Mining Your Businesses Acres of Diamonds

Diamonds on a black background with copy space

During the first few years in business entrepreneurs are typically in build mode.  They are constantly scrambling to find new customers, prospects and events they can attend; anything they can do to bring in some money.  But after a few months/years something funny starts to happen – customers start to seek you out.  This can lead to an entrepreneur losing their “hustle” mentality, which if left unchecked, can lead to a possible stagnation or decline in new business.  The solution?  Mining your acres of diamonds.

A while back one of our colleagues recanted the “Acres of Diamonds” story to us.  Acres of Diamonds originated as a speech which Russell Conwell is said to have been delivered over 6,000 times around the world. It was first published in 1890 by the John Y. Huber Company of Philadelphia.  The central idea of the work is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune – the resources to achieve all good things are present in one’s own community.

This theme is developed by an introductory anecdote, told to Conwell by an Arab guideabout a man who wanted to find diamonds so badly that he sold his property and went off in futile search for them. The purchaser of his home discovered that a rich diamond mine was located right there on the property. Conwell elaborates on the theme through examples of success, genius, service, or other virtues involving ordinary Americans contemporary to his audience.  The overarching advice is “dig in your own backyard!”

If you are a business that has lasted 2-5 years and you are wondering what you can do to continue your growth trajectory, here are some tips on how to dig in your own backyard:

Pay attention to your customers. Often times a company will struggle when they start to take their eyes off what their customer wants.  To combat this, make sure that you track what matters to them and engage them on a regular basis.  This is as simple as sending out a customer satisfaction survey periodically and having a social media presence on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.  By engaging with your customers regularly, you can adjust your services and offerings to address what is important to them.  If done correctly, you’ll wind up with a complimentary advertisement system/sales force via the referrals they send you.

Track your marketing.  We do tons of marketing efforts each year.  One of the questions we often ask a prospective or new client shortly after they contact us is “how did you hear about us?”  This gives us some insight into which marketing initiatives are bringing us business and which might need to be adjusted or scrapped.  Once you know what is working, increase your spending in that area and you should see your sales escalate over time.

Always look for ways to recapture lost customers.  Just because a customer left you for a competitor doesn’t mean that they didn’t like what you had to offer.  Sometimes customers leave because of price, convenience or just simply because someone touted an offer that just sounded better than yours.  However, some customers find that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but it’s sometimes hard to return to your former provider without feeling embarrassed.  Thus, if you send out advertising to your old customers offering them a discount or telling them to give you another chance, they might just do so.  Sometimes all it takes is you making them feel welcome for them to come back home.

Remind your customers that you are ALWAYS there for them.  People often only think of you when they have a need, especially in service businesses such as ours.  If your business is seasonal in nature, your customers might only think of you once a year!  Needless to say, that’s not good for your business or your bottom line.  One way we tackle this is through a customer touch program.  The essence of this program is to send out a series of customer communications that are designed to engage with them.  These can range from tweets, to Facebook posts, to blog posts, to monthly newsletters to a simple customer phone call.  The goal of each interaction isn’t sales oriented (per se) but more so to remind your customers that you are 1) thinking of them, 2) there to service their needs and 3) remind them of what you offer.  Point three is pretty important, especially when you add new services to your menu.

By |2013-08-06T11:53:23-06:00August 6, 2013|Categories: Business Talk|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Mining Your Businesses Acres of Diamonds

Growing Your Business Takes Time

When many entrepreneurs begin their new venture, they often believe that things are going to just “sort” of happen.  You know, we’ll come up with some financial projects for our business plan, find a location, open for business, customers will love us and we’ll grow like gangbusters.  Right?

Unfortunately, the startling reality for many new businesses is that the “grow like gangbusters” phase often takes a lot longer than you originally projected.  Why?  Well, sometimes new entrepreneurs go into business with incorrect assumptions.  These can range from the amount of funds needed to start the company to the lift they expect from their marketing campaigns or just the amount of initial/repeat business they will get.

This is why we often advise those bight-eyed and bushy tailed entrepreneurs that come and see us for a consultation that they need to “double down” on their numbers.  No matter how good their assumptions are, they will need to double the amount of money, time and effort they originally thought they would need if they are going to be successful.  We then also tell them that they need to focus on the following:

Marketing.  Build it and they will come.  Well…only if customers have a need which you can satisfy, know where to find you and can see that you have benefits that your competitors don’t.  In order to communicate all of the above to your new would be customers; you better make sure you have a marketing plan.  And sorry, word of mouth is not a marketing plan.  It is a component of your marketing plan, and in all honesty it’s one of the “weaker” ones as you are “hoping” that your customers will go out and sing your praises to everyone they meet.  Instead, come up with 6-10 mechanisms that you will use to promote your company/product and actively work on them each day.  They don’t have to be expensive, but you do need a plan and a number of marketing vehicles if you seriously want to survive the startup phase.

