Maybe you have a successful business operating in a highly skilled or niche market, attracting plenty of customers and enjoying good profits. If not, chances are you’ll be constantly looking for ways to grow your business.
But how can you do this?
Ideally you want a steady stream of customers through your door but that’s a struggle if you operate in a competitive market. You need to instigate strategies to grow your business – either increasing the total number of customers or increasing the number of sales from your existing customers. A winning marketing plan would include both strategies. Remember though that solid market research must be the foundation for any marketing plan. At the very least you need to know:
- What people want – do people want your product and who are they?
- How much will they pay for it?
- Where will they go to buy it?
- How will you tell them about it?
These are the 4 Ps of marketing – selling the right product, at the right price, in the right place with the right promotion. The challenge now is bringing the customers to your door.
Increasing the total number of customers
Turning that trickle of customers into a steady stream needs action on several fronts, especially if there’s little to differentiate you from the business next door. Areas to action include:
- Finding your competitive edge
- Targeting your marketing
- Developing a customer database
- Getting customer referrals
- Adding value to your products or service
- Educating staff
- Becoming passionate about what you sell
The competitive edge
What makes your business stand out above the rest? To bring more customers to your door, you have to be doing something better or different from everyone else. That ‘something’ is your competitive edge.
Analyse your competitors and work out your point of difference. Look at all aspects of your business – what could you capitalise on? For example, particular manufacturing expertise, back-up or after-hours service, consistently fantastic service, knowledge of individual customers, community involvement, and so on.
Once you’ve worked out why you stand out above the rest, tell your customers and your potential customers about it. Tell them about what you can offer and how this will benefit them.
As a small business you have to be proactive in marketing, but because you don’t have huge sums of money to throw at it, you have to be selective in how you do this. Good market analysis will tell you the type of customer you are targeting – most likely a similar profile to your existing customer base; and how best to reach that person – often by one-to-one communication. The challenge is keeping track of everyone and that’s why a customer database is a must for small businesses.
If you’re serious about expanding your customer base, you need to use competitions, coupons, invoices and so on to get the names and addresses, telephone and fax numbers of anyone who has dealings with your business, whether they buy or not. Use your customer database to record the information and then communicate directly with the person, telling them about the products or services you sell and the customer support systems you have in place.
Your existing customer base is one of the key assets you have. Make it easy for your customers to refer friends and family by sending out invitations to a seminar, a fashion parade or an information evening, for example. Always send out extra copies of brochures and ask customers to hand these on. Use the customer database to record referrals and those customers who have referred someone to you. Make sure you acknowledge everyone who makes a referral.
A basic product or service will not stand out among the others unless it is ‘packaged’ differently. Always be on the look out for ways of adding value to whatever you are selling. For example, one-off special offers with purchases; providing a relaxed atmosphere, eg, coffee and Christmas cake during the festive season; providing membership cards to customers and then communicating regularly regarding advance notice of sales, new products etc; or offering an incentive card where the customer is rewarded with a discount after a certain number of purchases.
You are there to solve a customer’s problem and they will reward you with their continued custom if they perceive they are receiving excellent service and add-on value.
Build a great team
Your competitive edge, the value you add and the expertise you offer will all come unstuck unless you recruit, motivate, train and retain excellent employees.
It is essential staff are trained in all aspects of the business, including:
- Product/service knowledge
- Technical aspects of the products or services
- After-sales service
- Greeting of customers
- Telephone manners
- Face-to-face interviews with customers
- Dress and personal appearance skills
- Communication skills
You need to demonstrate your commitment to staff by offering ongoing provision for education and personal development.
Training your team on how to up-sell, cross-sell and add-on sell as part of the sales transaction is also important. To do this properly they will need to know what goes on in other sections of the organisation and what other products and services are available for sale.
Believe in your business
Your employees will only be motivated to give great service if they see how passionate you are about the business. You have to believe wholeheartedly in your business. Successful businesses promote and sell their product with great enthusiasm and then embrace their customers with outstanding customer service.
Be passionate about what you sell!
This post is from Jason Lougher. Jason is a chartered accountant who moved back to the Bay of Plenty – his favourite part of the world – to work with small and medium enterprises. Jason’s passion is taxation and effective tax structuring, trust setup and intergenerational planning, Inland Revenue audits and tax disputes, and business development. Jason works closely with the other directors to combine their skill sets to achieve the best outcome for clients. Additionally Jason is on the NZICA Bay of Plenty Local Leadership Team and is a Business Mentor with Business Mentors New Zealand. Legacy Chartered Accountants has offices in Whakatane and Tauranga.