Can Your Business Afford to Stand Still This Year?

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingIf your business is standing still – always doing the same things, the same ways, for the same people – then you could be missing out on new opportunities and new business. Your competitors will be innovating – looking for different ways of making money – which means that you could be losing business to them.

Every year your competition becomes fiercer, more pressure is put on margins and new products or technologies come along and nibble away at your market. This means that just doing what you’ve always done is a recipe for eventual failure. You need to innovate and improve your offer continuously, or someone else will either steal your market or leave you working harder for less money.

So how do you innovate? Where do the new ideas come from?

Steve Jobs from Apple said “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.”

Innovations happen most frequently when you need to solve a problem. You may not know which one thing about your service niggles your customers most, because it might be very small. And yet when you find out what it is, it could open the way making huge improvements. So you need to make a point of asking your clients what it is about your service that they don’t like.

Towards the end of 2011 we decided to run a workshop, to help service based businesses to get more from their marketing. In the run up to the event, I realised that there was only so much help and advice I could give the delegates in one day. This was a problem for me, because I didn’t want my delegates to get all fired up and then not be able to carry on marketing their businesses. After a bit of thinking I came up with the idea of an ongoing mentoring programme, to provide a regular top up of marketing ideas and momentum. And hey presto – a new service was created! The clients who have joined the programme are making great progress already!

Innovative Marketing

You don’t have to restrict innovation to developing new services. You’ll also find a lot of scope for applying new ideas in sales and marketing. I recently started working with a new client because he’d been using the same marketing tactics for the last year. While they used to work, bringing in a steady flow of new clients, over the last six months he’d noticed that flow almost completely dry up and he didn’t know what to do. He wanted some ideas on what could be done differently with his marketing. There are so many marketing channels now available to you that you’re almost spoilt for choice!

Innovative Pricing

You can also be innovative in the way you charge for your service. Experiment with a mix of incentives, or price test your new services, to see what response you get. Don’t think that cheaper is better – some clients won’t take you seriously if they think you’re too cheap; and offering endless discounts can devalue your service and expertise. Look at ways in which you can add value to what you provide, without adding to the cost of delivery.

Can your business afford to stand still this year? What will you do differently this year?

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Use a SWOT analysis to look for new opportunities for your business

Chantal

Every month the team at Appletree gets together to talk about how we’re doing and where we’re going. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas and discuss any issues that have come up. At our last meeting, we did a SWOT analysis on the business. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Strengths are what you’re good at in your businesses, while weaknesses are what you’re not so good at. One of the weaknesses that went onto our flip chart was not knowing our USPs (Unique Selling Points) or what makes us different from our competitors. Until we looked at all the strengths we’d listed! When we read through the list of what we’re good at, we realised that we all knew what our USPs are and can tell anyone who asks.

Opportunities are ideas that you could put into action, to improve your service, provide a new product or break into a new market. Every idea that came up was put onto our flip chart – no matter how outrageous it seemed; and we didn’t worry about how we might achieve any of them. We’ve put the flip chart sheets onto the wall of the office and will come back to them at next month’s meeting, to see which opportunities we’re still excited out. Those are the ones we’ll start looking at more closely, to see if they are achievable, if there is a market or a need for them.

Threats are usually the external factors that might affect your business – they can also be internal. Once we had our list of threats, we went through them one by one, to see what we should do about them. Competitors charging less than us could be a threat, so we’ll be keeping an eye on what they charge and what they offer. We will then make sure that even though our prices are higher (because we don’t compete on price) we offer a better service and higher value.

There are two main reasons for carrying out a SWOT analysis on your business. Firstly it’s a great way of bringing your team together, sharing ideas and making everyone feel involved in the future and the direction of your business. Secondly, it’s a great way to generate ideas for that future and direction. I could have come up with a few ideas on my own; between the whole team we came up with lots more ideas, including some I would never have thought of.

When did you last do a SWOT analysis in your business?

And would your business be interested in undergoing one? Call me on 01635 578500 to find out more.