products services

Do Products & Services Need a Facelift?

Products and services have a shelf life because customer needs change over time. Do your need a facelift? Are your products and services a want, need or must have? The right products and services make marketing and sales growth easier. 

5 Ways To Improve Offers and Grow Revenue

#1 Create a new product or service

What do your customers want or need today that you could easily offer or integrate into your services? They can be big or small. The key to success here is to ensure it’s a natural fit for your other products.  They should compliment your current offers and be logical to customers based on your company’s reputation and experience.

#2 Offer a simpler or smaller version

Can you take something away or simplify it to make it more affordable to your target customers? This may be a way to create an easy entry to your company. From there, you can up-sell or cross-sell products in the future.

#3 Upgrade a product or service

What can you add to create a premium version or upgrade to something you already sell? What would your ideal customers value? Consider what your competition does or does not provide. One of the keys is to do a little research by talking to your ideal target customers. What do they want, what are they willing to pay?

#4 Bundle into a package

While bundled services may cost more as a package, they typically deliver more value in the long-term and ultimately save customers money. The key with packaging services is to create them for a niche or small segment of your market. Do not try to create packages that serve everyone or you will ultimately serve no one.

#5 Update your current products or services

Since the needs of customers change over time, your products and services need to keep up. Do the value-added features you include still matter to customers? If not, remove them and save the money. Are there services that you need to add that are now expected? If so, find a cost-effective way to incorporate them. Feedback from customers makes this easier to do. So evaluate your services and modify them as needed.

Communicate Changes and Improvements

When you give your products and services that much-needed upgrade, remember to communicate it! While many small businesses promote a new product, they often overlook communicating improvements or changes to existing products or services. Announcements in newsletters or email campaigns, press releases, a simple business letter, direct mail piece, updates on social media or even a ‘New’ icon on your product website can often do the trick.

Don’t overlook the product or service development side of your business. It’s an important part of marketing. And rem to communicate the changes you make. Your bottom line will thank you.

Ready to Put Your Business on a Better Path?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business to a new level of success? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

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How to Fix Customer Churn

Even if you do everything right, some level of customer churn is going to happen. Customers may move away or outgrow the need for your product or service. But if you dig deeper, you will find that most customer churn is controllable. You and your team have the ability to retain valued customers.

Why Customers Churn or Leave

When businesses lose valued customers, they often assume it is related to price or competition. But too often, that’s the go-to reason to justify the loss – covering up the real issues.

Related:  Pricing: 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid to Build Profit

  • Outdated products or services. Customer needs change. So should your products or services. Do yours need a facelift?
  • Lack of engagement or perceived indifference. Most businesses invest a lot of resources on new customers. What are you doing to make valued customers feel important? Make sure they know you care.  
  • Poor customer service or quality. It’s all about your customers’ expectations. They deal with a lot of companies and industries, not just yours. What should your customer experience look like? Does your team have the tools and know-how to deliver it consistently?
  • Attracting the wrong customers. It is not easy to turn away customers. But too many one-and-done sales or dissatisfied clients do not help your business. You want people who value, want and need what you offer. People whose problems you can solve – and are happy to pay for it. Is your marketing and sales attracting the right customers?
  • Over promise and under deliver. If customers expect the Taj Mahal and get a hut, they feel cheated. When it comes to quality, service, performance, lead time, results or other benefits — be honest.

How to Retain Valued Customers

Get Your House in Order. If customer service or quality levels are broke, work to fix them. It’s the number one way to reduce customer churn and retain customers. If you fail to deliver what you promise, customers won’t stick around and will share their bad experiences with others. Identify what you want the ‘buying experience’ to look like and have procedures and tools in place to help your people deliver it consistently. 

Related: 13 Ways to Make Your Service Business a Profit Sensation

Talk to Customers. Customer needs change over time. So, take the time to ask them for feedback on what they need and how well you are meeting their needs and expectations. It’s also a great way to uncover new product or service opportunities.

Reward Retention. If retention is really a priority in your business, demonstrate this to your team. Set goals for improvement areas and reward the team when they are accomplished. This approach works for any improvement you wish to make. It becomes a focus for your team. And with focus comes improvement.

