Too soon? As a business owner, you’ll know that time flies by. If you recognised any of the symptoms or advice in my earlier Summer Doldrums post, then you may be looking at a window of maybe 2 or 3 months before the next seasonal milestone lands. Winter is coming.
So, while the sun is shining, it’s important to pick things up, especially rebuilding any momentum you may have lost during the summer holiday season, so you can fully and readily make the most of the back-to-work autumn term.
(And if you followed the guidance in my earlier post, you will already have a head start on your plans.)
A strong strategy of attack will have several cross-supportive stages. Like an avalanche, each stage should build on the previous one, layer upon layer so it eventually triggers a powerful rolling momentum. If executed well, not only will your business end the year on a high, but you will have created enough power and momentum to give you a running start on the new year too.
Good strategies are unique, bespoke and reflect the specific goals you are aiming to achieve in your business. However, common themes should include:
Ultimately, and this is simultaneously the best and worst thing about running your own business, you have to own your strategy, and make yourself accountable. Announce your key dates and targets to your team, use a countdown clock; think of it as a launch plan. And launch. Make it happen and make it work.
How are you gearing up for your next big push? What do you do to ignite momentum, in yourself and in your team and partners? Let me know in the comments.
Have you ever had to sack a client? Or have you ever wished you could?
Clients and client relationships come in many forms. They can be the most reliable partners and brilliant vocal advocates. Yet, at the other end of the scale, there are those that are unreliable, erratic and difficult to work with; clients that restrict innovation or whom you feel obliged to undercharge. They can easily become a negative downforce, cursing your business into a sleep-like state; preventing it from achieving its full potential.
If you recognise a client has any of the following traits, then it is time to re-evaluate your working arrangement and consider whether the relationship is really worth continuing. After all, it’s your business, and it was founded on vision and independence. You should not end up begrudging or resenting your clients!
Warning signs of a sub-optimal client include:
If these attributes are an agreed part of the client proposal, then that’s one thing. And, if you’re able to offer instant responses or 24/7 support, then that can be a brilliant part of your customer service strategy. However, when this is not part of the deal, and there is no provision or costing for the extra level of resourcing that these exceptional demands require; your daily operational activities can quickly become adversely affected.
Certainly, a regular prune of your client list is one way of ensuring your business runs more smoothly. And, with fewer problems to contend with, you can focus on acquiring and servicing the right prospects.
Don’t do this in anger though, or without a strategy: Just as there are many benefits to managing away a bad client, there are also risks. Your hard earned reputation may become a casualty if your customer feels they have been rejected or let down when you part company. Things can also become unpleasant or awkward if you worked closely with them, or will continue to operate within the same network.
And, avoid gimmicks and easy fixes at all costs! Ignore any friendly advice you receive telling you to get a client to sack you by ‘simply’ doubling your prices, giving them a substandard service, or handing their account to a junior member of staff. Trust me, word will get out one way or another about your poor service or sudden price hikes, which will only serve to spook your existing clients and deter new ones.
So, how can you successfully manage away a client, whilst suffering the least collateral or reputational damage? Take due consideration and then follow these four steps to ensure the split is as professional and painless as possible:
Although ‘bad’ clients are an almost inevitable part of running your own business, you can try to reduce your exposure at the outset. Set clear boundaries from the start and implement a filtering process to check customers’ suitability. Most importantly, then have the confidence to say no if you don’t think they will be a good fit.
Have you let a client go? How did you do it? - Let me know in the comments section below!
By Kevin Sheldrake (originally posted as a guest blog in April 2016 in the excellent Re: Accountancy blog).
Do you have a Benefactor Client? Someone who: Probably has a strong presence in your industry; they are easy to manage; you have a good relationship with them; and the custom they give you is longstanding, reliable and lucrative.
Maybe the ongoing work is a bit of a given. Maybe you don’t have to work too hard to keep them happy, or to keep the income flowing. Maybe you’ve already come to see them as a bit of a ‘Golden Goose’ to your business?
Don’t get me wrong, there are many advantages to having a Benefactor Client:
Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, these highly desirable benefits and opportunities come at a price, and a flipside that can pose a significant risk to your business:
With some regularity, I come across a business in the grip of turmoil, where they have lost their comfortable Benefactor Client and suddenly found themselves needing to make up a substantial shortfall in income and brush up on all the skills and activities they have neglected.
