As most of my clients are in Canterbury, I thought it would be useful to list each problem and give you some strategies for how to go about fixing them.
I have listed the problems in the same order as the survey results. This may not necessarily be the same order for your business, but I know that at least one of these is most likely one of your biggest challenges. The first is...
# 1 - Competitive Pressures
The pressures you are facing from other competitors in your market place. If you are in retail for example, a real competitive pressure is most likely the internet and the growing level of purchases online of similar or even the same products as what you are selling.
Every business needs to at least be aware of what these competitive pressures are for them, and how they are affecting business. I am not saying that you should spend all your time worrying about this, but it is important to pay attention.
A great place to start is by asking yourself these questions:
- How are you rating compared to your competition and how are they affecting your business?
- How are your competition getting customers?
- What am I better at than my competition?
I stand a towering 5 foot 3, so I don't often get called a giant (except maybe by my kids). I used to play rugby in North Canterbury and would always be playing against much bigger and physically stronger players than myself. But I also had strengths - I was a little quicker than the others, I had a lower centre of gravity, and I was fitter, all of which meant I could still compete. For example when tackling players who were on average 1.5 to 2 times my own body weight, by going low around their legs, they could not fend me off, so my success rate in this part of the game was very good. However if I tried going high they would push me off and I would be the one kissing the dirt.
Nice story I hear you say, but how does that relate to me. Well, start by asking what your strengths are - it could be that your business has the best products, superior service, location, best staff, largest product range...
Now start promoting these to your customers, leads and prospects, and you are now standing out from the others. Do this well, and customers who value these strengths you offer will start flocking to your business. Play to your strengths, and make sure your customers know what you are really good at.
Going back to our retail shop, advantages they have over their online competitor could be better back up service, knowledge, expertise, less "risky" to deal with etc. That personal service still has value, and you can guide your customer in making the best choice product for them. Online in most cases cannnot provide this kind of one on one service.
Let's look at the next big problem that many businesses face.
# 2 - Customer Acquisition
Getting (acquiring) new customers. Every business needs a good healthy stream of new customers. You will always be losing some customers no matter how good you are. Sometimes they shift to another town, they are earthquake affected (we all fully appreciate this one), they no longer need your product or service, they are at a different stage of life, or... It is important to have a good robust short and long term marketing plan. Why short and long term? Because you need to be attracting the type of customers that give you a long term future for the business not just a short term boost without repeat sales.
The 50% off ad in the local paper, or Grab One? Sure it will give you a boost for a week - with one-time customers that take the deal and disappear off looking for the next bargain never to be seen again. This is great to help you be busy, but it won't necessarily create you a business. Better to first work out who your best type of customers are, and target them specifically. Grab One or 50% off may still fit, but you are now seeing the bigger picture.
A client of mine is a stock feed supplier. We discovered that a very profitable customer for him was farmers with lots of working dogs. They regularly buy biscuits and other products from him every month without fail. They were easily to find and they were regular steady income. They also had good profits and margins.
So work out the ideal customer groups for your business, and then work on attracting them. Remember we can't be all things to all people, but we can become very good, almost unbeatable, at servicing a certain type of customer.
So we have looked at the first two of five key problems in Canterbury businesses. Look out for the next exciting article and we'll look at the remaining three problems.
In the meantime, think about what edge you have over your competition. And how to attract new long term customers.