them to your advantage if you can.
5. Strategy – If you don’t have strategic planning system for setting and implementing the goals that will strengthen your company and steer it towards your vision then establish one. If you don’t have a strategy plan that details these goals and the objectives and means for achieving them then develop one. If you do have such a plan and the supporting processes then check they’re working and adapt if necessary. This strategy plan isn’t your business plan but lies at the heart of it. It isn’t your marketing strategy but includes it. This is the plan of the goals you have set and how you aim to achieve them. You cannot stay in control and keep your business on course without one.
6. Leadership – Lead from the front, inspire, listen, make sure your people and partners know your vision and embrace it. Show drive and determination, show the confidence you have in your people, products and services to win and grow. Know your weaknesses and address them either yourself or with others. Focus. Know what you need to do and keep on course, don’t be deflected. Guide your people, listen to their concerns and help them. Empower them to be leaders in their own area of responsibility.
7. Think – If you don’t allocate time for you and your people to think about your company, about your customers and about your markets you will simply keep doing the same thing year-in, year-out and at best survive. Especially in this current economic climate, that’s not good enough. Creative thinking is needed now more than ever. Whether it’s the products and services that your customers and prospects need, your business models to capture more value effectively, your marketing strategies to attract more opportunities, the deals you make, the relationships you build, the targets you set or any number of aspects of your business you should look at, take time to think.
Creative thinking is often seen as a luxury which is sacrificed in favour of managing day-to-day pressures. It is NOT; it is vital to the success of a business and possibly, to its survival.
This isn’t a sales message; if you don’t need help that’s great but if you’re not sure how to set and implement the right strategy or if you feel you need help with any of the things I outlined above, then do get help. You are experts in your products and services but no-one can be an expert in everything.
Email me to arrange a chat and see if I can help make sure your business not only survives but thrives.
If you’re not the head of the regional office or company then show initiative, show that you’re thinking about the company, that you’re trying to help and forward this post to your MD or CEO.
image courtesy of newelectronics.co.uk
Earlier in the year I wrote a post called 10 top tips for getting the most out of your trade show. Trade shows can be hugely expensive, especially those like Electronica which is being held in Munich next week.
Electronica is the “world’s leading trade fair for electronic components, systems and applications” and it is truly massive. It comes around every two years and many hundreds of companies will have spent many thousands of pounds to have a presence there.
Many will be there because their competitors will be, many because it’s a great opportunity for CEOs and Directors from other regions of the world to meet with their key European clients and partners and it’s an opportunity for smaller firms to build awareness and hopefully their client base.
For some it’s because it fits in with their strategy. These companies will have a new announcement to make, will be launching a new product or service and will be using Electronica as a spring board.
If you’re going to spend a significant part of your marketing budget on exhibiting, give yourself the best chance of standing out, of engaging with new prospects, of strengthening relationships with current customers and of getting the best ROI you can by having something new to shout about.
If your company exhibits then make sure these events are an integral part of your marketing strategy and aligned with your overall business strategy.
I come from his world and will be visiting next week to start building awareness about a new launch coming soon. And of course I look forward to catching up with old colleagues, partners and clients.
Will you be exhibiting or visiting? If so, why?
Like everything else in this world, business is cyclical. To stay ahead of their competitors the top companies evolve; they change their image, offer new and better products and services and constantly work to innovate, inspire and stand out from the crowd.
Those that don’t, begin to look stale and uninteresting. They can give the impression that they don’t care enough about their business, in which case why should the consumers of their products? Their own people will wonder where the business is going and if it will survive…they will lose motivation and eventually leave. And in time this lack of innovation and the loss of motivation and key people will hit the company’s bottom line.
For the vast majority of companies, whatever their business, there will be other equivalent businesses. The number of competitors continually increases whilst the available attention of your customers or prospects forever diminishes.
Having good products and services is no longer enough. Being good at what you do won’t necessarily grab the attention of your prospect who is bombarded with offers and pitches and who has increased his or her filtering skills just to get through the day and their work load.
To be seen and heard, you must stand out, you must be different.
Take time out; walk away from your business and ask if it is different. If what you offer doesn’t stand out then, no matter how good what you offer is, it’s unlikely to be heard above the din of all the other businesses offering the same.
Contact me if you want help to develop the right strategies, stay on course and lead from the front.
Next week the largest annual trade show of embedded hardware and software will be held in Nuremberg. Component manufacturers and distributors, software tools and OS vendors, design houses and more, from all over the world, will be exhibiting at Embedded World.
The show is massive and demands a hefty percentage of any marketing budget. For the corporations especially, the position and the size of the stand are important, walls of compelling images and messages must be created, trees of collateral printed and handed out, products displayed, competitions run, mini seminar sessions presented and just in case, scantily clad or painted models hired, all to attract visitors and keep them on the stands long enough to see if they are a genuine prospect.
That all sounds expensive, but then there are the people needed to man the stands and CEOs and Directors to attend pre-arranged meetings with top customers and strategic partners. And all flown in and put in hotels for three or four nights. There are also the hours of preparation leading up to the event.
A trade show like Embedded World is undoubtedly an important event to show the latest products but also to hold many important meetings over the course of three days that would normally take far longer and much more travelling to achieve. The return from these meetings should be easy to measure.
But the return in general for the stand, the preparation, the people on stand duty, the cost of keeping them there and the cost to the business of their absence is much harder to measure and many companies don’t even bother. Larger companies will argue that they have to be there because their competitors are, but all companies, no matter their size, should aim to get the biggest possible return for the cost and effort and impact on the business that attending these shows has.