Choose People Wisely. When you hire employees or select subcontractors to interact with your customers, make sure they value customers and possess the skills to deliver to your standards. Are they empathetic and trustworthy? Can they communicate well and listen? Each customer contact with you, your team or other partners is an opportunity to build your reputation or destroy it. Make the selection of people a priority.

Say Thank You. Sounds obvious but consider this. When was the last time you received a personal thank-you note from a company you do business with? This simple strategy can really make an impact and says a lot about your company and the value you place on customers.

Stay Connected. Social media can certainly keep your name in front of customers, but nothing beats a personal approach. Whether you do it by phone, mail or email, make sure your customers know you are thinking of them. Too often, we only connect when we’re trying to sell something. A simple thank you, a request for feedback, or a holiday greeting card can all do the trick. If you want to add a special offer, just for them, even better! While the frequency may vary based on your business or industry, quarterly contacts should be your minimum goal!

Make Customers Feel Important. Your current customers need to feel more appreciated than non-customers or prospects. While new customers are important to growth, make sure current customers get some VIP treatment. Programs, offers or specials that are exclusively available to them work well – so build some into your marketing efforts.

Make Service Everyone’s Job. Does everyone in your company understand the value of customers and are they ready to help them regardless of whose job it really is? Train your team on customer service and give them the tools and ability to take care of your customers. From the receptionist to the technician or delivery driver, your team will make an impression. The kind they make is up to you!

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business to a new level of success? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

mktg strategies

Choosing the Best Marketing Strategies

Is growing your customer base your top priority in 2020? The good news is you have hundreds of ways to create leads and new relationships. But with so many options, is it any wonder small business owners get overwhelmed? Yet choosing the best marketing strategies for your business is a key to getting more customers — and doing it profitably.

Past performance can be a good indicator. So start there. When evaluating previous marketing strategies, consider three things:  the number of leads generated, the quality of those leads and your return on investment.  If something is working, keep doing it.

If it’s not producing enough quality sales, then it’s time to look in other directions and add some new methods to your mix.  

7 Questions to Choose the Best Marketing Strategies

What products or services do I want to promote? You don’t need to promote every product or service you offer. Invest in the most profitable or those that are in highest demand. Avoid trying to sell everything to everyone with your marketing. It’s costly and a recipe for failure. 

Related: Do Your Products or Services Need a Facelift?

How do my target customers like to give and receive information? Too often businesses choose what is trendy or maybe low-cost. Do your customers prefer communication in-person, by phone, email, snail mail, digital, or social media? It may vary based on the type of information. And they may be okay with multiple methods. Choose what works best for them.

How many contacts do I actually need to build relationships and create sales for my business? It takes more than one or two contacts to build awareness, nurture relationships and create a sale. With so much noise in the market, seven to ten is more the norm. For higher priced services, where prospects may perceive more risk, the number of contacts may be greater. So build a variety of possible touch-points and deliver the same message consistently.

How can I get existing customers to keep buying, buy more or buy more frequently? The short answer is stay connected and continue to market to them. Invest some of your marketing dollars on your current and past customers. It’s also a lot cheaper to market to those who already know and like you!

How much time and money should I invest? Consistency in marketing matters. Marketing strategies have both a time and money component. Some, like networking and social media, are low-cost but consume a lot of time. Others, like direct mail or pay-per-click, require a higher money investment but little time. The key is to balance out your time and money investments so you can do marketing consistently throughout the year.

What do I like and what am I good at? Let’s face it, nothing happens until you implement your marketing strategies. When choosing, most people avoid what they dislike or struggle with. It makes them uncomfortable. First, recognize this bias and try some things outside your comfort zone. Then do what others do: delegate, outsource or learn how to do it effectively.

How do I systematize my marketing so it gets done easily, effectively and profitably? Once you have decided on what you want to do, create the campaign, implement it, monitor it, modify it and document it! Look for ways to make it easy, repeatable and more effective the next time. When your marketing takes less time and effort and still delivers the return on investment you want, you will find it’s not so overwhelming. You may actually grow to like it!

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

prioritize-business-goals

4 Ways To Prioritize Your Business Goals

When it comes to planning, most business owners are not short on ideas for growing sales and profit. They set goals and identify what they need to do to get there. As you put the finishing touches on your action plan, avoid the tendency to make everything a priority that must be done in the first quarter.

You only have so many resources – people, time and money. You still have a business to run and customers to serve. Be realistic about what you and your team can accomplish each month and quarter. Set priorities.  What comes first, second and so forth.

