The importance of two little words

Consultants produce a great deal of information for your business.  Indeed that is what you pay them to do.  The role of a marketing consultant is to assess the performance of your marketing strategy.  It is to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats (SWOT) that affect your business and to help you understand your customers.

This information is great and can be really useful but there are two little words that must come into play every time.  If they don’t what is the point?

The two little words are:  SO WHAT?

It is the power of so what that identifies what may be done with the information and help you take the business forward

Are you telling the right stories to the right people?

Examples of what your business can do for a new client are one of the best ways of demonstrating your value, especially if you provide a product or service that cannot be properly trialled before purchase.  The difficulty is ensuring you are telling the right stories to the right people.

How do you ensure you have the right ones?  Customer Segmentation & Understanding.

Once you have identified what customers you have/have had in what sectors you can collate a set of stories that will enable you to tell a better story, with multiple examples, to your future clients.

Segmentation examples will include:

  • by industry sector – I have done similar work with X companies in the same or similar industries to you
  • by service/product offering – I have successfully delivered this service to these companies and achieved these results
  • by geography – I have delivered these services/products to X companies within a X mile radius of you which means I know the area and am local

In summary:

  • understand your customers
  • assemble your stories
  • talk to your prospects

 

Using LinkedIn to spread and gain knowledge

A large percentage of small business owners in the UK know that LinkedIn is a good way of promoting their business and for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.  How many use it to better their business and to help better others?

These are my own opinions on how people use the Answers function within LinkedIn to help themselves and others.

Answers is the LinkedIn function that allows members to ask questions.  The reasons for asking the questions are many and include:

  • Promoting your business through asking questions that they would normally answer for others
  • Asking questions that will get people going to their profile and/or website
  • A method of market research
  • A way of getting advice on how to resolve an actual issue within their business

Other members can then respond to the questions; they do so in order to:

  • Get noticed by others
  • Provide advice to others in a true philanthropic spirit
  • To improve the relationship with their contacts
  • To improve the SEO ranking for either themselves or their business

Givers of answers to my questions seem to come in two camps:

  1. those offering genuine advice that they believe will help.  These have been really useful so thank you to those who have answered in the past.
  2. those wanting to simply appear to show they are taking part.  These are generally very short, or witty, answers that are rarely of use.

I recently asked a question about how a consultant should work around paternity leave.  Answers from both camps arrived.  Examples include:

Genuine: I started a business at the same time as I had my first 2nd child. I could have spent all hours of the day and night working on my business – but as I had kids – it really helped me live a more balanced life and switch off. It’s important to consider priorities and also define success and ensure your actvitivies are alinged to achieve this success. Look on the bright side – you could not have as much flexibility to see your kids when you want to if you did not work for yourself. Consider outsourcing as much as possible to free up more time – especially things that are not core to your expertise

Genuine: Nigel, 
I believe the critical matter is to be able to communicate with your partner, including those times when work, the child and everything feels like it’s too much.

Getting seen: Outsourcing well

All responses are helpful in a way but which would you be more likely to respond to favourably? Personally I see little point in adding an answer unless there is a likelihood of my answer being voted the best one, or at least good.  At the moment 21% of my answers have been marked as good and 3.5% as best, so I know I have to work a little harder.

My conclusion to this is simply a little advice.

  • If you are going to provide answers, please think about the person getting them and whether you will be genuinely useful.
  • Answer questions in the categories where you can add most value
  • Read other answers first.  There is little point in providing exactly the same information unless you are building on what has been put.

 

Understanding your customers

There are any number of phrases around the importance of your customers:

  • It costs 10x more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one
  • a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • A happy customer talks to two people; an unhappy one talks to everybody

 
These are just some that relate and I am sure you can suggest many more (answers on a postcard please) and they are all so true.

Customer Understanding is a “measure” function that should be undertaken periodically.  The first time gives you a base, from which to start.  The 2nd, 3rd and ongoing measures provide you with a performance review and a good picture of what sort of service you are delivering.

Let’s start at the beginning (more to follow):

How many customers do you have?

Has your customer count increased or decreased compared to last year and the year before?  The last couple of years have been difficult for a great many businesses and so it is expected that customer numbers will have dropped.  Many companies have been extremely happy to see their customer numbers simply remain stable; a great many have also seem them tumble and are struggling.

Within your customer count, has the average spend increased or decreased? A decreased spend is usually bad news but it will depend on what they are buying and, more importantly, how profitable those products or services are.

How profitable are your individual clients?  Do your clients follow the Pareto’s 80:20 rule?  Do you have 20% of your clients that generate 80% of your profit?  If this is the case, what individual contributions to the 80%, that make up 20% of your profits, actually contribute? If there are clients who are costing you money, why haven’t you dumped them? I am sure you can think of better ways to use the money they are costing you.

None of this is that difficult to measure, if your finance people have a good understanding of the costs within your business.  The first time may take a bit of time to calculate the results but, I promise you, it will get easier.

Why do this?  Simple: because companies that end up relying on a small number of customers for a large part of their profits run a real risk of the business failing.

New company, mature skills

SME Needs is a new business but is based on many years of working with, and helping, small businesses to resolve issues.

The role of SME Needs is to help small businesses resolve issues, whatever they may be. I don’t claim to be an expert on every aspect of operating a small business; that would be silly or really big-headed!

What I can do, in order to help my clients, is make use of the skills my network has. I believe in having a deep, rather than wide, network. This means they are people I have known for a period of time, I have a good knowledge of their work or I have personally used their services. This means I am happy to put my reputation on the line by introducing people from within my network to help my clients.

An example would be James Potter. I have known him for a number of years and he has helped me improve my LinkedIn skills dramatically. If you want to improve your LinkedIn skills, he is the first person I would recommend.

Another would be Daren Bach if you wanted to improve your SEO performance.  He helped my previous company get to No.3 on the first page of Google and stay there.

I have lots of other people I can call on to help you so get in touch and I will see who I can introduce you to