So you’ve decided that 2014 is the year you are going to really get your business off the ground. Good. But that’s not a plan – it’s more an aspiration. Here are some really important steps you can take to push your business beyond the bumpy, up-and-down growth patterns that have been dogging most of our SME companies for the past five years.
1. Set your Goals
Sounds obvious but you’ve really got to get beyond wanting the year to be better – put your goals down in ‘pen and ink’. The power of a written and fully committed goal is quite astounding. And keep it simple. Have an action verb, be specific about what your target is and put in a time line and some form of measurement. For example: In 2014 I will increase increase my revenue from the German market by €35,000.
To make that goal a reality, you will have to do a lot of back up work, such as researching the German market; identifying the key Federal States you want to focus on; identifying and working with new partners; deepening your relationship with key partners in Enterprise Ireland, and so on.
2. Market Segmentation
Say Germany is going to be your target market in 2014, with 81 million people, you are not going to be chasing the whole market. You’ve got to focus on the segments or smaller groups of customers that show the greatest longer term growth potential. Segmentation is a longer term strategy, so you don’t want to be changing your customer base too often.
3. Discover the Power of Habit
In large organisations, they can afford to have big systems and specialised teams. For smaller companies and SMEs, we cannot afford to hive off tasks to highly paid specialists. We need to get in to good habits. How do we win more business? Quite often, it’s through nurturing our existing relationships. So there’s one simple habit to get in to every day: follow up on contacts, on promises, on opportunities to have a cup of coffee. It is estimated that 80% of business people fail to follow up on business opportunities. I can tell you that this is no exaggeration because part of the work I do in my consultancy is to check out the performance of sales team and follow up is generally abysmal.
4. Customer Retention
Do you know what your current level of customer retention is? Is it a major theme in your business? I’m often surprised to find that businesses are not sure what their customer retention level is. These same companies, needless to say, also lack any strategy around holding on to their customers. A small increase in customer retention has a dramatic impact on profits, according to expert Prof. Friedrich Reichheld, who estimates a 5% increase in retention can lead to significant increases in profits. See my previous blog on how Sodexo hits retention levels of over 95%!
5. Create a band of Raving Fans!
Customer retention and loyalty is built on great customer service. It has to be so good that people want to tell other people about you. To be that hot, you need to be hitting customer satisfaction levels of over 80%. Lacklustre service won’t cut it.
If you want to get any further advice on any of the above topics, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.