This post is an excerpt from my book 'Just Tell Me More'.
Lists like this one are usually made up of financial reasons for the failure of a small business. Unfortunately there are also many sales and marketing reasons. Fortunately, there is a positive step that can be taken for each one that will greatly increase your chances for success.
“These actionable tips are the responsibility of everyone who works with you. Make sure they know and understand them. Forward this blog to your team NOW!” EG
1. Face Your Weaknesses. Failure to face up to your weaknesses and a lack of effort to take advantage of your strengths can keep your business in a no-growth mode.
Take two pieces of paper and list your company’s strengths on one page and its weaknesses on the other. Note the ways you can make your staff, customers, prospects, and other business associates aware of each of your strengths. On the page of weaknesses, identify steps to correct each problem. Discuss the points with your staff and develop a schedule to address them. No, it’s not really as bad as you think.
2. Take Action. Talking about the great marketing program you have been developing and following through with it are two very different actions. Implementing the program is the key to marketing success. Plan all you want, but be prepared to act on all the steps you have identified. Don’t be surprised to discover that there are some steps you hadn’t initially considered.
3. Accountability And Responsibility. Understand the difference between accountability and responsibility. Make sure your staff and suppliers recognize that by accepting responsibility, they are accountable to you and to the rest of the company. It is now their job to get the assignment completed.
4. Don’t Play At Business. Don’t play at being in business. It is not a hobby or a pastime. Think about the message you are sending to your staff, suppliers, and customers. A genuine commitment to the customer and to the success of the business will get you through difficult times. It will also pave the way for much more success in the future.
5. Avoid Ad Hoc Marketing. Struggling from one idea to another without thinking your complete marketing story through will typically end in one failure after another. Prepare a program for the year or at least for a complete season. Build on previous efforts to ensure continuity.
6. Seek Employee Buy In. When your staff does not support your marketing program, you are usually destined for failure. Get them involved early in the planning process and incorporate their ideas.
7. Appreciate Every Customer. A complete disregard for customers is a sure sign that a business is failing. There is nothing more irritating than walking into a business or past a booth at a trade or consumer show and discovering that the person behind the counter is having a personal telephone conversation or reading the paper. Immediately, you are made to feel like you are interrupting. Customers should be welcomed into your business and greeted with your full attention.
8. Spot Trends. Recognize trends, changes, marketing mistakes, etc. A new trend that is different from your product or service is a terrific opportunity to present something new to your customers. New ideas also refresh your staff.
9. No Egos. If you suffer from the ‘‘not invented here’’ syndrome, fix it right away. Great ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone. Limiting yourself to ideas created only at your company is viewing life through a very narrow lens. Seeking outside assistance and not listening to it is equally dangerous.
10. You Don’t Know It All. The assumption that all of your ideas are right just because they were ‘‘invented here’’ is also dangerous. You may know your business better than anyone else but you don’t know everything. Seek outside help.
11. Control Sales Staff. Lack of control over sales staff will result in missed opportunities and wasted hours. If your sales reps have little direction or support, they could be selling to whomever they choose. Often, they spend much of their time with existing customers and miss large new opportunities. Develop specific sales plans with your reps and review them regularly.
12. Create Tools. If you don’t create proper sales and marketing tools for your staff, you will make their jobs much more difficult. Arm them with well-thought-out selling tools and train them to use the tools effectively.
13. Keep Tools Impressive. If the sales tools you have are unimpressive, out of date, poorly conceived, or lack strategy or focus, they are damaging to sales opportunities. Work with your staff to prepare useful selling tools.
14. Prepare A Realistic Budget. Don’t force your marketing group to live with a low or non-existent budget. Be realistic about your expectations and provide appropriate funding to increase your chances for success.
15. Don’t Try To Spend Your Way To Success. On the other hand, if you spend too much money on marketing, you may not get value for your investment. Carelessly spending dollars on marketing does not always guarantee sales. You may need to rethink the media and promotional offers that currently make up your marketing program. Introduce a social media program that starts with a real strategy and has the manpower to execute it over a sustained timeframe. At least 2 years and if possible forever.
16. Promote Your Website, Content and Social Media Pages In Traditional Media And Within Each Other. An important lesson recently learned by many participants in the internet is the need to go outside of it to traditional media. Aside from producing a well thought-out website, content and social media presence, the key to success on the net is to let your target group know where your site, articles and social media pages are located. Add your web address and social media pages to all of your communication materials: business cards, letterhead, invoices, flyers, packaging, and cross promoting between all your social media etc.
17. Answer The Telephone Properly. The habit of not answering the telephone properly or having an uninformed person answering it for you can be damaging. Customers and prospects become frustrated when they can’t get answers to their questions. Train your staff well and equip them with the most up-to-date information. If they shouldn’t be answering the telephone, don’t let them.
18. Don’t Lose Orders. They are so hard to get these days how can you even think about losing them. The problems of lost orders or orders not completed on time can be easy to resolve. Create a step-by-step fulfilment process with checking systems to make sure that an order is controlled from beginning to end.
19. Promote Yourself. Some business owners believe that the product or service they offer should be as irresistible to others as it is to them and that customers should just come to them without promotion. Not promoting yourself will only serve to keep your business a secret.
20. Encourage Others To Promote You. It is just as important to encourage others to promote you. If someone else has a clear understanding of what your company does and who your target group is, they can help to promote you. Develop a brief statement that identifies who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and why you are different from competitors. Make sure that anyone who may be representing your company to prospects understands this message.
21. Face Negative Word of Mouth Head-On. Negative word of mouth statements can have a devastating impact on your sales, far beyond one or two unhappy customers. Solve the problem quickly and win customers back. Those customers will be your best salespeople. The internet can make this a huge problem.
22. Use Resources Around You. The failure to use readily available resources can lead to wasted opportunities. Seek out mentors government self-help offices, associations, consultants, internet sites, and libraries. Talk to customers and suppliers and study your competitors.
23. Be Better Than Competitors. Don’t just try to be as good as the competition, be better than them, offer something different, provide better service, etc.
This post is an excerpt from my book 'Just Tell me More'.