4 Ways To Set The Priorities in Your Plan
Top Challenge.

What is the #1 challenge you face today in your business?  Is it getting new customers, getting more from the ones you already have, making more profit from your current sales, delivering consistent service to customers, having the right people or getting more from them?  Choose at least one or two that address your biggest challenge and work on them first.

Complexity.

How much work and other resources are required to complete the tasks or projects you identified in your plan. The more complex, the fewer you can reasonably handle in a short period of time.

With large, complex projects break down the tasks and spread them out over a few months.  This allows you to make progress without getting overwhelmed, putting them off or ignoring other areas in your business.  For example, a new website or how-to (procedures) manual will take  more than a month. A marketing campaign or customer feedback survey can be done within 30 days.

Natural Prerequisites.

Sometimes there are things you must do first because they are tied to the success of something you want or need to do in the future.  Here are a few examples.

  • If you plan to use social media, email or other online strategies but don’t have a website (or your current one needs updating), then the website should be done first to get the most bang from your other efforts.
  • If you get a lot of leads but struggle with converting them to paying customers, you might want to focus on ways to improve your sales conversion rates before you invest in new lead generation or marketing.
Time versus Money.

In a perfect world, we seek balance.  But if money is tight, then focus initially on things that are low or no cost to help you build more revenue, profit, and cash flow.  Then invest in strategies that require additional financial resources.

One caution as you set the priorities in your plan.  Don’t prioritize based on what you like or what is easy.  Putting off what is important for what is easy is just another form of procrastination.  Focus on what will get you results – more sales, profit, control or freedom.

Planning Resources

Planning Resources - Act NowAre you looking for ideas or assistance with setting priorities for next year? My Business Success Checklist can help. Click here for the free download and see how you measure up.

If setting goals and creating an action plan are holding you back, my Ultimate Goal and Action Plan Guide can help you create your own roadmap. My step-by-step method includes tools,  templates, and samples to make it easy for small business owners. Click here to learn more.

business-run-smoothly1

Does Your Business Run Smoothly?

A well-run business is a dream come true for a business owner. It allows you to focus on what’s important – growth and profitability. It also gives you the freedom to take time off without skipping a beat.

No business owner wants to spend their days putting out fires, fixing mistakes or doing the work they pay others to do. Yet many do because their business doesn’t run without their constant involvement. You can’t prevent every potential problem, but you can take steps to improve your situation.

Identify the Gaps in Your Operations

A business is a structure of people and systems that evolve over time. Together they bring predictability into the workplace. So, attracting the right people and developing quality systems for them is a key to growth, profitability and freedom.

Related: How People and Systems Power Profit

Got systems and good people? Then you are already on the right path. But remember, as your business grows, your systems and people also need to change. Is your team structured properly and do their job responsibilities take advantage of new skills and technology? Are you doing things the same way you always did (just because) or do you continuously look for better ways to improve all areas of your business?

Periodically review your systems and people so you continue to evolve in the right direction.    

Explore Additional Opportunities

While systems and people provide a strong business foundation, here are a few things to consider as well — if you want your business to run smoothly.

#1 – Do we cross-train employees so no critical task is dependent on one person?

A company doesn’t stop because the owner or other staff are sick or away from the business. Customers still expect to be served and have problems solved. Employees still expect to be paid. So important tasks should never be dependent on one person. If you have systems documented, it’s easier to cross-train others so the work still gets done. Make cross-training your team a priority.

#2 – Is there too much focus on the quantity of work done — and too little on the quality?

Customers expect quality when it comes to service, products and people. Doing things right the first time, every time is important. While mistakes happen, the cost of poor or inconsistent quality costs you more than you think. You want your team to be efficient but don’t sacrifice quality for production.  Promote a quality first mentality within your company.

RELATED: How to Get It Right the First Time

#3 — Are you using technology to improve efficiency, communication and more in your business?

With so many affordable options, small and mid-sized businesses now have easy access to tools that simply make it easier to run a business. Whether you want to collaborate and share work without meetings, allow customers to directly schedule appointments, provide easy, non-traditional pay options, create instant quotes at the customers home/business, permit employees to effectively work remotely or communicate successfully with individuals or groups – there are apps for that. 

