It’s official: We are two months into the new year and one month away from slipping back into old and sometimes unproductive habits. We know what this looks like—we see it all around us. From calorie-conscious shoppers in the grocery store because everyone is dieting for the New Year to overcrowded gyms because all of us are redesigning our bodies. “Give it a month,” said the lady beside me at the gym, “and half of these people will disappear. Then there will be plenty of room. Just wait. You’ll see.”
But is that what we really want in our business? To slip back into old habits? I want better outcomes for myself and my clients. So let’s get fit to achieve our 2011 business goals.
1. Shop and See
Every business sells something to somebody for some reason. You know your product, you know your customer, but do you know their purchasing environment? John Mariotti, consultant and novelist, suggests that we master the art of competitive shopping. It lets you study your product from your (potential) client’s perspective.
In other words, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Go to the stores where they shop and see what sits on the shelf beside your product. Experience it the way your client does. Whether you sell services or products, competitive shopping allows you to hear the background noise that your (potential) customers deal with. Putting yourself in the market and making honest observations can help you (and your team) discover how to cut through the noise and stand out.
2. Call the Accountant
Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, recently provided 5 smart steps for cutting costs and keeping more of what you make. Many small business owners shy away from the financials but in this economy (and for long-term success), pinching pennies is still a savvy move.
Among her tips, Anita suggests that we call the accountant sooner than later. “A good accountant can help shape up your business’s finances all year long.” A good accountant can help you discover room for improvement, including cost-cutting solutions that you can implement now as well as reviewing and fine-tuning your financial systems. Why go through another year with “good enough” accounting and cash management when great is available (and could save you time and money too)?
3. Ask for Referrals
Ivana Taylor, author and CEO of Third Force, a strategy firm for small businesses, suggests 9 tips to get more ideal customers calling you instead of you cold calling them. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Just the solution that we’ve been waiting for.
Well, if we actually intend to move our business forward in–spite of the economy (or whatever we blame our weaknesses on this week), then it requires smart work on our end. And we just may have to do things in ways that we have never done them before.
- It is up to us to PARTNER, to identify our people, the responsive connections in our lives, the ones who take our phone calls, the non-competing members in our industry and connect with them.
- It is up to us to PLAN, to develop an easy strategy for helping others share information about our company and services. This includes describing your company, understanding your ideal customer and giving your people (your referral team) sound bites that make sense. In other words, teach them how to refer you business.
- It is up to us to work the PROCESS, to consistently implement our referral request plan. Taylor suggests that we meet in person, via online software like Skype or GoToMeeting, or by phone. Whatever it takes—just connect.
And when you do it, don’t act like a salesperson; act like a friend in business. See how you can help them (first), but also tell them what you are trying to do and ask for feedback. The connection will make you top of mind.
See, your referral partners meet your ideal customers everyday, but it’s up to you to give your partners what they need in order to say your name, mention your service, and strongly and naturally suggest your products.
Get to It
Implementing business solutions is like working out. You’re not a kid in the gym forced to do mandatory exercise anymore. You’re in charge. You control how often you go, the kind of exercise (run, step, dance—whatever you like) you do, and how intense you make it. And because you control all of that, then you control how quickly success comes and how long it lasts.
Choose (at least) one and get to it. Referral team, here I come.