According to Inc, 96% of businesses fail within 10 years.
That’s a big number, and hell it’s a scary one. If you run your own business, this may well knock your mentality.
That’s why it’s important you understand the complexities of business and how to run your company both efficiently and effectively.
According to a survey from TMS, 87.88% of corporate crisis is caused by top level management. The most prominent causes are because management continue with strategies that are no longer effective and fail to adapt to change.
It really pains me to see so many business start-ups failing each year, so I wanted to share the 15 steps you’ll need to turn your weaknesses into strengths, so let’s get started.
#1 – Do your market research
Regardless of whether you’re starting or trying to expand your business, if you don’t understand the market then you’re driving with a blindfold. You have to firstly identify your end goal, then plan how and why you intend to achieve it.
Market research shouldn’t be a one-off activity, it’s important to keep up with market trends and maintain a competitive edge, it also helps with decision-making capabilities and enables growth opportunities.
Blockbuster went out of business as they failed to realise where the market was heading, Netflix and LoveFilm then gained leadership by taking advantage of on-demand internet streaming which subsequently sent Blockbuster into liquidation.
Of course you wouldn’t like to take the same route as Blockbuster, that’s why it’s fundamental you must understand the market in which you are playing the cards, as well as, how consumer behaviour is changing and as a result, your organisation must adapt to these changes.
This guide on Hubspot will help you develop solid market research.
#2 – Cut the cold calling
No matter what people tell you, cold calling is not dead – but I would never recommend it.
For each customer you gain, you get a flood of negative PR.
Imagine searching for your brand on Google and the first page being saturated with negative reviews, your prospective customers are going to avoid you like the plague. There are even more reasons you shouldn’t cold call, but I won’t go into it too much.
No one likes unsolicited sales calls or emails, your job is to delight your customers, not anger them. We’ll explain some alternative marketing solutions you can utilise in a little while.
#3 – Know your audience
The starting point for all communication is understanding your prospective customer. You can’t persuade your listeners to take action if you don’t know much about their wants or needs.
There are many different persona factors that contribute to their behaviours.
These can include specific demographics such as age, gender, location, household income, education, marital status and employment status to name a few – you can really go in-depth and include interests, hobbies and challenges to create the ideal customer persona.
Bonus: here’s a buyer persona template to get you started.
Defining a persona will help you communicate with your audience more appropriately and will ultimately aid you when executing a successful marketing campaign, so be as specific as possible.
So, how do you find your audience?
If you run an online business and you have Google Analytics set up, you can use the interface to find an overview of consumer demographics and interests.
You can also check out industry related forums which are basically discussion boards where people with similar values and interests gather together to discuss their challenges and find answers to their queries.
For example, let’s say you sell supplements for bodybuilders, you can head to Google and enter the following: “bodybuilding forum”.
Take a look at all the forums available and write down as much details and patterns as possible, including age and gender of the participants and what challenges they are generally facing.
Another way is to head over to relevant LinkedIn groups, Google+ communities and Twitter chats to further understand your audience.
Don’t forget to take note of the language as this will help you decide on what tone of voice to use.
ASOS use a very informal (relaxed) and even sometimes, slang tone of voice for their email marketing, they use words such as “get in” and “swag” which appeals to males aged 18-24.
#4 – Educate your audience
Okay, I’ve been receiving tones of questions about this so I’ll elaborate a little more on this point.
Unless your business is incredibly unique and you have an amazing product offering, you have to battle with a flurry of competitors in the same market, even the big boys.
This can be a very tedious and tiresome process.
To win over prospective customers, you must educate them. You also have to be patient.
Don’t expect to win over customers on day one.
Consider attending a fishing contest, you wouldn’t plunge right in the water and attempt to catch the fish, they would just slip right through your hands and swim as far away from you as possible.
What you would do however, is cast out bait and play the waiting game until the time is right.
You may be thinking, this has nothing to do with my business.
But let me tell you, it has EVERYTHING to do with your business.
You should also use the same ‘hook’ method as described, but with your audience.
You have to offer something incredibly valuable without asking for any return.
You think I’m crazy, right?
But listen up, this technique will work wonders.
This technique will get your prospects HOOKED, although you have to tread carefully. People are much smarter than fish, funnily enough, and they can unhook themselves, which presents your competitors the opportunity to cast out their bait instead.
It’s your job to ensure your prospects stay on track.
Going above and beyond for both prospective and current customers is key to obtaining trust and loyalty for your brand.
On average, returning customers spend 67% more than first-time customers. That’s something most company directors or sales teams overlook.
To impress your audience, firstly it’s important you understand their pain points, then you should address them with awesome content.
In order to write content that delivers that all important hook method we just mentioned above, you’ll need to contextualise the content in a way that your audience can understand.
If you want to find questions to write about, you can firstly head over to some Q&A sites such as Yahoo Answers.
Let’s say you sell sports clothing and one of your top product ranges are running shoes. Take that keyword and plug it into answers, you’ll then be presented with a series of questions.
You can take this information and come up with some captivating headlines for your content – here are a couple of examples:
- Walking shoes vs running shoes: the key differences explained
- 13 differences between walking shoes and running shoes
If you want to go that step further, you can insert your keywords into Answer The Public, this tool is amazing for gathering keyword data. Simply enter your keyword and lo and behold, you’re presented with a series of popular questions related to that specific keyword, the tool gets its data from Google’s auto suggest search feature.
Although, you should pay attention when choosing topics to write about.
Try copying and pasting that specific search in Google and see who’s currently ranking. If those pages don’t give much quality information, you may be on to a winner.
Once you’ve created that solid piece of content, you’ll need to build some links to improve authority for your page.
But before you start building lots of links to increase traffic to your page, you’ll need to create a lead magnet to capitalise on those visitors.
Lead magnets are an awesome piece of kit, they generate you leads (hence the clue in the name) and if you create smart email workflows, those qualified leads will become sales.
On average, it takes 7 interactions before prospects make that decision to carry through with the sale, so it’s important the automated workflow is not sales focused, as that will only lose interest and destroy trust.
You don’t want your customers to think you’re after one thing, their money.
You should treat each and every customer like they’re your best friend, offer them free, valuable advice. This way, you’ll guide them down the conversion funnel.
Then, when they’re ready, they’ll reach out.
That’s where your sales team takes over.
All what we’ve described here are techniques you should use when building a strong customer lifecycle.
If you’re not sure how the ideal customer lifecycle should be structured, then you should check out this awesome video. This will teach you how build effective email automation workflows for your business.
#5 – Improve your leadership skills
There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders are those who must be obeyed, whether you’re for it, or against it.
Those who lead are looked up to and prove to be a great inspiration. You don’t achieve this stance too easily, you must earn it – not demand it.
Strong leadership is an essential requirement to achieving organisational goals. You must show these qualities to your team as this will improve productivity and create harmony and understanding across the entire workforce.
Morals and transparency are two key components of effective leadership. The little things mean a lot for your employees, and they’ll notice it.
If you’re prepared to go that extra mile for your staff, they’re bound to return the favour.
If you’re wanting to take your leadership to a whole new level, start by understanding these 20 tips to improve your leadership skills.
#6 – Adapt with the times
If you run your own organisation, you must be pro-active to change, otherwise you’re doomed for failure.
We already mentioned previously about the importance of adapting to market changes, as well as, you should ensure that internally you keep your whole organisation running efficiently.
If you’re business still uses fax communications or sends snail mail, then you’re partying with the dinosaurs in the dark ages.
Right down to the small things such as using a blackboard and chalk, you would be surprised how many companies still use this old fashioned way of managing tasks or writing notes.
Instead you should consider buying a whiteboard for brainstorming your ideas, also using a task management tool will help your whole team be more productive.
There are lots of team management tools, although it can be difficult to choose which one to choose as each have their pros and cons.
One I would recommend is Teamup, there is a free plan available for small teams and it has some excellent features.
#7 – Find your USP
We’re not talking about offering free delivery, price match guarantees or extended returns, these things aren’t going to set you apart from the competition.