Use of technology can certainly improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Solid reasons to integrate it into your daily operations. But it can also help improve hiring and retention. Why? Because millennials (GenY) are tech-savvy; they grew up using it. They expect and embrace technology in the workplace. If you want to attract and retain them, look for ways to employ technology into your business.

#4 — Do you have consistent methods to get feedback from customers?

Most owners recognize the value of online reviews and make getting them a priority. Research indicates that 80% of potential buyers (even those that come by way of referral) check reviews, recommendations and testimonials as part of their buying decision. So, the focus makes perfect sense.

While reviews can reinforce what you do well and maybe uncover an area for improvement, they have limitations. When you are considering new products/services or looking for ideas to improve, who better to ask than your loyal customers (and employees). Nothing beats a one-on-one or small group conversation. Don’t let online reviews replace other forms of feedback. Do both! 

#5 — Do you track metrics that are important – and work as a whole team to correct issues we uncover.

When used properly, analytics are simply a decision-making tool — in sports and in business. They shouldn’t replace experience or even your gut instincts. But they can help you uncover opportunities for improvement.

Many businesses track sales metrics because they impact revenue or income. But what about your operations and service? On-time delivery, quality (re-works, defects), back-orders, labor hours, cycle times and complaints all impact your profitability and long-term sales.  Find the gaps in your operations and work as a team to fix them.  

Planning for Next Year   

Growth, profit and freedom don’t just happen by accident. Now is a good time to give some thought to operational improvements – and build them into your plans for the coming year.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business to a new level of success? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

business-stand-out2

Make Your Business Stand Out

Your customers are exposed to over 5,000 messages every day. So how do you get through the clutter and make your business stand out – without doubling your marketing budget? The key is a strong USP or unique selling proposition. When you nail it, marketing is a lot more effective so you can spend less and get more.

The latest, innovative product or service – something that nobody else offers – is one way to create uniqueness. But it’s not the only way.  Service delivery, processes, people, technology, performance and other factors can help your small business stand out in the crowd. If you do it consistently well and tell people over and over again.

Determine What Makes you Unique

The best way to discover your uniqueness is to look at your business from the outside. When working through this with my clients, we start by answering the following questions.

What do you actually sell?  Think benefits, not features.

What are your core products or services? Think beyond highest sales volumes or those that are common for your type of business. Your products or services can differentiate you, so look at them closely.

Related: How to Diversify Your Products to Maximize Profit

Who are your key competitors?  Based on the benefits you deliver, consider actual competitors who do the same thing AND those who potentially deliver the same benefits with different products or services.  Since you compete for a share of the budget, this can be helpful.  

What are the perceived standards in your industry and other industries? Consider customer service, technology, product quality, sales and marketing. Your customers’ expectations are built from experiences with a lot of industries – not just yours.

What are some ‘claims’ about your products, services or business that you take for granted – and assume customers know about? Coors built their USP around their cold brewing process. While not unique in the industry, Coors was the first to actually tell people about it. And they still benefit from that message today.

Narrow Your Options

As you go through the process of brainstorming and answering these questions, ideas will pop into your head.  Write them down, no matter how silly they may appear at first glance. Use all the information to come up with a few options to consider.

Next do a little research with your customers. Bounce some options off them. Did they know this about you or your business?  Do they care?  Why or why not?  What does this claim say about your products, service or overall business?

Find something you do so well that you can guarantee it, especially if your industry has a reputation for doing this poorly.  Look for a process in your business that links your products or services to quality or performance or reduces risk.

Sometimes simple things, such as custom scheduling blocks to eliminate long wait times, can make you stand out.  You only need ONE.   Identify your claim to fame and make it the focal point in your communication to customers and prospects.

Related: Is Your USP Compelling to Those Who Matter?

Need another set of eyes to help you define your claim to fame? Let’s do it together. Call me at (856) 533-2344 to learn more or get started.
Break down barriers

Break Down the Profit Barriers

Marketing alone won’t solve your revenue or profit woes. It can actually erode profit further if done in a vacuum. Profit comes from a combination of factors working well together. If you want better business results, you need to break down the profit barriers between marketing, sales and operations.

Avoid Operating in a Vacuum

Marketing simply provides an opportunity to generate additional revenue. The key word here is opportunity. Regardless of what marketing tools you choose, most marketers evaluate their effectiveness based on activities or engagement metrics such as likes, clicks, calls, requests for quotes, appointments or visits.