While there is no need to kill the goose (drop an existing Benefactor) or avoid acquiring one, some smart planning is required to make the most of the opportunities, without over-exposing yourself to the risks. These four tips are a good start:
Benefactor Clients are an excellent way to give your business a boost or give it some stability in a rocky period. But, you should always keep your business moving forwards. Don’t let yourself become reliant on your Golden Goose, you just never know when it might be poached by a wily fox or meet some other misfortune.
Look for new opportunities and continue to forge new relationships and connections. Grow your presence and visibility in your industry on your own terms to work towards your business goals.
What are your views on ‘Benefactor Clients’? How do you balance your resources and time between Benefactor Clients and smaller clients? Let me know in the comments.
For many, the warm summer months and long days provide welcome relief after months of damp and gloom. However, for many independent business owners, it can mean weeks of uncertainty, disruption and a slow in momentum. Sound familiar? Then you may have a case of the summer doldrums...
As the summer holiday season approaches, many of us see our businesses grow quieter and our customers, elusive. This may be because they too are struggling to sustain trade in a quiet period. Or, because they are busy covering leave or, are on leave themselves. Whatever the reason, they often turn their focus inwards to keep their own businesses moving.
As you’ve more than likely found, clients are invariably distracted and far less receptive to new business commitments during this period. This for you can mean several weeks treading water in the doldrums with few new business opportunities.
So what can you do?
It is easy to see why some business owners dread summer. But, just as it’s possible to plan a strategy to negotiate the lead up to Christmas, it’s also possible to create one to avoid the summer doldrums and regain some control.
Here are few short-term measures and tactics you can bring into play this year to kick-start your efforts:
Give Your Business A Boost
Use The Opportunity
To steer clear of the summer doldrums next year and beyond, try these longer-term measures. Although they take more time to prepare, they will have a greater strategic impact:
…And remember, you will need cover too! Members of your team will no doubt need a break at some point in the summer. Make sure you have sufficient cover to stop clients slipping through the net and swimming away to your competitors.
Finally, don’t overlook your own downtime. The quieter summer months are an excellent opportunity for you to have a well-earned break. Spend time with family and friends or jet off yourself. Whatever you do, be sure to relax, reflect and recharge …because Christmas is just around the corner!
I’m keen to hear your experiences. Are you affected by a summer slow down? How do you avoid the summer doldrums? Let me know in the comments.
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With so much emphasis in business on building empathy and rapport with prospects and understanding their needs, there’s an embarrassingly obvious part of the selling process that we can easily overlook.
Maybe we’re all just too polite, and fearful of coming across as pushy or salesy, but the maxim holds true: If you don’t ask you don’t get.
If you don’t proactively ask prospects to make a decision or ask clients to upgrade their orders, it’s unlikely that they will spontaneously seek these things out. As a result, your invested time and effort will go to waste, or worse, your competitors may tempt your prospect away.
Why does this modest act make us feel so uncomfortable that we are reluctant to do it?
There's two big barriers I frequently come across:
Remember your clients and prospects already know that you are a commercial entity and require sales to exist! There’s no shame in being upfront about this, and where along the way the key decisions are.
If you want to see your business grow, it is important you get into the habit of asking. Not only is it crucial to the sales process, but it’s also essential for all of your end-to-end marketing activities and any plans to scale up your business:
As a general rule, I bet you can always ask one more time than you think. So, rather than assume a client’s response, ask for one instead. If you don’t, a competitor will.
What's your experience?
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Overchoice: The more choice we have, the harder decisions can be to make. It may feel counter-intuitive, but giving more products, options and add-ons, can actually deter your customers from making a decision.
Too much choice can cause inertia. Overchoice can be paralysing: Customers may avoid or feel less motivated to make decisions or purchases. They can get stuck over-analysing and may not act at all. So, rather than greater choice increasing your sales, you may see it driving them down.
Too much choice can also cause anxiety. When many similar choices are on offer, decision making becomes harder. Each must be carefully weighed against the alternatives. The risk of making a poor decision increases in line with the number of possible outcomes added, and this additional worry is mentally draining for customers. It can result in them deferring, walking away, and feeling unsatisfied and regretful – and this is no way to foster a good working relationship and secure repeat business!
The solution? Be disciplined, simplify, and create a manageable set of choices that are distinct and easily comparable.
Rather than providing an extensive list of options, reduce and categorise them:
Of course, this simplification puts the onus firmly back on to you, to do the decision-making in advance. Do you think you could whittle down your extensive range of options into something that is both attractive and digestible?
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So… how do you get on your client’s or customer’s priority list? How do you earn their time? The answer: Make your business desirable. Make them want to do business with you.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
It's frustrating when you try to sell, follow up a lead or arrange a meeting, and your prospect gives you the brush off. The familiar: ‘I’ll call you next week’; ‘we'll bear you in mind’; ‘drop me an email’, can be discouraging. Don’t be despondent. With a little fine tuning, you can easily make your business more desirable to clients and customers.
How do you ensure you are a priority for your clients?
This is the second part of ‘What If Everything’s Important?’. Make sure you stay on top of future unique updates by joining our Blog Updates emailer here!
“Take 20 minutes a day to manage social media interactions”.
“Spend just 45 minutes a day on client outreach”.
“Check your inbox every half hour for important customer emails ”.
“Invest just 5 minutes a day in a LinkedIn or Facebook update”
“Just 15 minutes each day will help you keep on top of your expenses”.
Yes, these are all good, and important, but... what if... everything's important? How do you chose which important tasks to pursue (and so which to ignore) without losing your entire day to other peoples' priorities?
In reality, you probably struggle to get all your daily tasks done even though they require only small units of your time. And, rather than moving forwards, at the end of the busiest of days it can still feel like your business is treading water.
This is because, time is not the real issue here, it’s priority – and, as a business owner, it generally feels like everything is a priority.
With some frequency, I hear the same problems:
How do you break this cycle? Start with these 4 easy tips:
With so many competing demands for your attention it can sometimes be difficult to see the wood for the trees, and finding the precise recipe that works for you will require a degree of trial and error. But don't be dismayed; this experimentation is a vital part of mobilisation and progress, and is all part of your taking back control.
One more thought: You are, of course, not alone in your need to prioritise. Your prospects and customers are struggling with the same conflicts - opening up a whole new question of how you get yourself onto your prospects’ and customers’ priority lists when they themselves are equally busy and distracted. In my next post I will explore exactly that (make sure you're on the Blog Updates Emailer so you don't miss it!).
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Do you find it difficult to prioritise? What techniques do you use? Let me know in the comments.
Ronseal introduced its infamous ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’ slogan in 1994. Dubbed the anti-line, it was an enormous success, rocketing sales and making Ronseal brand leaders. Such was its power; it even entered the national lexicon and is still popular today – including our nation's our nation's esteemed leaders.
The 90’s may be long gone, but this fuss-free marketing approach seems here to stay as it continues to grow in popularity amongst advertisers, marketers and their audiences.
But, why is this? If marketing is about differentiation, the ‘it is, what it is’ approach should fall flat.
Conventional wisdom suggests that to stand out from your competitors in a market where commodity products are interchangeable, you should add extra value, emphasize an X-factor and sell a lifestyle, not just a product or service. You should talk about how your products make customers feel.
Yet, Ronseal does the opposite and is a success regardless. It focuses almost exclusively on the process (what it does) at the expensive of the outcome (what you get) and neglects the features of benefits that would set it apart from its more upmarket competitors.
So, why does this work?
Ronseal avoids directly differentiating itself from competitors and in doing so, successfully manages to differentiate itself.
While competitors are busy listing all the ways in which their product is better than any other, Ronseal has already won over their market with three words: ‘quick-drying woodstain’. This alternative approach works because:
In short, Ronseal gives its target market exactly what they want –something that does what it says it will do – and that is why their approach is successful.
So, contrary to best practice, success in a competitive marketplace might not necessarily be rooted in giving something extra, but in getting the basics right:
Could your business strategy benefit from a ‘Ronseal’ approach? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
Guest post by Natalia Shoutova, Executive & Corporate Coach at Be Do Have Coaching
“We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle
Self-sabotage does not follow rules of logic. It often passes under our radar – we notice when others put sticks in our wheels, but not when we do it to ourselves.
Self-sabotage is resilient and sticky. Like tax loopholes, when one self-sabotage strategy is closed down, another one will almost immediately take its place. Allowed to take root, self-sabotage will grow into a destructive habit. You intimately know your target (YOU), so you can hit your weakest spots and cause the greatest damage.
Which self-sabotage strategies are you harbouring?
1. Unrealistic expectations
2. Spreading yourself too thinly
3. Indecision and over-analysis
4. Ruminating on past failures
5. Avoiding challenges and waiting for motivation
6. Downgrading your self-development
7. Neglecting relationships
Which self-sabotage strategy will you thwart today?
About Natalia Shoutova: Natalia is an executive and business coach, and founder of Be Do Have Coaching. Natalia and her expert team use coaching, NLP, personality profiling and inspiring team-building events to help businesses and executives achieve their goals. In her spare time, Natalia is around the world sailor, pilot and keen photographer.
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