The true question you should ask yourself, is “why does my business exist”? If you don’t have a reason of existence, then you’re probably shouting out the same marketing message as everyone else.
That’s not going to get you anywhere.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Companies such as Apple and The Wright Brothers speak and act in the exact same way, and it’s completely the opposite to everyone else. That’s why they’ve become so successful.
They have evolved by using this amazing yet very simple tactic, and it’s called the golden circle rule.
If you’re unsure what this is, then you should watch Simon Sinek’s presentation to help you learn and live your why methodology.
#8 – Don’t underestimate your competition
Your competitors are actually just like you, they share the same interests and the same end goals, you just don’t like to admit it.
That’s why you should respect your competitors, don’t be hateful.
There are actually many instances where competitors have worked together to build an alliance.
Sharing experiences and issues with competitors can be mutually beneficial and can help you both become forces in the industry, there’s not much harm in taking this route.
More so, competitors can influence your marketing strategy.
You may be quick to highlight your competitors weaknesses, but how often do you identify their strengths and build upon it?
You should always keep track of your competitors progress and strengths, but don’t be reliant on it.
#9 – Stop talking about yourself
We all know that one person who can’t stop talking about themselves, and when they do, you probably don’t pay much attention.
Well, it’s the same with your company.
No one is cheering for your success, it’s the sad truth.
As I mentioned before, you should stop bragging about me me me, and let others do that talking for you.
When starting my business, I came across so many SEO agencies claiming they were the #1 best choice.
That’s a bold statement, and if there’s no evidence to support this theory, then it does nothing but raise alarm bells to prospective customers.
This only raises a red flag and people will believe you’re lying and you’re whole organisation is completely unauthentic.
The importance of a strong corporate culture lies with your core values.
Core values dictate behaviour and action, both internally and externally. They are particularly important during times of uncertainty, as your whole team should share the same beliefs and fight to achieve the ultimate goal with blood, sweat and tears.
#10 – Know your product
You’d be surprised how many company directors throw their staff right in the deep end without firstly giving sufficient sales training. This is a big mistake.
If prospects show an intent to purchase and they call for more information, they’re expecting to speak to a specialist, and rightly so.
If the member of staff who handles that sales call is uneducated, you’re going to lose that customer for life, and any possible referrals they may have generated down the line.
There’s no second chances, so it’s important to impress on your first interaction, right through to the last.
#11 – Measure ROI
Keeping track of ROI (return on investment) can help you measure how profitable a past expenditure has been.
Tracking this critical performance metric will allow you to identify previous slumps and make smarter investment decisions in the future.
Calculating a true ROI reading can sometimes be labelled as a complicated and tedious process and as a result, it often gets neglected.
If your business only has one product or one service offering, then calculating the ROI can be quite simple. However, if you run various lines of products and the costs have to be calculated for each model, that’s where the process often gets neglected.
Calculating ROI isn’t rocket science. Once you get your head around the formula, the process will come more naturally.
Let’s dig in to the formula:
ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100
Still confused? Here’s an example:
Let’s say, Bob owns a computer software company, he charges a £200.00 subscription fee for each client.
Bob invested £2,000.00 in billboard advertising within the first month, as a result he generated 40 sales from this campaign.
As Bob charges £200.00 per client, he generated a total of £8000.00 for this specific campaign.
Here’s the result of the ROI calculations:
£8000,00/£2,000.00 x 100 = 400% ROI
For each marketing campaign you invest in, be sure to track the return on investment.
#12 – Hire the right people
Cutting the chase and hiring a candidate after one interview can be one of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make as a leader.
You might feel quite desperate for someone to fill that vacancy you have available, although if you make a rash decision it could prove to be extremely costly for your business, it could also deflate the whole teams mood and productivity as one bad apple can spoil the bunch.
Try planning a sequence of interviews over several weeks so the candidates can get a feel for the entire company and meet the staff. If they don’t turn up to the second or third interview, then they were probably never interested in the first place.
