Why isn’t my business growing?
This is not necessarily something that you hear, but it cuts across the mind of many business owners at the most inconvenient times (10pm-5am usually).
In all businesses there are so many tasks to do. Normally SME owners wear too many of the hats to run a business. This doesn’t mean this is the problem, however the time to figure out the problem is normally what stops the solution being found. Many important tasks are not actioned at the correct time and become urgent on the day they are due.
Two of these important tasks are planning and new client acquisition.
- It takes time to plan and without planning “best efforts” are wasted!
- Acquiring new business is actually fundamental to sustainable business.
“To grow or not to grow”…that is not really a good question to ask.
The better question to ask is, “what do I need to do to keep growing organically and sustainably”.
With this mindset, there is a greater chance of success, as you are thinking strategically (which is always a good thing). Usually this also means that you’ve got loyal customers who appreciate what you do for them and potential customers are still becoming your customers instead of your competitors customers.
Simplify and know your target market
The best way to grow is through the method that allows the best customer retention, value (for both the customer and your business) and least amount of stress on you and your staff. The analogy of “Growing pains” for business is great, as we can all relate. Times of growth can often be very painful, acceptance that growth is challenging is a good place to start.
While some of you reading this might start to think I’m going to write about fanciful / magical ways to grow that are not even close to being achievable – that’s not what this article is intended for.
Simply, there is a straight forward framework from which all successfully growing companies can point to – as the basis from which they grew. Part of this framework is making your businesses core values and focus what your people work towards achieving together.
Know your Business
Getting new business through the door is tough, but doesn’t need to be something that keeps you awake thinking or stressing about. Going hand in hand with customer service, lead generation is a product of your branding and marketing efforts…it’s a package deal. So analysing the current state of your businesses functions (Sales, Operations and Finance), planning for a simplified and focussed approach and getting everyone in the business on the same page is the best way to begin.
- Do some research on your target market and how you are perceived in the market/industry
- Simplify (go back to basics of why you are in business) what is your core focus – and focus everything in the business on delivering that one thing
- Reinvigorate your brand and service the customers needs ie. why you are in business
- Get noticed by targeted interactions with your customers and potential customers
Who is your target market?
Think and act to rejuvenate your business’s brand in places that you think your target market has business interactions and transactions (digital is key for most businesses these days). Make sure your USPs are current and focused on solving your customers problems or needs with maximum value input to them. Test your why with customers that are close and see if what you think your target markets greatest problem is what they also think is their greatest problem.
This is fundamental to having a great business that can grow….clarifying where you are going, how and why. The how and why must solve the biggest problem of your target market. Make sure your business has a robust customer service and product/service delivery system to ensure that your customers enjoy the journey at the other end of the buying cycle also. Your great customers are the best sales team you will ever have!
Diversified go-to-market strategy
Diversification is Key
For those reading that don’t have a sales background it is this simple:
- You must continue to re-market to your existing customers with different / new products and services.
- You must continue to acquire new customers…because your customers will leave you one day…
- You must use diverse channels to market as different channels have different sales cycle lengths and also usually different profit margins.
- Also diversify methods of contacting potential customers at the right time in the buying cycle (phone, email, website interactions, social media, industry functions & personal visits etc…).
Why? The more ways you connect, the more information you will be able to attain from them about how to service them in the way they like to do business with their vendors…this is B2B and B2C.
Stay current with process and infrastructure
As I started this business, I was catching up with a friend and started revealing my plan to help businesses grow through a structured and process driven “sales 1st mindset”. We got about 2 minutes into the discussion and I mentioned “systematisation”, at which point he rolled his eyes and told me that I was trying to brainwash him with my slippery tongue(yes, even friendly people still have a poor view of sales professionals….I’m on a mission to change this perception). Systematisation is just a word that encapsulates the concept of systems that can be automated to do tasks that otherwise your human resources would have to struggle with – like data re-entry from one digital task or software program to another; or a process that everyone in the business can hook into and the automation follows up and easily repeats from when it is created. Therefore you can be assured of the result every time and also don’t miss anything because it is automatically captured!
It really comes back to the levels of time spent (by the operators in your business) for customer service and also scale that you want to achieve in your business. If the processes in your business take great skill and need to be manually undertaken every cycle, there is a limited amount of product or service that your business can put out with the number of staff that you have. And further, your innovative competitor who hasn’t caught up to you yet, will soon find a way to systematise what they do and be able to offer a similar product or service to your customers at a cheaper cost (there is always going to be copycats out there) or in a quicker timeframe with a product or service that is acceptable to your customers. Especially in countries where there are very high labour rates…systematisation is key to long term success and stability in a business.
Why have I written 2 minutes of reading about systematisation? Because it is sooooo important to implement now and goes hand in hand with cost effective customer acquisition and also retention.
All businesses must stay current, which means “up-to-date” with technology and solutions to the problems their target market has.
We saw a huge number of business closures in 2008 – with the GFC. Many of those businesses were not up-to-date and did not have sustainable business models. There were also very unfortunate situations where some businesses took down their smaller suppliers and vendors who had these larger businesses as their major accounts…again unfortunate. Many of those larger businesses had not stayed current and hence when they needed to shift focus because of the stock market and housing crash it was too difficult and hence became too costly to stay in business.
Putting in place a robust digital marketing strategy will start to organically help you and your business become noticed. Google Authority is key! Amongst other things having correct business details on your business listings, good customer reviews, good back links, and authoritative videos, articles and pictures are all very important to google (the worlds most used platform). An interactive presence on social media and a great content strategy are also very important to good branding. These are all key to a robust digital marketing strategy because…everyone will be talking about how great your business is and google will be placing you in searches for your target market.
When you stay current as a vendor there is a lot of value for the customer base. Collecting and reviewing your market and industry data also allows you to quickly shift focus and diversify if there is a roadblock or gap in the market. This also helps to mitigate a lot of the risks associated with investing in the business’s future and will most likely open the door for further opportunities as well as affording you good customer retention as a result.
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Is there anything that was missed that should be added to this article?
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About the Author
Matthew Benn is the founding partner of Alongside Business Consulting. He has been a senior BD and sales leader for 12 years, as well as being a small business owner for more than 8 years; recently starting Alongside Business Consulting (his fourth business). He really enjoys the challenges and successes that come with developing people and growing businesses, hence has taken these passions and started the management consulting firm with a twist. The plan is to help business owners take control of their destinies and build their businesses simply…Business Growth Simplified.