The following are my Top 10 suggestions for creating a business that will remain profitable for years to come.
1. Customer Benefits
You and your customers must clearly understand the benefits that your products and services provide. Most buying decisions are based on the consumer’s perception that a new colour will add prestige. Or that a smaller, lighter product will be more convenient. A profitable business must have clients. And customers always buy benefits.
2. Extra Value
Customers must receive more in value than you charge for your goods and services. Most of us don’t want a “fair” exchange, we want a bargain. The sense that we got extra value for our money.
3. Superb Service
This means attention to detail. Answering the phone on the first ring, providing an 0800 number and 24-hour customer service numbers are examples. Marks and Spencer has made a fortune with its “no questions” guarantee. So can you!
4. Know your Audience
Every business has to know its audience. Volvo and Nissan have very different audiences, and their advertising, pricing and even the location of their dealerships reflect this. Young adult audiences may value low price, while another group may value quality, performance or reliability. This is even more critical for service organisations whose products are invisible (consulting, education, coaching, etc.).
In the old days, this meant the street address of your shop or store. Now it means getting your marketing messages into your customers’ hands when and where they are receptive. Be certain your website is located at the top of the search engines. Make your Facebook and/or Twitter page updated or distinctive.
Customers expect to shop at their convenience, to pay by credit card, to call an 0800-number, and to have their questions answered correctly the first time. Obviously, most service providers (medical, legal, consulting) cannot be available 24 hours a day. How you handle that problem will say much about you and your business to potential customers. Make it easy for customers to buy from you!
New is good, newer is better. Customers expect the benefits of the most modern technology. At a minimum, they expect the convenience of e-mail, voicemail, Twitter, text etc. If there is a faster, better, cheaper and more reliable way to do it, adopt cutting edge techniques before your competition does!
Consumers assume they can rely on your products and services. If they are purchasing your time and expertise, they rely on your availability, your advice, your attention to detail, and your follow-through. Durability may be less important in a throwaway age. But consumers demand 100% reliability. Be there for them every single time!
Planning takes on strange twists when a computer chip “generation” lasts 6 months and a website may be “old” in 6 weeks. Adequate planning is the ability to monitor, influence, and profit from change. It means having a mission statement and the flexibility to respond instantly. Planning means you control your destiny.
This means instant, 2-way communication between every level and every branch of an enterprise. It means communicating with your vendors and competitors and working with your customers so they become your most important designers, researchers and customer service experts. This means an “open door” policy and flat organisational models. It means listening is more important than speaking. Ideas rule the world.
Written by Ted Clarke
Director Pro-actions (Surrey)