Business Planning - some final thoughts
One of my earliest articles for this newsletter back in 2007 covered the topic of planning in a business context. I want to return to that theme for my final one. Much of our work as business advisers is to challenge business owners to look at their business in a different way. One of the ways we do this is to help owners and senior managers to put together a business plan. All businesses should have a plan, otherwise to quote the lyrics of the George Harrison song: “if you don't know where you are going any road will take you there”. In business we can't afford to take too many wrong roads. So what form should the business plan take?
Last month we touched on the need for many businesses, particularly those of you selling business-to-business, to follow up on promotional / marketing activity by getting out there and selling. This month we will look at the process more closely.
There are a number of things to consider before you put yourself in a situation where you will talk to a prospective customer about buying your products and services. Anyone who has been in sales will give you their top tips on selling, and it is likely that each set of top tips will be different; here are some from me.
Everyone in business talks about the need to give great customer service and to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but what does that mean in practical terms for your business?
Some important questions:
- What does good customer service mean to them?
- What is your current level of customer service?
- Superior - Good - Acceptable - Zero
- Who is responsible for customer service within your business?
Let's look at these questions in more detail.
Yes there is a difference and, no, it's not a riddle.
Peter F Drucker (and others after him) wrote: “Management is doing things right and Leadership is doing the right things”.
This month we are going to concentrate at how you spend your time encouraging you to do the right things; I am not going to give you all the answers, but I do hope to make you think.
I met someone at a networking event recently and we have decided that our companies should work together. Do you think that business co-operation or collaboration is a good idea?
In short: you can't be good at everything, so yes it may well be a good idea.
However, let's look at a few of the things that would be involved.
According to the media all is doom and gloom on the business front; what help is there for business? Can that help be explained? simply because it all seems so very confusing & In a nutshell yes!
Our job at Business Link is to understand what help your business needs and to check out all the possible help available to your business and to help you get access to it so you can achieve your objectives. This is a free service so make use of it.
I and my other business adviser colleagues need to find out about your business in terms of where it is now strategically and where you want it to be, so that we can find you the right support; we will work with you over the long-term as your business grows and your need for support and help changes.
Here is just some of the help that is available.
...your way to more profit
more Supersize me!
Up-selling and cross-selling are aimed at selling more to each customer. Some examples:
a customer asks for product y, but rather than simply take the order and complete the transaction the sales person questions the customer on her needs and purpose for the product. Product x costs more but has more features and will meet her needs more effectively, the sales person persuades the customer there is greater benefit in model x and completes a higher-value sale.
Whether the so called credit crunch will turn into a recession, or how bad things are likely to get, I have no idea; I'll leave others to speculate on that.
However, a number of my clients are feeling the effects of the slowdown; for all of them it is rising costs and for some this is coupled with falling sales. It is worth noting though that some are experiencing a lift in sales because less well managed competitors are already failing.
This is not the first economic slowdown and I doubt it will be the last. It is possible for a good business to survive, thrive and emerge stronger from difficult trading times, countless business have proved it in the past. So what is the secret? For that you will have to wait for the book to be published, but in the meantime let's look at some of the basics.
Identify the unique quality of your business and set yourself apart from your competitors, then build and promote brand awareness.
What is your unique selling point? How do you convey that to your customers?
Usually when I ask this question, I either get a blank look followed by silence. Or, phrases such as 'we give good customer service', 'we deliver on time', or, 'we offer a personal service'.
While these are very good for your customers, none of them set you apart from almost every other business.
I do in-house training with my staff, for instance showing them how to do a particular task or procedure, some of which are quite straight forward but others can be quite complex. I find that sometimes when I question them about what they've learned, sometime after the session, they have forgotten most of what they were trained on and the notes that they take are generally not much use to them. What is going wrong?
There is a difference in style and delivery between group training and instructing one or two people on how to carry out a specific task.
Here are a few simple tips to help make one-to-one instruction effective:
There are a lot of ways that I could spend money on marketing my business, but which is the most effective?
In the last newsletter we looked at advertising and direct mail. This month we will look at PR, explain what it is and why you should consider it as part of your marketing strategy.
What is it?
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
I hear a lot of talk of businesses about becoming 'green' have you some tips on where to start?
Running a green business is more than just turning off the lights when you leave!
Saving energy directly is of course a big part of it, but there are a lot of opportunities for all businesses - whatever their size - to show their green credentials.
During the past year, many large companies have adopted a 'green strategy' and are using this message in their marketing. Increasingly, this subject is becoming an important one for businesses and their customers.
So how green is your business? The following checklist will help you to answer this question: