What Can We Do to Improve Our Business Practices?
The Evolution Of Business
The progression of business practice and improvement is inevitable with both time and experience. As we live, learn and go through trial and error throughout the years of our business we naturally evolve and adapt to the needs of our customers, technological advances, population shifts and competing businesses. Business strategies, marketing avenues, and target audiences constantly shift over time.
Often times, business owners will experience a recurring 'slow period' or 'downslope' of profit margin. The business owner then goes through a series of adjustments in an effort to recoup, and readjust their business practices to meet the needs of their customers. Followed by an uncertain grey area that places the business owner(s) in an uncomfortable position as they wait to see if the adjustments made have a beneficial outcome or more adjustments must be made to regain their profit margin. The latter of this outcome more often comes to pass, leaving the business owners scratching their heads and perplexed as to what went wrong, or unsure of what to do next.
What if, as a business owner, you could diminish or decrease this time period and avoid reoccurring relapse periods? What if, all you need are the right questions to provide you the answers you need to succeed?
Quarterly Customer Record and Sales Retention
$25,000 Overhead Sales
Business Advancements Can Be Made When You Ask The Right Questions
Life is full of questions. Without questions, we are devoid of answers. This is how we, as a human race, learn. The same can be applied to your business. Curious minds, although understandably can be overwhelming to the receivers of these questions, want to know: How, Who, Why, When, Where, and What for? Using the same principle you can start to break down the missing pieces, and then address them individually.
- How can I provide my customers with the best service, or product?
- How can I convey the right message to my customers?
- Who can benefit most from my business?
- How large is my current customer base?
- What percentage of the population can be a potential customer?
- Where can I reach my customers?
- What effective changes can I make?
After you have analyzed these questions then you can move on to compare your already established business practices.
- Can my service/product be beneficial to more than one target audience?
- Am I advertising in the right places?
- Have I made the right business connections to further my business?
- Does my business have 'out of date' software and equipment?
- Do I have the right employees in place?
- Can I offer a wider variety of service/product to my customers?
- Are my prices competitive with the market?
- Do we follow up with current customers to verify satisfaction and attain customer loyalty?
- Is my current business model and image attractive to the current local population?
Notice that the second set of questions have much to do with you, as the business owner. You might be satisfied, or comfortable with the way you are currently doing business, and feel the reason for the reduction in customer sales or declining profit margin has nothing to do with your current business practices. You might even blame the economy, the weather, or some other reason for the decline in profit.
The reality is that your business is dependent upon a revolving loyal clientele, or depends on gaining the attention of new clientele. What are you doing to keep your current clientele? What are you doing to gain new customers? There is always a need to fill. Whether or not you are fulfilling your customers needs will determine if you can maintain your customer base. Whether or not you can offer more services or products will determine how broad your customer base can be.
How to Gain Customer Loyalty
Having a loyal customer base is a blessing and should be treated as such. Taking care of customer's needs is what keeps having a profitable business is all about. Loyal customers supply repeat business, choose your business over competitors, and will refer their friends or family because you gained their trust.
How do you gain and maintain trust with your customers?
Maintaining loyal customers is much like maintaining a healthy relationship. You need to check in with your customers, be aware of any misgivings or dissatisfaction with services/products, and respond accordingly. Finding out what your customers enjoy or dislike about what you offer them will help to improve your business. If you find that customers are dissatisfied with a service or product you need to try and make it right with that customer. Your customer chose to spend their hard earned money with your business, and if they leave dissatisfied the likelihood of their repeat business is less likely. Having a guarantee policy for your products or services will help restore confidence with your customers.
Do not be afraid of criticism or dissatisfied customers. There will, of course, be those select customers that do not appear to EVER be satisfied with ANY product or service anywhere. These are not the customers you should concern yourself with.
Ways to Receive Feedback and Stay Connected With Customers
- Satisfaction Surveys and Polls
- After service follow up calls
- Coupons for discount services/product packages
- Yelp Reviews
- Social Platform Utilization (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
Businesses who maintain healthy working relationships with their customers, are:
- Clear about what they can offer their customers
- Remain thoughtful of their customer's changing circumstances
- Offer Flexibility with Scheduling
- Address Customer Dissatisfaction Promptly and efficiently
- Remain Professional and Friendly
- Offer Solutions or alternatives
- Maintain a clean & organized establishment (office, shop, store, restaurant)
Identify and Prepare for Reoccurring Business Trends
Reoccurring business trends are referred to as the predictable highs and lows of business productivity. These trends are typically consistent and can be adequately identified and analyzed by reviewing sale graphs from previous years. Sales trends are affected by factors such as:
- Population Shifts
- Business Competitors
- Tax Season
- Holidays/Celebrations/Popular Events
It is important to be familiar and understand which factors are likely to affect your business.
