I think 2011 will be a real challenge for many companies.
Although the recession is officially over, it is still difficult to get financing and customers in most sectors continue with their belt tightening exercise. With further govenment cuts on their way, anyone who deals with the public sector in particular, will find life increasingly hard. And this is all in a backdrop of increasing inflation.
So what can you do to ensure your business survives, and even flourishes, in this environment.
I think that for anyone who sells their expertise – business coaches, accountants, lawyers, web companies etc. – the key is VALUE. What value do you give your clients? How do they perceive the service you offer?
If you can identify what your clients really value, and ensure you really deliver in these areas, they will love you and tell all their friends. The problem for many of us is to determine what that is. It may often not be what we think is the most important part of our service.
Take an accountant, for example. If you talk to some accountants they believe that their USP is that they do a cracking good job of preparing a set of accounts. If you talk to accountants’ customers they take it as read that they will get a cracking good set of accounts. What adds value to them is having their accountant available to discuss their business issues with (without getting over charged!) and for this key advisor to be interested in them and their business.
It you just offer the service your competitors do why would your customers stay with you? They would be better off going for a cheaper option if the service they will get is the same!
If you really connect with your customers so they see you as an integral part of their team, and recognise the value you bring to their business, why would they go elsewhere? And how do you find out what is really important to your customers? TALK TO THEM!!
I am probably preaching to the converted, but I know that many business owners are not asking their clients exactly what they value. The reasons are complex. We Brits are not very good at talking money, let alone putting ourselves on the line by asking our customers what they think of us. However, the act of doing so shows our customers that we care what they think. That we want to provide the right service for them.
Getting to grips with the value proposition can ensure you don’t have to drop your prices to win work, or retain customers.
One last thing, we all know it is much cheaper to retain a good customer than to win a new one. So I see spending time with my customers to cement the relationship as part of my marketing activity. It’s a win win situation! They get an advisor who is interested in their business, available to discuss their concerns when they need to, and some one they are confident knows them and their business well. I get to better understand my customers businesses so I can give them the best service I can.