But as the owner, actual sales generated and the associated profitability are far more important to your bottom line. Metrics like sales conversion rates, dollar amount of sale, and gross profit margins are vital measures for sales and marketing.

So how does your operations fit into marketing and sales discussions? Think about service levels and the impact they have on your reputation (future sales) and repeat business. The best marketing and sales efforts will be wasted if you don’t deliver what you promise customers in terms of quality and service. Customer satisfaction, on-time delivery, quality (rejects/reworks) and customer retention metrics can help you determine how well you perform in this critical area.

When you want to grow both revenue and profit, where should you apply your resources – time and money? The metrics above can be useful uncovering opportunities and weaknesses. So, it’s a good starting point. But here are a few other things I find helpful with clients.

Connect the Dots – and the People

Growing a business requires a full team effort. You need all your employees to provide creativity and commitment. It’s difficult to be successful when your marketing, sales and operations teams operate in silos. While they all have their roles, they can accomplish more when they work together with one common goal – to acquire and retain quality customers.

Bring down the barriers that tend to exist in many businesses – big and small. Connect the dots and leverage everyone’s knowledge and experience. Whether you are building a plan or solving a problem, tap into all the people resources in your business. Different perspectives can often bring better solutions or ideas.

Fix the Weaknesses

Before you invest more money in marketing, make sure your team is ready to convert the sales and deliver what you promise. There’s no point in getting leads – and then disappointing prospects or customers along the way.

For that reason, my work with clients on marketing always starts with an analysis of sales and operations. And yours should too. In addition to the metrics I mentioned earlier, here are a few additional things to consider as you look to improve these three areas:

Sales
  • Do our sales people have the training and skills to nurture leads, sustain relationships and close sales?
  • Are we prospecting for our own leads or do we rely heavily on inbound leads from other sources?
  • Is there too much emphasis on sales – and too little on profit or long-term value?
  • Do we track activities and results so discussions with others, including the owner, are based on data – along with customer feedback and gut.
Operations
  • Do our people have the training and appropriate levels of authority to do what is needed to solve customer issues or problems?
  • Is there too much focus on the quantity of work done – and too little on the quality?
  • Are we using technology to continuously improve efficiency, response time, scheduling and communication?
  • Do we have a consistent method to get feedback from our customers?
  • Do we track complaints and metrics that are important – and work as a whole team to correct issues we uncover.

Related: How to Turn a Quick Fix into a Permanent Solution

Marketing
  • Are we opening the right doors for sales – and reaching the right prospects?
  • Is our message compelling and clear so it sets the right customer expectations?
  • Does our pricing align with our brand and value proposition – while providing the margins we need or want?
  • Is our marketing diversified to reach prospects through various methods?
  • Are we consistent and timely but flexible enough to take advantage of unique opportunities that may arise?

If you want a business that consistently delivers sustainable growth and profitability, break down the profit barriers and leverage your business for success.

Ready to work with a coach to solve your frustrations and leverage your business? Schedule your free session today. Learn More

nurture prospects

5 Steps to Nurture Prospects and Grow Sales

When your business spends precious time and money on marketing, you expect to generate leads that convert to sales – now or in the future. So how you respond to leads is critical, especially the ones who aren’t ready to buy now.

Prospects buy when they are ready, willing and able. So you need a process to move them along – to follow up on leads and convert them into customers.  Whether you call it lead nurturing or sales management, how well you do this makes a difference in your sales results.

RelatedAre Your Customers Ready, Willing and Able to Buy?

Millions of small businesses waste time and money and regularly lose sales because they lack proper follow-up and a method to nurture prospects into customers.

5 Steps To More Sales Conversions

Have a System.  The best approach is a consistent one that details the steps from initial interest (lead) to conversion (sale) – in a logical, practical way.  Your process should incorporate three things:

  • How many touches are required to go from lead to sale. Depending on your business this will vary — but it is likely more than one or two!
  • What are the best methods to connect? Don’t rely on one thing. Combining calls, emails, ads, print and social media allows you to reach people in a variety of ways without being too intrusive.
  • How often should you connect? Don’t wear out your welcome by over-communicating. Seek balance in your communication.