Sales.  Marketing brings the people to your establishment.  Sales then conveys what you have to offer and why the customer should purchase it.  Without marketing you have no sales.  Without sales, you have no work to perform or products to make or services to provide.  Thus always remember this; no matter what you “do” in your business, that is actually the tertiary stage of operations.  You are a marketer FIRST, a sales person SECOND and then (and only then) are you a baker, nail technician, bookkeeper, dance instructor, socialite, etc.

Good customer service.  We’ve spoke about this topic at length, but it needs to be emphasized.  If you want customers to come back, make sure you offer good service.  You can be the best at what you do and offer the best product, but if the customer has a bad experience, you can kiss their repeat business goodbye.

Shoot for the moon.  Sometimes us humans really want to be failures but at other times we are just afraid to succeed.  Honestly, sometimes we are petrified by what would happen if things actually went well.  What if I got that job in California?  Then I’d have to uproot my family and move to take it.  What if our business grew at 500% next year?  Man, we’d have to hire people and I’d be really busy.  I kind of like things they way they are.  Maybe I just won’t try to grow “that” much next year.  Well let us clue you in on something; it’s actually fun to deal with some of those problems.  So don’t sell yourself short.  Don’t be afraid if your wildest dream comes true.  Shoot for the moon and deal with the “problems” once you have them, not before you get them.  Trust us; we think you’ll be happy with the result.

By |2013-04-25T15:33:39-06:00April 25, 2013|Categories: Business Talk|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on Growing Your Business Takes Time

5 Ways To Grow Your Business

Market Share, or how much of the pie is coming through your door, is one thing that all businesses try to track.  If you listen to the big guys, they’re always tracking if share is up, if it’s down and just how they can go and get more of it.  Yet when the economy is down, many business folks and entrepreneurs alike will throw their hands up and say that “oh well, there’s nothing we can do to grow right now.”

Down markets present a host of opportunities for the savvy and innovative business person to grow their business.  Listed below are five ways that you can increase your share of the pie when times are tough.

Examine/Exploit Your Competitors Weaknesses.    When times are hard, companies will look to ease the bleeding so to speak.  This might mean reduced advertising, hiring and marketing.  If you look at where your competitors are failing and step in with better services or products, you might just see an increase in customers.  For example, when Restaurant A had to stop offering free fries with their meals, Restaurant B took it as an opportunity to market that their combos “still” had free fries.  The result? A few new customers during the lunch hour that use to frequent their competitor.

Get The Word Out.  While marketing/sales professionals tend to live the good life when the economy is up, their budgets are often the first to be slashed when times head south.  However, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing.  Thus when times are down, if you still have adequate cash flow, don’t cut your marketing but instead continue spending on “smart” marketing.  What this means is that if you can highlight something you do that your competitors don’t – go for it!  What you don’t want to do is spend money where it won’t make a difference.  So, if for example you’re a landscaping company in Chicago, it probably doesn’t make sense to do a major ad campaign in December when it won’t lift your sales all that much (unless you offer snow removal of course).

Expand Product Offerings.  Expanding by leaps and bounds is never advisable when the market is tough.  However, businesses should be encouraged to look for add on, tuck in and complimentary products to help them grow.  We’re not talking about adding on a major product line, but something that enhances what you already do.  For example, a hot dog stand already attracts people who are looking for an inexpensive yet fast meal.  Why not keep a case or two of “veggie” or vegan brats in stock?  Many vegetarians don’t frequent this type of establishment alone but may wind up there when a friend or coworker does.  If they can make a purchase from you, why not make the sale?  It doesn’t cost you a ton to add the product, and you don’t even have to keep loads of inventory as the demand is probably pretty low.

Purchase A Failing Business. If you have deep pockets, a down economy is a good time to look for struggling competitors and help put them out of their misery.  The only word of caution is make sure you do a thorough analysis of their business (i.e. due diligence) before you do the deal.  Remember, there is a reason the business is struggling – just make sure that it’s something that you can fix or you will simply purchase a headache instead of increased profits.

Increase Volume.  Playing the price card (i.e. reducing prices) is one of the last things recommend when times get tough.  Not only do you lose money on the top end (e.g. sales) but you tend to lose it on the bottom line as well because of the inflexibility of certain fixed cost.  However, if you have a streamlined operation that has solid margins (think > 50%) then you could go for a volume play.  For example, if you can slightly reduce prices and keep yourself profitable, you may see an uptick in customers (volume).  If the profit generated by the volume increase outweighs the money you lost when you reduced prices, then it’s a smart move.  The goal would be to do this long enough where you increase your customer base and then gradually increase prices once the economy improves.  The end result would then be a bigger market share and increased revenue/profits when compared to your competitors.

By |2012-09-25T12:30:19-06:00September 25, 2012|Categories: Business Talk|Tags: , , |Comments Off on 5 Ways To Grow Your Business
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