Not everything in business has to be complex and a struggle to get done.
Easy business improvements should be doable. Sensible and logical changes that can be done completely and in a reasonable amount of time, and with minimal research and learning.
For this article, we wanted to list things that are doable.
These are improvements you could do yourself or task someone, adding no additional experts, and using your current business knowledge.
Our goal is to get you and your team thinking, and generate doable ideas that could make a solid impact on your business.
First a few assumptions:
Be open minded
Be willing to just try something to see the outcome. You are not committing to the long term to any one improvement, but you are committing to try new things to improve.
Be objective about the improvement
Almost like a scientist. Theory, set up and conduct an experiment, analyze the results. Decide if results were positive or negative. If things didn’t go as planned, was it how it was implemented? Could it be tried again and adjusting the steps? Or was execution great, but the outcome simply bad. Be prepared to put something to rest if it did not work out.
Don’t overwhelm yourself
You do not need to implement multiple things at once. In fact, it may be better to do one thing at a time, so you do not risk multiple initiatives interfering with each other, possibly obscuring the results of everything.
With those assumptions in mind, let’s go through the Top 10 Easy Business Improvements…
1. Create Or Improve Your Email Marketing Efforts
You are conducting email marketing aren’t you? If you hear any headlines saying “Email is Dead”, don’t listen because they are simply trying to sell you a lame alternative.
Before you scroll past this one looking for something easier, hear us out:
Email marketing can be a powerful driver of your business, and you don’t have to be an email expert to achieve stellar results.
Even with a minimally executed email campaign, you are hitting with bullseye precision three key business objectives:
- Your brand awareness: Just keeping your name in your customer’s mind and reminding them you exist (even if they don’t need your services right now), helps place your name in their long term memory.
- A sales process: You’ll see a percentage of email subscribers use your services, order your products, and come back again and again…more than ones who are not on your email list.
- A continuous improvement feedback loop: You’ll get questions, suggestions, complaints, and general rants….but it’s all feedback you can use to improve your offering.
The fact is, you are leaving behind a well-known and proven way to build an audience, gain loyal followers, and customers.
If you have a website, but no place for visitors to sign up to your email list, start there.
As you build your list, you can think of what to email them. Is there a peak season approaching? Any tips and tricks for your customers? You’ll be surprised how many thank you messages you’ll receive from your email list if you provide useful information.
If you already market by email, then you can certainly improve. Are you segmenting your email list based on user actions? Once segmented, you can then target each segment with what they prefer, cross selling your products or services to find an ideal mix.
2. Find Your Customers And Engage Them
Ideally, potential customers seek you out, ask what you can do for them, and the sale is made.
In reality, you need to be out there making the first move.
Find out where your customers congregate online and get in front of them. It’s easy to start with Facebook, but there are others: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn.
If you’re business is not on Facebook, create a business page and begin posting. Get your friends and family to follow and like, then build out from there.
If you don’t know where you’re customers congregate, then simply ask them…with your email list of course (see #1 above).
You can also create accounts or business pages on each of the major social networks and see where you get the most activity.
3. List Your 5 Key Business Problems And Commit To Solving One Of Them.
You can improve your business by eliminating key problems. Think through the problems that keep you up at night, that make your stomach churn, or cause general instability.
Listing them brings them out into the open and into focus. If you have a team, you can discuss the issues, and rank by priority and likeliness you can solve the root cause.
The big problems likely do not have a straightforward way to solve them, so you’re going to have to brainstorm.
What is the problem, and how does it show up? What contributes to the problem? Often going after the factors contributing to the problem can lessen or outwrite remove the core issue.
Which of these five problems do you feel you can actually solve? Attack just that one, and get one victory under your belt. This can lead to motivation and confidence to take on the next one.
4. Find And Remove Bottlenecks
What overwhelms your business and jams things up, slowing it down to a snail’s pace?
There’s too many projects, too many customer requests, too many callbacks, too many of anything.
These all are examples of bottlenecks in your business. Your processes to handle these situations, whether documented or not, are unable to cope with what is happening.
Take “Too many customer requests” as an example.
Customers are emailing or calling in, overwhelming the staff with requests. A quick solution is to divide and conquer, giving people certain roles to handle groups of issues. Once patterns are learned, a process to handle those types of requests can be created and followed.
List the most common issues that can caused the most problems.
Can other departments that are not bottlenecked help out? You see it happen in grocery stores. When the lines get long, the store manager summons help from product, bakery, dairy departments to help out with the rush. How can you model that process in your business?
5. Drop No and Low Value Activities
The highest value things you can do in your business are
- Find customers
- Get them to pay you
How do you get your customers? Why do your customers pay you?
Businesses get more complex over time, lose their focus, their original mission or why they went into business in the first place.
This is where you take a step back and start asking “why are we doing this” at every point.
Get better at finding customers while focusing on delivering your product or service so your customer can pay you. Everything else is not the priority.
Maybe there are some things you simply can’t drop, or that are part of your customer experience. Can these things be outsourced, automated, or streamlined to reduce the impact on your bottom line?
There are also tasks nobody likes to do. Collect on late payments, accounting and keeping the books, general maintenance and cleaning. Focus on what you do best, and let other professionals handle those things.
6. Do (or at least Be) Something Different
We’re not saying do something completely unrelated to your typical product or service lineup, but you need to look at differencing yourself from your competitors.
There’s marketing books that talk about owning one word (or two) in the customer’s minds. What one or two words do you think of when you read the following brands?
- Harley Davidson
Each of those companies have gone to great lengths to position themselves in your mind. That advertisement for the “Ultimate Driving Machine” making sleek, confident turns along a curvy German road is no marketer’s random act.
Ask your customers, they may have already decided what those words are for your business in their minds. If anything, you may find out what you think your business is versus what your customer thinks are two vastly different things.
Can you be the Freshest or Smartest or Friendliest or Quickest or Awesomest or Cleanest business in your line of work in town? In the State? Country?
Apart from presenting yourself as different, you can actually do something different.
Consider doing what your competitors will not.
Are you maintenance service company? Consider making a service call a month after the installation. Check over the work done, ask the customer if there are any other issues. You’ll discover you may get new business, address any customer issues proactively, and get word of mouth from satisfied customers.
7. Improve (Or Create) A Sales Process
We touched on creating a sales process above as a byproduct of email marketing.
This could warrant several very detailed articles on how to build a sales process, but here are the main steps to most sales processes.
- Prospect – Find potential leads.
- Qualify – Turn prospects into leads. Leads should preferably be your ideal customer or close to it.
- Present – This is where you present your offering.
- Handle Objections – Answer questions and concerns.
- Close – Ask for the sale. Seal the deal.
- Nurture – You should be following up after the sale.
- Optimize – we added this one. You should be going back to your process to see what needs to be improved.
You likely do most of the above already…but is it a process?
Can you bring in someone new, educate them on your sales process, and get them quickly up to speed? Even better, can they do it all without your hand-holding? Are you measuring and tracking who is passing through each step in your process?
8. Focus On Profitable Customers
Who’s your favorite customer? Are they the one who happily buys, no complaints, and is cheerful and practically grateful you are doing business with them?
What about the ones who demand a huge discount, expect services for free, and take excessive time with questions and complaints. You may have to do some number crunching to see what your idea customer is versus your non-ideal customer. Focus and give priority to ideal customers if at all possible.
If business is good, it’s ok to say no to a potential customer if you see all the warning signs that they’ll be an extra burden on your team.
9. Refine and Define Your Offering
If you are offering the same exact product or service as your competitors, the only thing you can really compete on is price.
Instead of racing to the bottom (of your profit margins), find out what else your customer values and give them that. Do customers rank being on time as the most important? Refine your offering to focus on timeliness.
Further defining your offering with new items and bonuses give your customers a reason to look up and notice. You are looking out for them by being on the lookout for the best of what is out there.
What are you really good at that you can refine and define in your company?
10. Improve and Optimize Pricing
Pricing your product or service is complex, delicate, emotional, risk-ridden, and you generally don’t want to mess it up, right?
That’s the conventional wisdom. Especially the ones who want to sell you training seminars and books on the subject.
The reality is your pricing is probably not optimized anyway right now, and is directly affecting your bottom line.
You can’t just look to your competitors to set pricing. They likely don’t have their pricing figured out either.
So, what do you do?
Fortunately, there’s plenty of creative ways to approach your pricing.
Your entire offering, including how your business presents itself to the customer can affect your pricing.
Your pricing is dependent on your business model, so you may need to first take a step back to fully think through and document how your business works.
You can also utilize different pricing models at different times.
Can you create the perception of luxury, exceptional quality and service, spotless presentation? If so, you can also likely charge more for your services.
Although often temporary, you can charge less than the competition in an effort to gain market share. Be sure to track this, as you don’t want to run on thin margins indefinitely.
Some customers are looking for the best deal. Give them that if they order more from you. If it’s products, selling 10 items less per product. If a service, sell the 1st at normal rate, but sell the next at a discount.
If you sell a new product or service never introduced in your area, you can charge more. Note that as competitors catch up, this pricing model usually cannot be sustained.
Charge $497 instead of $500. Consumers place a large bias on that three dollar (their actions favorably to your offer will far outweigh that tiny difference in your margin).
You might sell an entire line of products and might even get discounts from the manufacturer if you do. Stating a “manufacturer’s discount” on your pricing sheet will entice buyers that you are helping them get the best price, plus your credibility is arguably higher as you offer the entire lineup of products. You’re the expert.
Optional Item Pricing (also called up-selling)
Give customers other options a la carte. Just like fast food restaurants asking “do you want fries with that”, you can sell more just by clearing giving the customer options. Keep options limited and obvious, there is a risk of decision avoidance when presented with too many options.
Like movie theaters charging higher prices for popcorn and soda, is there a scenario in your business where you can charge more because your customers are in your domain?
Bundling two or more of your services together can often yield higher revenue per customer, as they end up buying more from than you would have sold otherwise.
If you are the only one offering a particular product or service that nobody else does in your area, you may be able to charge a higher price. So some this might seem like price gouging, but you have brought something locally to people that they would have otherwise had to travel or special order. Your higher price reflects the extra work you put in to provide this.
How can your business apply different pricing models to your business? Can you test one model over another?
If you made it this far, you hopefully gained a few insights on how you could improve your business.
So much of what you do day-to-day is the result of doing things the way they have been done. The 10 items
above will help break the cycle of stagnation and bring your company innovation back into focus.
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