How often do you preach a constant change approach in your business? Do you have a culture that always collectively strives to be better, unsatisfied with imperfections in any touch point in your order process?
We’ve all heard the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – and while that may be true of furniture and electrical equipment, in business this can be the most damaging approach of all.
It can be very easy to rest on one’s laurels, if we feel we’ve found a formula that works. Money is coming in; orders are being fulfilled; things are ticking along nicely. For many, that is enough and they see no reason to make changes. Even large corporations have adopted this approach to business, and then found that their luck has changed with the wind. How many huge, national and even international companies have we seen fold in recent years? Remember Woolworths? Nobody expected them to crumble but ultimately nobody buys CDs in shops any longer, and their other offerings were just too random and scattershot to withstand the changes of recent years.
The problem is that the world of business is constantly changing. In fact, the world as a whole is constantly changing – especially in the last few years. Twenty years ago you could sit at a desk with a Yellow Pages and a land phone, perhaps a fax machine if you were doing particularly well, and make phone calls all day. That could be the basis for your business – it’s how I started out my company, making phone calls to hotels day after day until I got meetings; in those days you could get past gatekeepers.
Times have moved on though, and so should we if we don’t want to be left behind. These days people mostly use the Yellow Pages to prop the door open, if they have one in the building at all. If they want a phone number they will search for it online – and most of the time they will look at a company’s website or social media before making a call, indeed in the process they may filter you out if your business is not easily reachable. The way our customers reach us is changing, and the way we reach our potential customers also needs to change.
I have heard recently several small business owners saying they don’t need a website or social media because “my customers don’t use the internet.” I would seriously question that assumption! In this day and age everyone uses the internet, and if you think your customers don’t I would suggest you go out and actively ask them the question before making assumptions. For opening times alone, location, a phone number… Make these easy to find if you are trying to sell anything. As well as this, there is the fact that we should all be looking for new customers, all the time. Just because you believe your current customers don’t use the internet, that doesn’t mean your prospective customers do not. The internet is your absolute best free resource when it comes to scouting for new clients and impressing them. Indeed I cannot believe I have to write this, really?
Regardless of what is working for your business right now, it is always worth re-evaluating, re-thinking and brainstorming new ideas. Where else could you advertise? Is there a new approach you could take? Look at what other businesses are doing, not only in your niche but in others too. Could their approach be applied to your business? We shold all, always be learning from the competition, keeping up with great ideas, then twisting them, tweaking them to make them our own and better and different than the rest. I’d say this is a key ingredient for success and the ongoing protection of not being over-taken by being in the slow lane. Sometimes the only differentiator between one company and another is service, hence the race analogy and the determination to be first in sampling, in follow up, in price offer, in every customer touch point.
This is a great initiative to get your whole team involved in. Cultivate an atmosphere where no idea is deemed stupid, and you will be amazed at what people come up with. Yes, some suggestions will be quite off the wall and perhaps not at all usable – but every now and then you’ll find that your staff come up with some real gems that can change the face of your entire business. We had an intern who saved us a fortune, simply by referring to our stock list and marking it using a traffic light system to allow prioritisation. The focus that achieved was priceless for years and helped all parties know what issues we had faster.
It’s important to keep your outlook fresh and always look for new ways to promote your products or services, and to reach new customers. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Approach a business in a similar niche and see if you can advertise to each other’s audiences – either on social media, on websites or to email lists
- Offer your products as competition prizes to relevant websites, blogs or groups. Constantly look to build your network and community; data is gold
- Perhaps network in different circles. Could you join a different networking group, visit different venues or attend a different conference? Are you actually planning your networking time and trageting outcomes and introductions with intent?
- Have a stand at as many different trade shows as you can. Or never show at tradeshows if there is not an experiantial element where you can make the most noise, capture the best awareness and sales.
- Send samples of your product to journalists in your niche but do it originally. Bear in mind though that many newspaper and magazine offices are awash with literally piles of samples. You need to do something to make yours stand out. We recently embedded Scentered Be Happy balm in a bouquet of flowers and gained exposure from Vogue.
As I’ve said, you will get the best ideas from your team who are familiar with your company, your product and your current approach. Encourage them to think outside of the box as much as possible, and you may be surprised by what comes up. The sum of the many brains for continual improvement is your most powerful card in leadership and a hurdle many fail at. The power of shared knowledge, clarity of direction and accountability for contribution. These things make for success. If you asked your team members individually what they thought the company purpose was, could they nail it, is it in agreement with where you really are hoping the company goes, grows and succeeds?
Of course, while we are talking about changing approaches it is worth bearing in mind that this can apply to all aspects of your company. It is always worth taking time to review. Look at what you are doing, be your own best critic, admit when things are wrong, ask for help, make changes. The asking for help piece gets easier the more you practice. As business owners we should be constantly striving to improve in every aspect of our businesses. That means looking at processes and procedures, and never accepting that “we do it this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Really pull apart what you and your team are doing on a daily basis, from the sales staff to the admin staff to the warehouse staff. Is everyone working as efficiently as possible?
By constantly reassessing and looking for ways to make improvements and reach new audiences, you can hopefully stay ahead of the curve.