Unconventional ways to grow your business - Business Works
BW brief

Unconventional ways to grow your business

by Stephen Archer, Director, Spring Partnerships From firing customers, to reducing what you sell – Stephen Archer, Business Analyst and Director of Spring Partnerships looks at unconventional ways to grow your business. Staying ahead of the game can be hard, but these 10 tips will help you outdo your business competitors.

1. Challenge all aspects of your business

If it means a fight on the office floor over assumptions, then have the fight – the words 'that will never work' or, worse still, 'but we have always done it that way' should prompt immediate expulsion of the offender. Ignore all accepted wisdoms and assumptions about your business, the market, competitors and customers. Above all, the way you do things. Winning businesses are flexible, lean, energised, fluid and innovative by nature. Few businesses can claim such accolades. Question, be curious and allow all challenges. Amongst those challenges are secrets to your future growth and success. Take yesterday's business apart and build tomorrow's model.

2. Sell fewer products

Sorry, I thought we were trying to grow the business? Yes, but how many products and services do you offer? How many are profitable? The business world is littered with warehouses full of stock that no one will buy. Ruthlessly narrow your offerings and put your sales and marketing behind those. Growth and a better reputation will follow. Oh, and get rid of more products next year. But I do assume you are adding products too!

3. Talk to every customer you can. But DO NOT talk about your products or services

They may wish to – don't allow it. Sounds like I am being asked to waste the customer's and my time? No, ask them what their challenges are, understand their business much better. When you do you will appreciate the true value of what you can offer them and as a result you will sell them value – not products and services. When you sell value you grow and are differentiated.

4. Dig into service levels of your business and add 25% to the quality and standards given

A bit optimistic? Not at all: add zero cost elements to the service given (see point 3) and, yes, they DO exist. 'Mystery shop' yourself to understand how the customer is treated and how that can be improved. Maximise the team's customer focus – top to bottom of the organisation, inside out. Train everyone in commercial excellence – maximise the sales / quality / profit delivery. Steal ideas from other industries. The world is full of gold nuggets and most are ignored because a silly neuron says that what Starbucks / Mars / Carphone Warehouse do is not relevant. It is. Lift up your eyes and broaden your horizon.

5. Fire some customers

Are you crazy? Look at your bottom 20% of customers - what is it costing to serve them? Are they growing? Some customers cost too much to serve because they don’t buy enough, some cost too much because they are unreasonably demanding. So long as they do not have a real potential to grow beyond today's revenues then get rid of them. But do it nicely. Put the prices up and stiffen terms; they may through this method become profitable. The bottom tier of customers is like the bottom tier of products: The Only way is the Exit

6. Do social media

Unconventional, really? 'Social media is so 2010'. For most it's an uncoordinated and ill-thought-through mess of 'Follow us on Facebook' and 'subscribe to our electrifying Twitter feed'. This new medium is rarely done well, hence its inclusion in this list. Get it right and you will gain market presence and reputation and it does not cost much. Go on, hire an 18 year old and make it work.

7. Get close to your competitors

Dance with the enemy? Remember Sun Tzu, "Know your enemy and know yourself," then: "you need not fear the result of a hundred battles". Also "be close to your friends, but closer to your enemies". You will then observe how you can take a competitive advantage early. You will also see competitors make mistakes and fail – there are as a many lessons in failure as there are in success. Forget satisfaction in others' failure – only learn and act on it.

8. Examine how to retain existing customers better

Look at lapsed customers and how to recover them. There is always a customer churn rate, but don't accept that customers cannot be brought back. They can and the cost of sales to make this happen can be very low. Everyone likes to feel loved – customers too.

9. Create an internal demand for innovation ideas

The restless change early and effectively. There may be failures and failure must be tolerated otherwise no one will be willing to risk trying. Create a culture of pushing each other to perform, evolve and develop. Everyone in a company should see themselves as supplier and customer to others. If done without blame then this is a really healthy dynamic and will create innovation and growth with little effort. Beware people who are comfortable – they are not trying and not trying is not contributing.

10. Give your team the freedom to create a winning culture

To lead is to empower. It's the whole team that will make it happen and the whole team that has insight in their own domains. Let them use that insight and let them create improvements. The journey of 100 miles starts with a small step. If everyone is making that step in unison, then the organisation is moving forward. Only the free culture with supportive leadership will make that happen. It's easy – when you trust others and yourself.

For more information, please visit: www.spring-partnerships.com

Tweet article
BW on TwitterBW RSS feed