Act Quickly. The best system won’t matter if you don’t respond to leads quickly.  Often the one who gets the business is the one who got there first.  Speed matters – so make it a priority.

Know the Source – and Do It Anyway.  Leads come from a variety of sources such as networking, referrals, website, search engines, direct mail and social media.  While it’s helpful to know the source, don’t take shortcuts based on the information or assumptions.  I see this often with referrals. Yes, they may be warmer leads but use your system to nurture them into customers. Be consistent.

Cultivate the Not-Quite-Ready.  This is where a lot of leads are lost.  A ‘no’ today doesn’t mean forever. If the prospect is a viable candidate in the future, have a plan to build on these relationships — so they think of you when the need is there. You already invested time and money to create sales opportunities. Why waste them? Here are a few things to make it work:

  • Capture leads. You can’t stay connected if you don’t have the contact information. Whether you use CRM software applications or contacts within your email system, a database for prospects is a must. The amount of detail you want to capture will vary based on the type of business and planned marketing efforts.
  • Educate in small chunks. Nurturing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Give potential buyers relevant information in small pieces. Think education, not selling – but do include a call to action for when they are ready.
  • Vary the formats.  People respond differently to communications. Don’t rely on one method – think diverse.  Use a combination of emails, newsletters, personal notes, articles and other content to move them through the sales funnel.
  • Plan your re-marketing.  These are not new prospects, so improve conversion with a series of communications that are designed to nurture and build relationships. Include them in your marketing activities. If you tap into technology for email campaigns, auto responder services, greeting cards and thank you messages – it’s easy and allows you to use various methods to stay connected.  Decide on the method, message, frequency, and timing then schedule it.  How else will it get done?

Track Results.  As I often remind clients — what we measure, we can improve. Know the numbers that drive your sales such as leads, conversion rates, click rates, etc. Establish goals for your sales-related metrics. Monitor how you are doing and take appropriate action.

While we all love prospects who are ready to buy now, many are not.  But with a little nurturing they will be in the future. Apply these principles and watch your sales soar.

New Monthly Article & Business Tools

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.

marketing plan

8 Question Marketing Plan

Is revenue and profit growth a key objective for your business this year? Then a marketing plan is an essential tool. It provides the blueprint of what you will do and how you will do it.  And it’s not difficult. It’s simply a matter of answering these eight questions.   

Who are you trying to reach?

Whether you call it your target market or ideal customers, it’s the group of people who want or need your products or services – with the capacity to pay for them. Those you want to reach with your marketing efforts. Think small groups or niches, not the masses. Be specific. The more you know, the easier it is to speak to them – in a way that is compelling and effective.

Can you create a profile of your best customers? Whether you serve consumers or other businesses, think beyond basic demographics. What is important to them? What do they value or worry about? Why do they like doing business with you? If you are unsure, do a little research. Talk to some of your best customers – and see what patterns emerge.

How do you compare with competition?

Today’s buyers have a lot of choices and access to information. They also have personal experiences with a wide range of companies – inside and outside of your industry. As a result, customer expectations on quality, service, convenience and more are higher. How do you measure up in areas that are important to your customers?

If you are not sure, a simple SWOT analysis may help. What do they do well and not so well? Talk to customers, employees and suppliers to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Then you have some information to answer the next question.

Related: How to Use SWOT to Uncover Opportunities

What makes you unique? 

What do you do so well that you could potentially guarantee it? Do you do it better than others? Is it something your customers truly value? If so, turn this into your unique selling or value proposition. It’s the reason why your customers should choose to do business with you.

Remember, you only need one differentiation to stand out.  Here’s an example. When it comes to customer service, Chick-fil-A has consistently ranked high. Their claim to fame: their employees were rated among the most polite in their industry category. In other words, please and thank you, done consistently well, made them stand out – and their customers noticed.

What should you charge and why? 

Your marketing message should work with your pricing strategy. It relates directly to perceived value and is a factor in purchase decisions.  Don’t ignore this when developing your marketing plan.

Related: Pricing – Six Common Mistakes to Avoid

How will you reach potential customers? 

This is the substance of your plan – and often where most small businesses start.  Your promotional plan covers all your communications and dictates how you get the word out to prospects and customers. Ideally, it should combine a variety of tools – digital and print. Advertising, publicity, direct mail, social media, email marketing, promotional products and direct sales work well together.

