Oh, the wild world of "just trying to make end's meet"!
As entrepreneurs we are constantly trying to grow our businesses. We are trying to be the next great success story. There is so much advise out there, trying to explain how we achieve this feat.
Yet, the many recommendations out there for budding entrepreneurs can, in fact, be misleading. Especially when it comes to the "to how" of growing a business.
Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of witnessing every form of entrepreneurial misadventure that you can imagine. From legal firms and experts, to every form of start-up you can imagine...the chaos abounds. And believe it or not, there are similarities between the behavior of all these entrepreneurial endeavors.
Some of these similarities are mild...but many are radical.
The primary similarity I've noticed is the misuse of advertising. There seems to be a commonly held belief among entrepreneurs that all businesses need to advertise.
There seems to be an underlying assumption here, that if you don't do it your business will fail.
But, this is simply not true. Like it or not advertising is not structured to build a brand. It is structured to defend it.
With advertising you are not trying to secure new customers. Instead, you are trying to ensure that your product remains first in the minds of consumers, against the impression they might have about your competitors' product.
So what is being neglected?
Here are the top 3 things that businesses should do before they even think about conventional advertising:
Principle #1 | Truly understand your clients, (and listen to them!)
Don't fall into the trap of believing your expertise is the end-all solution for understanding your clients. If you're not busy, it's because there aren't enough people who appreciate what you're offering.
You need to be receptive of how your passion fits your core clients' needs. Focus there and adjust accordingly. Understand: people will want a product that fulfills a need that they have. It is your task to fulfill that need in the most excellent way possible!
Also, practice some humility. Yes, your passion and expert status are why you are in business. No question. But, by being humble enough to learn from the people that feed you will lead to discover solutions you haven't yet realized. Do your best to truly understand your clients, (and listen to them!).
Principle #2 | Provide the best offering you can.
Failure in this area makes me scratch my head.
If you're going to give anyone anything in exchange for monetary compensation, you should do it in the best possible fashion that you can.
Don't fall into the trap of "quantity beats quality."
This is a common pitfall. When sales get too low for business owners, they compromise on quality, reducing those imperative expenses that comprise a quality product, in order to increase profits. But, this rarely works out for the business.
The logic here is simple. Business owners need to think about how customers perceive value.
If done well – i.e., developed and marketed appropriately – a premium label product or service will create an extremely loyal client base who will enthusiastically share their joy with others. Because they see the value in you well-developed product (even if it costs a bit more). Even if you want to go for a low-cost product, you need to be sure you are providing clients sufficient value for the low price.
People, the right people, the Pareto principle people, the 20 percent of your most valuable clients people, will notice this value. Try to increase that 20% by making those folks your best marketing tool. How? Give them so much perceived and appreciated value, that they can't help but tell the world!
If you are going for mass production, then exercise caution in cost reduction. Provide the best offering you can.
Principle #3 | Truly engage your clients
Do you have a CRM? Do you use it?
Do you track you're engagement with your clients?
Do you get to know them on a personal level?
Do you send them thank you cards?
Do you remember their names?
Do you go out and shake hands with them and ask them how you are doing as their provider?
Do you follow up?
All of these questions have vital relevance...and guess what? Most businesses fail to to any of them.
Entrepreneurs seem to forget that people are, in fact, people. Human beings. You need to engage them on a relational level better than your competitors do. Your clients need to know that you care about them as human beings. They need to know that they aren't just a number to you. This desire is a human one. It is unavoidable. Take any business that blossoms. Chances are that those businesses are great examples of this "humanizing" client interaction.
If you do this; if you treat your clients like human beings, then your business growth will take care of itself.
Try this experiment: go to a popular venue or restaurant that you heard about from a friend. Observe how you are engaged by their staff. I bet you feel known.
One of the best examples of this interactive law I have ever experienced was in a restaurant just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. When I dined at the Horseman Lodge I was system constantly engaged by the staff. When I arrived I was greeted professionally, with a smile coupled with questions designed to make my dining experience personal.
The staff was not rushed. They were attentive while I was reviewing the menu. They took the time time to make sure you felt like the most important person in the restaurant.
As I place my order, there was attention and clarification given so that they insured they had the correct order details. They wanted to make sure that every aspect of my order was recorded properly, all the way down to my seasoning preferences.
Once the food arrived it was first presented for my approval. Beyond this, the food was insanely good. The portions were large, and the quality, unbeatable.
To top it all off, several times a nicely dressed person, in the attire matching the venue participants, walked up to the table and introduces themselves as a principle. They asked me directly how my experience had been. Then, they offered me a genuine "thank you".
Not surprisingly, this highly engagement-based atmosphere regularly leads to full parking lots during meal time. I certainly had no issue justifying my spending fifty bucks for a bone-in ribeye that night.
Now, ask yourself, how can you do this as a standard operating procedure in my business?
Engage your clients. Trust me, you will be extremely pleased with the results this generates.
And, I promise, it will smash most advertising rewards.
There is nothing like third party credibility.
The best "advertising" you could ever do is really quite simple: get clients to validate and recommend your services or offerings wholeheartedly to others.
There is no substitute for third party endorsements. Spend your advertising budget on engagement items like thank you cards, (and take time to fill them out). Invest in sincere client response-based product development and refinement.
Do all of this and you will see better returns than any ad could ever provide.
Of course, there are always more parts to a puzzle like this. If you are branding is off it will hurt you; if your location is bad it will hurt you; the list goes on.
Take the time to engage with experts in those areas and focus on what you do best. Let experts be your allies.
Take your offering to those who need it, and engage the client in a real human manner. The end result?
Your business will benefit tremendously.