In the final part of our series, How to Grow your Business, we have a further set of actionable considerations for companies and individuals aiming to achieve growth.
This article looks at our thoughts on how to analyse your value differential, the importance of surveying your competitors and your own team, as well as how to leverage the power of referrals.
The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has just announced the Government’s budget, so this is a timely way of maximising any changes from his plans to benefit your business.
With inflation still high, but forecast to fall, and energy prices easing after they rocketed last year, now is a great time to look at growing your business. Especially with winter easing gently into spring.
- Write a business plan
- Develop targets, forecasts and budgets
- Track your key performance indicators
- Systemise everything
- Apply the latest technology
- Apply the 80/20 rule
- Get your pricing right
- Break some of the compromises
And in this final piece of the puzzle, we will tell you all about:
- Ask customers what they value
- Surveying your competitors
- Surveying your team
- Develop referrals and introductions, and finally,
- Write an action plan
*We have chosen to use the term customer throughout the article while recognising that many professional businesses may prefer the term client. We use the terms synonymously.
Ask customers what they value
Use opportunities to survey your customers – even if this is briefly at the time of conversion to ask how the process has been, how they found you and if you could improve the service – the information gathered from your customers is an invaluable insight that you can use to establish what they do and don’t value.
If you’d like to survey customers on what they value in a more considered way, here’s how to do it.
List all the key attributes of your products and services, such as:
- Speed of delivery
- Pricing policies
- Range of products
- Physical offering – do you have a brick-and-mortar presence?
- Staff product knowledge
- Staff responsiveness /customer service touch points – these days this includes social media platforms private and public communications, instant messaging functions, email, phone, and very often good old fashion mail
- Handling of complaints
- Handling of product returns
- Payment policy
- Ordering system
- Product catalogue – both off and online
- Regular communications/marketing communications
Then ask your customers to tell you how important each of these attributes is to them on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the most important and 1 the least. Next, ask your customers to tell you how they rate your company on these same attributes. From this information, you can develop a value differential for each attribute.
Although we can’t predict what your outcoming actions may be, there are some common outcomes such as these options:
- Analyse your products and services and decide which must be offered as standard and which can be offered as options
- Create a “naked” solution where all extras are optional
- Introduce new products and services as options to see if they are valued
Survey your competitors
Most businesses don’t do this (believe it or not) but the information obtained can be really helpful in keeping you out in front.
- Get your team together and complete a competitor worksheet (see below) for each of your competitors
- Obtain your competitors’ brochures and promotional materials to find out what they think are their strengths and how they promote themselves. Look at trade journals and the internet for product comparisons and reviews
- Collect other information by researching on social media, trade publications and news aggregators
- If appropriate and can be done in a professional way ask your customers and suppliers for their opinions – are there any ways they feel you are better or weaker than your competitors
- Analyse the information and prepare spreadsheets showing comparative strengths and weaknesses
- Prepare an action plan for improvement – remember, it’s not about simply replicating what others are doing but learning form their approach and focus your efforts of where your offering can be better and where there are points of difference!
|Estimated annual sales / geographical offering/staff numbers
|What are the most important strengths of this competitor?
|What are the most important weaknesses of this competitor?
|What do they do better than us?
|What do we do better than them?
|Who is this competitor’s CEO?
|What is their business approach/strategy?
|What are the next strategic moves this competitor is likely to make?
|What actions should we take to pre-empt or combat this?
Survey your team members
Your team members should know more about what’s going on in your business than anyone else. Survey them regularly, and survey all of them. Here’s a suggested approach:
- Prepare a questionnaire, allowing room for expansive answers
- Make it easy for people to respond (i.e. mail, email, direct message on social media, Whatsapp)
- Make it voluntary and confidential
- Use an outside facilitator – this will help you get a higher response rate
- Insist (and publicise) that the outside facilitator maintains absolute secrecy as to individual responses
Here’s a sample questionnaire for team members:
- Identify at least three things that our business does well and, in your opinion, should continue to do
- What are three things that our business doesn’t do well?
- What have you heard from customers that concerns you the most?
- If you were in charge, what are three things you would change immediately?
- What opportunities should we be exploring?
- How can we improve communications within our company?
- What things are people not talking about openly, but which should be addressed?
- What causes you frustration about working here?
- What do you believe are the key values of our company?
- What other suggestions do you have for the owners/leaders of the company?
Develop referrals and introductions
Referrals are the lifeblood of a successful business – there’s no better way of building sales than by increasing referrals. They are not only the number one source of new business; they are the leading source of the best new business. People like to make referrals – when we make a wise purchasing decision, we want to share it with others as a way of validating our own good judgment and good fortune – if you can figure out how to harness this you’re in the money!
To get referrals, you have to ask for them. Natural opportunities will present themselves during conversations, where a conversation with a customer might go a little something like this: “As you know, we do a lot of work with medium-sized companies like yours and show them how to manage the cost of raw materials. If you know of anyone you think we can help, would you be willing to introduce us?” Almost every customer will say yes. Not all of them will follow through – but you’ve planted the seed! Other times a recommendation will fly into your inbox unexpectedly and without having to ask for it.
Step one is getting people to agree to recommend you, once you’ve done that step two is making sure they have the materials needed to facilitate the process – in most cases a well-presented company website will do the trick here but on occasion, you can offer brochures and other physical leave-behinds.
Here are strategies for developing more and better referrals:
- Provide your customers with a “WOW” experience
- When asking for introductions, be sensitive to timing. It takes practice and experience to do it effectively. The best time to ask, naturally, is when you have just completed a project or assignment.
- Ask for a testimonial – publish it on your website, this form of social proof may be all that a cold customer needs to convert
- When you do receive a referral, make sure to say “thank you”, whether or not the referral results in new business. Set up a system so that every introduction is properly acknowledged
- When you get a new customer as a result of an introduction, find a special way of thanking your referral source.
Write an action plan
Here are six steps to implementing the ideas in this series – we realise that it may be overwhelming otherwise:
- Select five or six of the strategies we’ve suggested that suit your business and your customers, and your style of doing business
- Write an action plan, so named because it encourages you to put your ideas into practice. For each initiative, write down:
- Who’s going to do it?
- When is it going to be done by?
- What’s the approved budget?
- What other resources are needed?
- What will indicate that you’ve been successful, how will you capture this?
- Monitor progress regularly. Create mini-milestones to stay on track
- Get everyone involved and reward people for the results
- Celebrate your accomplishments with all of your team members
- Repeat the successful ideas and experiment with new ones
There you have it, 13 key ideas to help grow your business. Don’t forget your Foxley Kingham account manager is always on hand to soundboard ideas: business finance is far-reaching and often, the advice we give touches on many other areas of a business’s operation. As a consequence of this and our many years of work and experience, we have gained knowledge about business growth, opportunity, and even mindset. And, crucially, what works and what doesn’t, particularly when it comes to strategies for business growth.
These strategies should hopefully help you grow your own business and enable you to come up with even more ideas to make your business succeed. If you haven’t had a chance yet, don’t forget to read our previous posts – you’ll find them here: