Tune up your business

We are used to keeping our car or vehicle engines tuned, we top up the oil, we try not to run out of petrol, we keep them clean, we have our cars serviced — if we don’t the vehicle breaks down, we use more fuel, it is inefficient, it will often let us down, it will not last as long, it will be a waste of money. We need to apply the same thinking to our business. If we don’t tune up our business regularly we will lose money, we will lose staff, we will lose customers and market position, we will encourage our competitors to overtake us — we may even go out of business. During this short series of articles Chris Elphick takes us through a service check for our business.

Today the focus is on sales and markets — selling to new markets

All businesses are selling something – products and/or services. This article focuses on what we are selling, who we are selling it to and how much we are selling it for?

If we are still selling the same thing to the same people as we were say five years ago then perhaps we need to urgently review what markets we might be missing.

What are you selling and why?

It is very easy to get in a rut and get stale and just go on providing what we have always provided.

We need to continually be updating our products and services so they keep meeting the needs of new customers.

Are you investing time and money into researching new products and services?

We need to think about what else we can make and sell — that means we have to go out and talk to our customers to find out what they want and then decide if we can meet those needs. Perhaps our staff have skills that we could use to create new products or services.

Can you add value to what you sell?

We need to consider what we can sell that is in addition to our core products or services. If we run a guest house can we also provide food or meet guests at the airport or provide a free car? If we grow and sell fruit can we also make juice or bottle or can or dry our produce? Most added value activities will cost some money but it may not be a lot — maybe we can collaborate with others to create joint products or services, accountants could team up with lawyers to offer a more complete service.

How do you compare to your competition?

Go out and look at what your competitors are doing. Buy their products and compare them to your own. If necessary, get someone to help you if you find it hard to be objective!

Do you seek and act on feedback from staff, customers and suppliers?

If we do not seek and act on feedback, we do not deserve to be in business! We are in business because of our customers so we must listen to them. If you can go and ask them or email them or run a competition to encourage feedback or hold focus groups. Do anything to find out what they think. Also, what do your staff and suppliers think of your products and services? They will all have opinions – ask them!

Do your products or services stand out in a crowd?

You will sell more if you have a brand that stands out in the crowd and is memorable — if you look the same as everyone around you, you will always be mediocre.

Think about who you are selling to and how you are doing it. Can you try something new? Perhaps there are alternative markets that we have never thought of. We also need to know how much it costs us to sell — how much do we spend on advertising and is it working? The best and cheapest form of advertising is word of mouth — let your customers and your reputation do your selling on your behalf.

If we create raving fans we can reduce or even remove our advertising budget — let other people do it for us!

Finally, when did you last increase your prices? Make sure you provide good value for money and charge properly for it. Review your prices regularly, compare them with your competition and ask your customers — what will they pay? People will pay for great service and a customer focused experience.

The success and health of your business depends on what you sell and who you sell it to. Review your products and services at least annually and seek help — the investment in advice will reap rewards!

Coming next: Part eight of our business service check-list — systems and procedures — keeping fit and lean!

* Chris Elphick is Director of Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Fiji and other Pacific countries. He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises. He works in Fiji as a mentor, coach and trainer. If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on, please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

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