Wouldn’t it be great if setting up your new business was the most difficult part of being a business owner? Like sowing seeds in a garden, birthing a new business is just the first step in what will require years of growth and development… and daily attention.
Many business owners miss this important fact. They mistakenly dedicate the whole of their attention and resources to the start-up process, believing profits will be sure to follow. Rarely is this the case. As important as it is to create a strong foundation for your business, success is earned every day, week, month and year. Attention to developing, marketing, and selling your products and services is a lifelong pursuit. It’s also the place where business owners tend to make a mess of things, when they fail to generate new interest, new clients, and new business.
Following are some tried and true strategies for keeping your business growing in every season.
Survey your clients. What do your current clients want that you are not yet offering? Have their needs changed and, if so, how? Are they buying products or services from another source that you could realistically be offering to them? A survey is also a great way to let your clients know that you are interested in hearing their needs and feedback in an on-going way. It will send them the message that you want to be their partner in success.
Research your competitors and the marketplace. 7 out 10 times when I survey my clients about their competitors, they are unable to name competing companies or to explain why someone would choose to work with the competing company instead. All too often businesses ignore the competition, when the best strategy involves learning as much as you can about the people and companies with whom you compete.
Develop and introduce new products. The most successful businesses in the world understand that change is constant, and never shift out of the research and development mode. What works today may not be good enough to hold your clients tomorrow. Try new products and services. Decide how you will measure market acceptance and put it to the test. Fast food restaurants do this quite well. You often see them introducing a new food product. Some of them stick and some of them fade away quickly. You can do the same. You may just find the next gem in your own pocket!
Engage your employees in planning and development. The most creative ideas often emerge in the most unexpected places. Employees with frequent client contact are often most aware of where products and services could be improved to increase client satisfaction. Therefore, it makes sense to engage these employees in the planning and development process as often as possible. Encourage every member of your team to share their thoughts and ideas, and reward these kinds of contributions.
Reorganize. Moving the (metaphorical) furniture now and then can boost productivity and profitability in your organization. At least once a year, I recommend stepping back and conducting a thorough review of your organizational structure. Are you operating with the best design for efficiency and productivity? Does your structure provide the best kinds of support for your clients? Are the management responsibilities in the right place? As the chief executive, are there tasks and responsibilities you currently carry which could be effectively delegated to another team member? While entrepreneur executives often find it difficult to relinquish control, leadership requires an ability to delegate responsibilities to those who have earned the privilege. In the end, you’ll have less stress and more time to work “on” your business.
Find new ways to connect with your market. The world is changing so rapidly that last year’s most effective method of marketing may no longer bring the results you’re looking for. The key is: get very clear about your target client, and then find ways to connect with them most effectively. If your target client is over 65, it might still be print advertising; a 35-50 client might be more accessible through email and online advertising methods; the under 25 crowd may respond better to mobile and social networking sites. To be successful long term, you must stay current on what your market expects. This may require professional assistance from someone who understands market changes and trends.
Still stuck? Sit down and discuss your needs and unique circumstances with your business coach. The right coach will keep you in constant challenge to do more, be more, and have more. Good coaching is about helping you reach your full potential in your business, your relationships, and your life.