While there are no rules for success, there certainly are methods and principles that can be used to increase the profitability of a company when such methods and principles are applied to the service or products they provide.
Note how I don’t necessarily say the success of a business is down to what the company in question is selling or the quality of it.
Do Starbucks make the best coffee? Do McDonald’s make the best food?
The “perception” of a product or service if marketed correctly can increase the value of a product, even if this value is only perceived. This of course is not simply enough as there are other aspects to consider and some of which I will entail in this short article. I will be showing you how to make your business more profitable and efficient during a recession and beyond.
If You Do Anything Well, Let It Be Marketing
I am sure you realise marketing is important, without it how do people know you exist, how do people know they can trust you enough to buy?
The difference in success for many local businesses however, is just about “how” they market. The best product doesn’t always win, the people who market better – usually do.
I am going to give you a better insight into just how you should be marketing your business from a fundamental perspective.
Once you have sold to someone before, it is a lot easier to sell to them again assuming you can do so in your industry. Dentists, plumbers and other industries alike are all in the same boat and are great markets to be in when you can build a meaningful relationship with your client base.
It is called top of mind awareness or TOMA and marketing to people who have already paid for your products or services before are much more likely to choose you again when they need what you sell, provided that you have positioned yourself correctly. If you can be “Joe the plumber” rather than “a plumber”, “my dentist” instead of “a dentist”, then that’s a good start.
Can you think of a company that can survive without repeat business? If a business had to constantly look for new customers and spend money doing so through marketing – it simply wouldn’t survive. “Don’t find a customer to make a sale – make a sale to find a customer”.
Once a sale has been made, it is then imperative to keep in constant communication with them to remind them very subtly that you are there if they should need you.
There are several ways to do this from quarterly (depending on your market) newsletter marketing, email marketing and autoresponders amongst others, but you need to be touching base with these people every so often but you also have to do it right.
Lost customers or lost leads. A question I often ask the business owners I meet is “What is it you are doing with people who don’t buy from you”?
When consulting with clients I still today am confronted with a puzzled face.
“What do you mean lost leads? They don’t buy..”.
“Yes” I always reply, “so what are you doing to change that”?
Still confused I explain why this is so important, not just directly to your own bottom line but the competitiveness of your own business – If they don’t buy from you, then who will they buy from?
If a customer doesn’t buy, then you need to be drip feeding them with information over a period of time to tell them about you, your company and your products/services. To be able to do this you need to capture their details in one form or another, usually their email address.
If they didn’t buy from you that time, then you need to ensure that when they do go to make a purchase – it’s from you. If most companies knew how much money they were leaving on the table they would not sleep.
Finding the time to be able to implement everything required to ensure that the money on the table is swiftly collected can certainly be difficult, so you just need to make sure the everyday running of your business is not affected by taking on everything at once. The sooner it is done however, the stronger your business will be.
You then need to ask yourself, do you have an email database? If the answer is yes then, what are you doing with it? How are you currently utilising this list of consumers to increase your revenue? During a recession or in hard economic times, the businesses that can make their assets sweat and plug their profit leaks to improve cash flow, will have a much better chance of being able to survive. Not only can these companies survive but, they can use the current economic climate as an opportunity, but how so?
When people spend less and a business’s cash flow begins to take a negative turn, the first thing people generally do is panic. When they panic they make cuts and marketing typically is one of the first things I tend to find that goes.
Bills need to be paid and cash flow is quite rightly the life blood of any business, so it is important to keep it positive. Cutting marketing however is not the only way to do this and certainly not something I teach my clients to do.
“Lack of cash flow is like a heart attack and can kill you off in an instant, but lack of profit is like a cancer that will kill you off slowly”.
How do people find your business?
Marketing is what enables us to tell consumers that you exist and there just happens to be different types and streams of media to do this.
As technology develops there are many more ways to do this effectively.
When you stop marketing however, will your phones stop ringing? How are your customers finding you?
Do you think that an effective marketing strategy to existing customers would be more effective than pray and spray to strangers? Would you agree past customers are more likely to buy from you and easier to generate revenue from?
Of course they would which is why it is important not to just sell to them, but build a relationship with them. People don’t like to be sold to, they like to buy.
Scoop up your competitors whilst the economy is at a low and they are questioning their future- why wait until optimism kicks in and your rivals are back with a vengeance in a position where they can bite harder, when you can swallow them up now to avoid any potential threats in the future.
Instead of cutting marketing budgets, people need to market better. Make your assets, whether tangible or not, sweat. Make them work for you otherwise; what’s the point in having them? See, any business can be successful in a boom and when the economy is great.
When the economy takes a negative turn however, it is the stronger businesses with solid foundations who will be able to do well and survive the storm.
It is important to build those solid foundations now and for the future to secure long term growth and sustainability.
As your competitors give up market share by cutting their own marketing budget, eat it up and take it for yourself by targeting those people. This can be done through your website, SEO and other online marketing tools such as social media. It can also be done through offline marketing which if pursued, would need to be tested and tracked to ensure a return is being made for the money you spend.
The number of business owners who do not even track their Yellow Page ad is frightening. Especially when you consider it can be done very cheaply to ensure this is actually how people are finding your business. Are you tracking your own Yellow Page listing? If you discovered that nobody found you through the yellow pages, would you still pay £10,000 plus per annum for it?
Medias such as the yellow pages are falling victim to the technological age, where people want to find more than just a yellow page listing – they want more than that..
Local search is hotting up online as more and more people tend to “Google it” instead.
This makes having a good website that is positioned well in Google for your keywords extremely important, but will vary depending on the type of business you are.
Someone may search for “plumber in London” for example and being number one in the Google search engine for it may mean you get that customer, whereas had you not been there – you wouldn’t. Have you ever thought about what the internet could do for you? A website is also a great opportunity to begin a new relationship with a potential customer because you can capture their contact details online and market to them until they buy.
It also allows you to keep in touch and build the type of relationship with them in your community that any local business would thrive from.
If you can have a great reputation in your community then that can mean a large increase in yearly revenue and the type of loyalty that can help through an economic storm, but you also have to keep these customers for the long term.
A successful company simply HAS to have a fantastic customer retention program to not only survive, but to thrive. Email distribution is a great way to do this, provided it is done correctly. You don’t want to appear spammy.
I have seen many people who actually hurt their business by not analysing the information they send out to consumers and turning those people off. You can now track the responsiveness of an email campaign and adjust your next series of emails accordingly, which helps assess your market and increase your customers responsiveness.
Things like Twitter, Facebook and yelp are all fantastic ways of communicating with your market. If you are everywhere online it gives the appearance of being modern, being up to date and accessible.
Social media is expanding rapidly and if you are not using it, you need to be sooner rather than later. If you have the same price as your competition, the same service and quality and if your competitors are being seen online constantly by your local community, when it comes to making a purchase – who do you think they will choose if you aren’t doing the same?