In addition to integrating a variety of tools, consistency matters too. Whatever tools you select, determine the frequency and stick with it. It is better to do fewer tactics on a more consistent basis – than periodically doing a lot of different things. Looking for some ideas? Check out my 155+ profit building ideas.

How much will you spend and on what? 

A marketing budget serves two purposes.  It helps you determine what you can or cannot afford – and prioritize what you spend it on.  Since many small businesses have limited marketing budgets, this is vital.  And with technology today, some activities are more affordable than they were in the past.  Do a little research, don’t assume everything is out of reach.

What tasks do you need to complete to execute? 

Most marketing requires a series of tasks to complete. For each tool or tactic, list the critical tasks you need to do to get it done. Don’t forget to give yourself some due dates to keep you on track.

Here is an example. If you plan to do a direct mail campaign, you will likely include some of the following tasks: set objectives, budget and drop date, hire designer to create piece, write copy (or hire copywriter), develop mailing list, etc.

How will you track results?

When you invest your time and money on marketing, you will want to know how those efforts pay off. So, tracking results is important. Tracking will also help you determine what you can improve upon as you move forward.

The metrics you choose will depend on the marketing tools you use and the call-to-action response you are trying to achieve. Here are some common ones to consider: new leads, website visits, social media likes, new social media connections, CTA response rates, requests for quotes, sales appointments or calls, new customers and sales conversion rates.

Surprised that I included some sales metrics? You shouldn’t be. Good marketing should create leads, calls and traffic.  But it should also smooth the way for sales – which is the ultimate goal right? So, make sure your sales process is also up to the task. Because leads that go unconverted are simply a waste of time and money.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would another set of eyes, ongoing support and accountability from an expert help you take your business to a new level of success? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com

breakeven analysis

When Can You Expect a Profit?

In business, making good decisions is often the difference between success and failure.  Do you rely on gut, numbers or maybe a combination of both?  There are a lot of tools to help, but one of my favorites is a breakeven analysis.

What is Breakeven Analysis?

Breakeven analysis is used to determine when you will be able to cover costs and begin to make a profit from your business investments.  You may have used it when starting your business to determine how much sales or revenue you needed to cover your fixed costs or overhead.

It’s helpful before starting a business.  It’s just as important as your business grows and projections are replaced with reality — actual numbers. But it’s also helpful when making decisions on a variety of issues – Should I:

  • Invest in a marketing campaign, website or social media marketing?
  • Hire additional staff to support our growth?
  • Outsource a project or task to free up my time for important growth initiatives?
  • Purchase a new piece of equipment?
  • Upgrade our computers or phone systems?
  • Invest in technology to support growth?

While ROI is often used for many of these decisions, you can also use a breakeven analysis to answer the question “When will I begin to make a profit from this investment”?

How to Calculate Breakeven

To do a break-even analysis, you need to know two things. First, the cost associated with your investment decision. Second, your gross profit margin (%).

To calculate the break-even revenue, divide the cost by the gross profit margin percentage.  For example, if cost is $5,000 and your margin is 45%, your break-even revenue is $5,000 / .45 or $11,111.  In this case, you will begin making a profit when you hit $11,111 in sales.

For help calculating gross margin, check out my blog post, Gross Margin: What You Need to Know to Avoid Disaster.

How Many Customers Do I Need?

Clients also find it helpful to look at the break-even point from a number of customers perspective.  You can do this if you know (or calculate) the average dollar sale or transaction for your customers.

To determine the customer break-even number, simply divide the revenue break-even (above) by the average transaction amount.  Example:  If the average customer sale for the above business is $283, the customer break-even is $11,111 / $283 or 39.3 (40) customers.

Decision Time

Once you calculate the breakeven, it’s decision time.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is the breakeven reasonable and achievable based on the investment you are making?
  2. If the incremental sales include new customers, what is the potential lifetime value of these new customers?  How does this impact your decision?
  3. How does this investment compare with past initiatives or others you may be considering now?  Business is often about trade-offs and priorities.

Knowing when you can expect to see a profit can be a powerful decision-making tool.  Use a break-even analysis to help you figure it out.

Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?

Would working with a business coach help you take your business to a whole new level? Then let’s explore the possibilities with a complimentary consultation. It’s a chance to get to know each other, discuss your goals and the obstacles that hold you back. Together we can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and my services.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com