I don’t have to tell you what kind of economy we’re in. Every day you feel the pinch, and it seems you’re putting in more work to chase after fewer dollars. Yet, even in this economy, some businesses are thriving. Often, the key is being creative and taking fresh approaches to the delivery of existing services.
In order to reinvent your business, you have to get to the core, your foundation, and then work outward. As a guideline for the process, we’ll examine the following key issues:
- Your motivations
- Your products and services
- Your methods of promotion
(Before we get started, there is a great resource that will help you summarize many of the following factors. It’s presented by a woman whom I admire for her professionalism and caring spirit, Kathy Caprino. Read her article, “How to Avoid the 7 Worst Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make,” and be sure to download the Business Overview Assessment featured at the end. Don’t worry – though she focuses on helping women, she opens her doors to everyone. You can reach Kathy by visiting her website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Motivations. Let’s start with WHY you decided to open up your doors in the first place. Was it a desire to showcase a particular talent? Did you “inherit” a family trade and/or business? Were you victimized in some way and now advocate on behalf of others? Whatever the reason, identify it. Now, think of the reasons why you want to stay in business. You may find that your current reasons for keeping your doors open are not all the same as those which motivated you to open those same doors in the beginning. Why is this important? Because operating based on your initial “why” may not speak to your current motivations – and that may affect your bottom line. Customers and clients are quick to pick up on things like sincerity, commitment, and passion. If they’re missing, a prospect may subconsciously decide that you’re not the person for them, which will translate into them choosing to use someone else to serve their needs. So, in the process of recreating yourself, always start by (re-)defining your “why.”
Products and Services. What is it that you offer? The answer isn’t always as obvious as it seems. For example, I help protect the legal rights and identities of families, small businesses, and commercial drivers. So what is it that I offer? “Legal protection” may roll off your lips, and you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that. What does “legal protection” really mean for the average person? Perhaps it’s the ability to sleep at night knowing a professional with the experience and desire to stand up for them is on the case. Maybe it’s the comfort that comes with knowing that whatever situation arises, they and their families have access to top quality attorneys, every day, every night. So, is it just legal protection, or the ability to live worry free? Is it really peace of mind that’s offered? Making such distinctions will impact how I present my services to others. So, I ask again, what is it that you offer? Dig deep, and see what you’re offering beyond what appears on the surface. Doing so will help define what makes you different.
Methods of Promotion. With a newly defined “why” and an understanding of what you truly bring to the marketplace, you can now look at the ways in which you promote yourself. The first step is to determine who currently represents your best customer. Looking at your current client list should give you a clear representation of the types of businesses or individuals that represent your ideal client. Do you appeal to men more than women, or vice-versa? Into which age group does your prime prospect fall? Which area of the city, state, or country do they come from? Into which income bracket do they fit? Why do I appeal to this group? These, and other related questions, help you define the demographic, geographic, and even psychographic makeup of those to whom you currently have the greatest appeal.
Now you can start to get creative. In order to grow your business, you need to understand how to best reach your target market. The methods will depend on the ideal client identified above. Appealing to tweens is a different approach than baby boomers, and marketing to women involves different strategies than you would take with men. Yet, whatever methodologies you choose, they have to align with your “why” and need to clearly communicate the value you bring to the marketplace. Here are a few additional factors to consider:
- How positive is the “customer experience” I create?
- How do I communicate with my customer base?
- Do I effectively turn customers into advocates? If not, why not? What can I do to change that?
Questions like these require probing examination, and often it’s best to get a second opinion. Who best to provide such feedback than your customers themselves? Opening yourself to such constructive criticism isn’t easy, particularly since you may not always like the answers. If you ever want an eye-opening experience, watch an episode of the series Undercover Boss, and put yourself in the shoes of those executives who get a chance to see their businesses through the eyes of the rank and file. It may not necessarily teach them more about their customers, but it definitely gives them a lesson in humility – and shows them they may not have their finger on the pulse of their business as much as they thought.
Appealing to an existing customer base is good. Expanding to a new customer base is innovative! After identifying your ideal customer and what about you appeals to them, now you can look at other sectors of the marketplace. First, look at groups to which you think your product or service should have appeal. Then determine why it doesn’t. Again, get honest feedback from either a trusted source, or from the new target group itself. (NOTE: When gathering feedback, you may find the help of a consultant useful in either handling the project from beginning to end or in designing an effective campaign to elicit responses)
Once you’ve identified the challenges, now you can work on solutions to overcome them. For example, if you own an automotive repair center that isn’t generating enough business from personal vehicles, you may decide to go after fleet accounts. However, the companies you target may feel you’re too small to handle the workload. How do you overcome this impression? Would partnering with a competitor for the specific purpose of handling the fleet be a workable solution? Granted, there are some serious concerns in that scenario. Yet, with great risk comes great reward – as long as we calculate and quantify the risks .
I’m a broad strokes kind of guy when writing posts like these (in general). The idea is to get you thinking and encourage dialogue. I’d love to hear from you, either through your Comments below or when you call. Tell us what worked, what didn’t, what challenges you’re facing, or how you’ve overcome your challenges.
While everyone is facing the same economic upheavals, those businesses that weather the storm and grow are the ones who look at their existing operations from a fresh perspective and design innovative ways of forging ahead. Together, let’s make sure that your business numbers among that group.
A Few Additional Notes
We tried to publish a post yesterday as scheduled, but illness took it’s toll. Forgive us for that. We’ll try to do better.
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