Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Business development: simple principles

(My notes from busy mums networking meeting)

You have your good idea, you’re set to go or maybe you’ve been doing what you do a while.... identifying ‘business drivers’ is essential and we need to constantly keep them in mind. It is very easy to spend too much time working in a business, rather than spending time working on it.

What are Business drivers?

All businesses must consider the things which can grow the business, these are called the drivers. These remain the same whether it’s a florist shop, Internet clothing store, Security Company or a bar. These are: 
  • How do we get customers/more customers?
  • How do we get them to spend more?
  • How can we get them to return/buy again?          

Getting Customers

Firstly, who is your typical customer? Which sector are you hoping to attract? Decide who you are appealing to, as your advertising and marketing will be different depending on the type of people you want to attract. For my franchises I want women who have decided they don’t want to go back to work in the industry or sector they were in previously. They are probably not looking for a franchise just an opportunity to get a work/life balance, keep their brain active, do something worthwhile and still be able to collect at 3.30pm. Therefore, doing the franchise shows probably isn’t wise but features in Parenting Magazines etc would be. Facebook is the best for us actually! For my speech therapy side, I spent hours sending fliers to GPs and Health Visitors as they’re the biggest referrers of children to speech therapy but I didn’t think it through properly.... my customers are the parents as they’re paying. An advert in the Primary Times which is aimed at parents did much more.

Attracting more customers:

Getting new customers is the most expensive way of increasing revenue because for every new customer you will have had to make calls, advertise, distribute fliers etc. It is obviously essential to the business but is only part of the plan.

Getting the existing customers to spend more is a great way of increasing income

The art of ‘up-selling’. Giving them reason to spend more. Think of the cinema.... how much do you spend on the ticket vs. the pop corn and although you might decide against spending an exorbitant amount on a drink in the foyer, one of the first adverts is the very cold gin perfectly designed to make you thirsty so you have to go back and get a drink. The warranties on electrical products are part of this too. What can you add that they just need to have? Sweets by the checkout were part of this until the healthy eating plans but I note that M&S have special offers at their checkouts that are very hard to resist and the staff are trained to ask if you’d like to add the temptingly delicious chocolate cookies to the basket! They ask so nicely, it would be almost rude not to.
We use promotional merchandise such as Smart Talkers t-shirts, mugs, pencils, bags. Once one child has a t-shirt the others then follow. We have regular campaigns such as design a mug, design a T-shirt slogan etc. so that they feel they’re having a say in new ones. We are doing our own CD’s so that they can be sold to customers.

How can we get them to return/keep buying?

The experts in this field are the supermarkets, think how they make you go back there e.g. loyalty cards, BOGOF offers, vouchers, points, customer databases which can be used for marketing or contacting later. Studies have shown that the biggest reason for not going back is a lack of feeling important or ‘perceived indifference’. This is the biggest factor to get right but also one of the hardest. If people feel their custom is important to you, they are more likely to return. It’s got to look genuine though, I hate the tag on call-waiting messages, ‘Your call is important to us’. If it was, they’d have answered it!! One of the biggest problems is the first point if contact. It won’t matter how good your product, follow-up service or how you are with the customer if the receptionist answers in manner that might suggest she can’t be bothered or the girl on the till doesn’t make eye-contact or speak.
Staff training is essential. Everyone needs to be aware of what is expected and why. When we had a bar, I showed the staff how they could increase tips by making eye-contact and smiling, also if it was really crowded some people might not want to wait but if the bar maid has made eye-contact and smiled they are unlikely to leave. They didn’t believe me initially but the practise proved it.
Use this knowledge about the customer’s attitude to your advantage e.g. we make a note of birthdays so you can send out birthday cards or let them know about special offers they might find useful.
Customer feedback is a good idea so that they feel valued; add a prize draw and you’re building a great database too!

 Plus your USP: Unique selling point(s)

What makes you unique? That’s such an important concept. What are you doing that’s different or so much better than anyone else? Smart Talkers Pre-school groups are different because we’re concentrating on communication, whatever the group from Baby Talkers to Smart Signing, Tiny Talkers to Small Talkers. However, we need to make sure that we’re maintaining this USP at all times. Think what you could do to make your idea unique to your area.  

These are just a start but are important to bear in mind as you progress and refine. Good luck!

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