Here are 10 top tips for getting the most out of your trade show…
Have a coherent overall strategy – Plan in advance what you and your teams need to achieve and how you will achieve it. Go through the strategic planning process so you set the right goals, means for achieving them and the systems for monitoring and reviewing the results.
Get the most out of the trade shows you exhibit at. Always have a strategy in place well in advance, set goals, get your messages right for ideal prospects, monitor progress, review findings and get the best return you can.
If you need help preparing a strategy that gives you the best return for your trade show exhibit then give contact me to discuss how I can help.
Image courtesy of ibtimes.com
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is explaining something to you and you’re just not seeing it…that light bulb just isn’t going on? (If this has never happened to you, check out quantum physics.) People are stimulated through different mediums. I’m not great at understanding a concept that is aurally described to me (ask my accountant) but do pretty well if it’s written down.
You may see things clearly but others need it presented in a different way in order to join the dots and for that light bulb to burn brightly.
I’ve been looking at my messages and have been refining and testing them and have now created a new process which breaks the 4 strategic planning phases into 7 steps. The positive feedback I’ve had from those I’ve shown shows that this paints a much clearer picture of why strategic planning is vital and how to get it right. This process will become central to the help I give from now on.
When was the last time you looked at your messages and considered if there may be a better way to communicate them to customers and prospects? Have you lost opportunities or possibly not captured as much customer value as you may have done because the prospect or customer didn’t fully appreciate all you could do for them?
If you’re in Q4 of your annual cycle you should be assessing where you are now (step 1) and identifying your strengths and weaknesses before forming new ideas and goals to make your next year more successful than this one. As part of this exercise, take a long hard look at your messages and make sure your customers and prospects really do understand why they should engage with you and why their business will be better for doing so.
Last week over $1 trillion was wiped of the world’s stock markets and as of writing this, they continue to fall. The USA’s credit rating was reduced by one agency and the possibility looms that it may be reduced further. The politicians in the Euro zone are papering over cracks that continue to spread and grow. There are renewed talks of a double-dip recession and all the makings of a “perfect storm”. There is nothing to indicate that things are going to get better any time soon but every indication that things could easily get much worse.
With the prediction that unemployment in the public sector will rise it is the private sector that politicians are looking to for growth. With the bank’s profit results looking grim there is little chance that they will be lending anytime soon and help the private sector invest for growth.
Business-as-usual makes no sense in these unchartered waters that we find ourselves in. And make no mistake, these are unchartered waters. No-one really knows how this is going to turn out and there are no historical events quite like what we face today to learn from.
As business owners and leaders, we are “navigating” through these treacherous waters on our own. We cannot hope that we will get through this; instead we must do everything we can to make sure that we get through this.
What you need to do right now is step away, thoroughly assess your business and strengthen as many areas of it as you can. (I understand that for very small businesses this can be difficult but you must find the time to do this and seek help if you need to.)
Carry out a thorough assessment of your company, markets and risks. Think about how you can make sure your business not only survives but comes out stronger.
Here are 7 things to consider to get you going:
Do they know and embrace your vision and do you empower and involve them when deciding how to implement your plan? Make sure they know how they contribute to the success of the company and how much you value them.
This strategy plan isn’t your business plan but lies at the heart of it. It isn’t your marketing strategy but includes it. This is the plan of the goals you have set and how you aim to achieve them. You cannot stay in control and keep your business on course without one.
Focus. Know what you need to do and keep on course, don’t be deflected. Guide your people, listen to their concerns and help them. Empower them to be leaders in their own area of responsibility.
If things do turn around, if those parts of the economy which are growing continue to do so, if the Euro zone is sorted out and no more countries go bankrupt, if countries start to reduce their debts, if banks start lending, if… then carrying out these 7 things and more will still help make your company stronger which is no bad thing and no waste of time.
Start this today; arrange a time for yourself or with your people and begin this process.
Hope is the positive face of uncertainty. Do not hope that things will turn out fine for you and your business. Make sure it does.
If you need help then contact me…it costs nothing to talk.
If you don’t need help that’s great but if you do then get it and do what you can to protect your business against all this uncertainty.
What advice can you give to help others strengthen their business and eliminate uncertainty? Please share.
Do you carry out quarterly reviews with your top customers? The quarterly review meeting is often seen, and usually for good reason, as a gruelling experience under a spotlight of questions. Why would a customer agree to such a thing?
Firstly, these meetings don’t have to be like this and secondly, doing this will benefit their business as well as yours. I’m not talking about the traditional supplier/distributor trials but about effective meetings where each side can discuss their challenges and expectations and work together to achieve them.
Say you’re a component distributor or contract manufacturer who was able to discuss with your key clients how many components they bought from you or how many units they contracted you to manufacture against how many they said they would?
How much would you gain from knowing why the reality and forecast didn’t match, what the future expectations are and the challenges your client is experiencing, or needs to overcome, to meet their forecast?
What would your customers gain? Do you have experience, resource or connections that could help a customer overcome a particular challenge? Could you offer a better contract in return for actual business being placed against an accurate forecast and a long-range plan that helps you better manage your stock or more efficiently manage your production runs?
The offers you make and the benefits you paint are particular to your business, but the gains can make a massive difference on both sides.
Another, huge benefit is that this is one way to get your key clients to see you as valued partners without whom their business would be less successful. Achieve this and you will strengthen the relationship, make life more difficult for your competitors and potentially see an increased return in customer value.
Choose your top 5 or 10 clients and present the idea of having quarterly reviews and the potential benefits to you both. Forge closer ties and become valued strategic partners.