It’s absolutely critical that you employ someone who believes what you believe and shares the same interests and values, otherwise they’re not likely to go that extra mile, as they’re only working for the pay cheque.
Fulfilment is a core value each member of staff must have within themselves, this value often expresses happiness and comes from helping others with achieving an organisational goal.
I don’t get much spare time, but when I do, I sometimes like to relax and watch a film.
One that stuck with me was Persuit of Happiness.
Pictured below (Chris, AKA Will Smith), refuses to give in to despair and had the sheer determination to land his dream job as a broker.
He didn’t possess the qualifications required to meet the requirements of such a prestigious role. However, what he did have was a set of skills and the endeavour attitude that shone during his interview, and he ended up landing the job, even dressed like a garbage man.
Now I’m not saying you should choose the guy who attends the interview informally, as that would be foolish.
Chris didn’t intend to come to this interview dressed like this, he was just struck with extremely bad luck.
What I am saying is, you have to look beyond the paper checklist when hiring the right person for your firm; think outside of the box, just like you expect of your employee.
#13 – Look after your staff
Sir Richard Branson famously quotes, “look after your staff and they will look after your customers”.
This couldn’t be more true.
If you go that extra mile for your staff, they’ll do the same for you, both on a personal and organisational level.
Showing employees that they have your trust pays a huge compliment and improves their self-esteem. Looking over your employees shoulder constantly will only lead to bad mouthing behind your back as it’s not easy for an employee to raise this issue, and that’s not a good sign.
Offering incentives such as bonus schemes is not a real way to look after your staff neither, that’s a real positive but you’re making them work for it.
Your staff members will appreciate the little things, right from buying coffees on a morning, birthday gifts and Christmas parties to bring togetherness are key to building strong relationships and effective workmanship.
See also: 8 things to give your employees to really show you care.
Also you should keep your staff content by ensuring the working environment is comfortable, well-decorated and well-lit.
You may overlook the little things such as the choice of colour in the working office, although, did you know that a change of colour can have a physical impact on mood, emotion and behaviour?
Physiologically, colours play with your mind-set.
The colour red for example inspires passion and boosts productivity, whilst yellow brings a sense of happiness and motivation.
Along with the working environment, you should have a place of relaxation.
To ensure productivity stays at peak levels, you’ll want to encourage staff to take regular breaks.
Although if you don’t have a nice kitchen, they’re going to want to stick around in the office, and that’s a no-no.
All these things contribute to a positive working environment and keep your employees super happy.
#14 – Set SMART targets
If your goal for the remainder of this month is to “increase sales” or “generate more leads”, then your decision making process needs re-thinking.
Even stating “I want to increase sales by 10% this month” may not be realistic, unless you have set SMART targets.
If you’re part of a small team then the chances are, your surrounded with distractions and SMART targets can help you stay on track and ultimately drive you on to achieving that end goal.
So what are SMART targets? Here’s the acronym explained.
If you’re unsure how to set SMART goals, here are a couple of examples to get you started.
15: Keep your customers happy
According to previous studies from Zendesk, 54% of consumers share bad experiences with 5 or more people.
That’s a crazy number, and you don’t get this with the majority of satisfied customers. They expected a good service – it’s just the norm.
However, going that extra mile for your customers will bring tones of benefits.
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) has evolved to a whole new level, as now, more customers are speaking about their experiences with social media.
Did you know, it costs 6 times more to acquire a new customer, than it would to keep your current one? It really burns a hole in your pocket every time you lose a customer, you just don’t realise it.
But don’t take our word for it, here are 100 customer service statistics you need to know.
You can do all the right things in the world for your business, but if you don’t look after your customers, it isn’t going to work.
Sometimes you have to bend the rules a little to keep your customers happy, after all, they are your boss and your organisation wouldn’t be operational without them.
Now, I know you’re not going to go away and turn your business into a booming success on the back of this article, however, taking one step at each time and changing the way you look at things can make that all important contribution you’ll need to guide you down the right path.
I hope this information will prove valuable to yourself and your company, should you have any questions please drop a comment below.