Anyone in business wants to be successful, but the key is finding a way to work smarter, not just harder.
For sure, time is money, but there is only so much time in any one day. You simply cannot work 24/7, so how can you do what you do in a better way? Here are 10 strategies that might help.
Tap into new audiences and markets
You can probably almost picture what your customers look like, but is your focus too narrow? Are there other people who might be interested in what you offer?
The answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’, but how do you reach them? First, identify who they might be, then consider what type of marketing channel you can use to reach them.
Take for instance the “Old Spice” brand of aftershave. Frequently considered “your grandfather’s aftershave” it just wasn’t appealing to younger audiences. In 2009 they repositioned themselves and produced a series of videos that went viral. The result was that they successfully reached a new demographic and significantly grew sales for a 70-year old product.
Consider how you might do this for your product. Perhaps a simple tweak in packaging or colour range could make that same product very appealing to a new demographic.
Could your new market or audience be international? Quite possibly, but this will mean a significant investment of time and money – and that’s just for comprehensive market research before you even begin the expansion.
However, if you are confident you have the right product or service the right product or service, the sky could literally be the limit.
If you believe your product has export potential you might like to look at Austrade’s Export Market Development Grant (EMDG). Under this grant you will receive up to 50% of your export marketing expenses back.
- Go online
Depending on what you offer, you may not have to travel, or invest in a showroom somewhere else. That is what the eCommerce is for!
Every day, small businesses become large, successful ones, simply by taking advantage of the possibilities that the internet allows for supplier and customer to meet.
Selling your product online is much easier today than it was some years ago. Products like Shopify let you set up your online store in no time without needing programming skills. Be sure your site is simple to use, with detailed product information and offer excellent customer service and you have the potential to be selling to millions.
We all know it’s not what you know but who you know, and it is certainly true when it comes to building your business.
Look to create a bond with partners or alliances whose ideal client is the same as yours and whose products or services complement what you have, and – perhaps more importantly – who share your vision and values.
Buy another business in your market
This is possibly the quickest way to growth. Buying another company, or merging with one, and you could literally double in size, with the obvious benefits in sales and income.
Whether it is your first business or an add-on, Mark Jason, managing director of Australia’s largest brokerage firm, LINK Franchising Australia , says it’s always a good idea to start by identifying where your skills lie, what you’re good at, what you like doing and what industries you have knowledge about.
“This will help you to narrow your search and ensure your skills match the business you end up running,” Mark says.
“You may never buy a business in the industry where all your experience lies, but you may have transferrable skills that will be complementary to the requirements of a particular business. It’s important to play to your strengths and what you know most about.”
That being said, no matter how attractive your potential takeover target looks, you need to exercise caution and perform due diligence, or risk the whole exercise ending in tears.
Expand or diversify your offering
Look at what you offer and consider whether it has other uses you can promote. Alternatively, there may be similar products or services you could add to the mix, or some other type of complementary offering.
This will need some market research which, depending on the investment level required to get your new ideas off the ground, could be expensive. However, you can start the process by simply surveying existing customers.
Do they like your ideas? Do they want them? How much would they pay? Then ask yourself a question: can I sell these new offerings at a profit, considering it may mean adding new staff, as well as the financial investment in the product/service itself?
Improve your sales strategy
There’s an old saying that anyone can build anything but if they can’t sell it, the business will fail.
Sadly, there is not one guaranteed way to increase sales – there are many. Most are based on building lasting customer relationships (see below).
What is important is reviewing your sales strategy regularly, because you can’t improve what you can’t measure. You need to know which efforts are paying off – and which aren’t.
Obviously you can’t measure everything because of cost and time, so measure the strategies that cost the most and decide on your future based on what has worked in the past.
Improve customer retention
Customers will remember who you are before they recall what you offer, so it’s important to show you value them with every interaction.
People are always quicker to complain than praise, so don’t give them any reason to be negative. Look after your existing customers well and they will recommend you on.
“Focus on providing exceptional service and the rest will follow,” says Richard Hemingway, MD of Mandanex Capital [www.mandanex.com.au], which specialises in brokering the sales of small, medium and large businesses, as well as mid-market mergers and acquisitions.
“If your products/services don’t suit your customers, it’s a wise move to help them find someone who can provide what they want. Do this personally, rather than via a generic impersonal email contact and you still win points for the service you have provided to them – and who knows where that might lead.”
I’m not suggesting you need to hire a robot to replace you or any of your staff, but you do need to look beyond doing everything manually.
Examine the way you do business and look to technology. Are there new programs or processes that could simplify and improve what you do?
If so, make that investment so you can spend more time working on the business (the ‘big picture’) rather than in the business (‘sweating the small stuff’).
Is there a course that could polish your skills and knowledge? Aside from any tax deductibility considerations, it will be a worthwhile investment if you can see the potential for improving your business – depending on the time it demands from you.
Of course, education doesn’t need to be something ‘formal’. It can be as simple as reading some information which helps you work smarter.
For example, you might find this piece, with suggestions on how to focus on what you need to do to make your business more successful , a very productive read.
Allocate some time every day to researching and reading material that will give you ideas for the future of your business.