Population shifts will generally affect ALL brick and mortar businesses in the area. You are already aware that an increase of population will offer more business opportunities, and a decrease will limit your business opportunities. Now you need to think about what would cause a population shift, and identify what percentage of each target category of population maintains the highest percentage.
For example: In Monterey Bay, California the three highest population categories are:
- Military Personnel and Families
a) School age children k-12
b) Highschool Students
c) College Students
- Latino Community
Military personnel deploy 'en masse'. There are a higher percentage of single soldiers enlisted and stationed in the Monterey Bay Area than Soldiers with families. The families of soldiers will either stay behind, or choose to stay with extended families during the soldiers deployment.
Now, take a step back and think about the family members that are left behind while their soldier leaves for a long absence of deployment or special training. The remaining family members will often go through periods of loneliness, depression, or even go on a mission of self discovery. The needs of the remaining, military affiliated, population then changes. As a by product of this changing of needs, you will see an increase in certain businesses that offer professional services that deal with depression (Doctor's Appointments, Pharmaceutical Companies, Self-Help Counseling, Self-Help Book Authors), businesses that offer a means of distraction (Zumba Classes, Yoga Classes, Meditation, Art Classes), or travel services.
Restaurants, hotels, and various entertainment businesses can expect to see sales variations that are widely connected to the students and families within the area. Weekends or vacation periods such as spring break, summer break, fall break, and winter break should be considered. During these vacation periods, families and students are more susceptible to spending money on entertainment and eating out.
Popular events in the area such as the At&t Golf Pro Tournament, Car Shows, and Carnival events all bring crowds of families and younger generation consumers. Any business that aims to target families or younger generation consumers have an opportunity to increase their sales potential during these events. Property Managers or home owners could rent out their properties during these times due to the need for additional temporary housing due to overbooking of hotels and motels in the area. Many successful business owners that have multiple properties take advantage of these events and some homes rent for as high as 10,000 or more for a month during these events.
Holidays are about giving gifts, being with family, again...entertainment. Home-made gifts and crafts are really popular around holidays. Theatres, Restaurants, Arcades, Bars, Footwear and Apparel shops all benefit during holiday seasons, because consumers are in a buyers mindset.
The Latino community stays rather consistent in the Monterey Bay area and does not typically have a mass shifting of their primary population. Yet, Holidays, life events, celebrations, deployments, and school breaks will grant a significant increase in sales for businesses that adhere to the Latin culture. Examples of businesses, if flexible with products, services and marketing, are:
- Party and Event Supplies
- Photography Services
- Special Event Dress Shops
- Gifts & Supply Stores
- Latino Markets
- Restaurants that offer Hispanic menu options
- Beauty Supply Stores
Expand Your Target Market
It is always a good idea to consider marketing to more than one target population. This is called: Cross-targeting. The key is to identify the variables, consider current events, and if necessary shift your focus to an alternate target audience that could benefit from products or services you can offer them. When you are informed, and look deeper into the needs of the available consumer then you can make the necessary adjustments within your business ahead of time.
An Example of Cross-Targeting:
If I was a Photographer, or owned a Photography company, it would be crucial for me to have flexibility and be able to offer services to more than one market. If my company only focused on Schools for 'Picture Day', or events like Prom and Winter Ball then our earning potential would be severely limited. I would need to open to marketing for Weddings, Quinceaneras, Company holiday parties, baby showers, and local events. When there is a decrease in need for one service then the focus of the company would need to shift to other services. The beauty of a Photography business is you don't have to be limited because the desire to remember and document celebrations, or life events spans across all target audiences. Not all businesses have the same flexibility as a Photography business, but all business have the potential to increase their flexibility and offer more variety for their customers. How, and where to become flexible will be entirely up to the business owner and the needs of the company.
© 2018 Heather Ann Gomez