Twice in recent times I have had clients whose problem was not lack of profitability, okay, that was a problem, but it wasn’t the usual cause I have to deal with. The usual problem I find is that the business is just not making enough profit from the sales they have. And that causes cash flow problems and all the stress lack of cash brings.
No, in both these cases the problem was more basic than that. They just weren’t selling enough. Now they were not quite start-ups, but they hadn’t quite got through the infamous five year stage, you know, the oft-quoted statistic that two-thirds of businesses fail in the first five years.
There was another commonality; both had a good product, but the tools they were using to pitch for sales were virtually non-existent or ineffective.
One things is for sure, if you can’t sell your product or service, you don’t have a business. As the old saying goes “business is what, if you don’t have, you go out of!” Michael Masterson said in Ready, Fire, Aim, your primary concern has to be making sales. Even if you have a good product or service – one that is in demand – you can’t force people to buy from you.
Small-business owners don’t have a whole lot of tools at their disposal to grow sales. They are always short of both time and money. The big boys always have more of both, and they employ more people. But small businesses are more agile. They can move more quickly and they can be much more specific about their target market. They can also develop a closer, more personal relationship with their customers that the big boys can’t match.
So let’s look at two tools my clients can use that will make a difference for them.
You must have a real point of difference with your competitors, something that makes you stand out, something that your likely customers really value. It’s your USP, your Unique Sales Proposition, or Unique Value Proposition. I’ve written about USPs and how to develop them before (Does your message get your prospect’s attention?)
Without that, how do you persuade your prospect to choose a supplier or to change suppliers? Of course, to develop your USP you must know which prospects you are targeting, you must understand them, their wants, needs and desires.
One way to do that is to identify your ideal customer, someone you already have, a highly profitable customer who keeps on returning and refers others to you. Put yourself in their shoes, understand them, because it is more of them that you want.
Only by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – taking the time to figure out not only their wants and needs but also their worries, fears, and hopes – can you highlight the attributes of your product that solves them.
Both my clients, and they are in very different markets, need to do this if they are to build their sales.
That’s the next thing to work out. The answer was once simple. Take out an expensive ad in Yellow Pages. Yes – but I hear you say. I know, your ad is completely fixed for 12 months and as has been commented upon many times, Yellow Pages is no longer people’s first step when looking for a supplier. You wouldn’t want to rely on that for a large chunk of your new business.
No longer are SMEs dependent on a fixed medium like that. It’s an online world, where you can change your pitch whenever you want to, try a second, try a different medium, test what works and what doesn’t.
My clients both have a wide range of options available, and so do you; websites, search engine optimisation (SEO), strategic alliances (with other SMEs), online fora in their market, social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram), review websites and so on.
The one constant is the first; their website. A good website makes you look professional. A architect friend told me he lost a job because he didn’t have a website. The prospective client said, “You don’t have a website. I didn’t think you were professional!”
Both my clients have a website, but there is so much more they can do with them. Neither is effective. Being effective means, “producing or being capable of producing an intended result or having a striking effect.”
A good website, well presented, with persuasive content, adds to your credibility. It should be well designed, that adds to the professional look, and the content, which can be photos, videos and words should present a compelling case. It should also have a Call to Action that leads them to contact you.
That’s where your USP comes in. It should be evident throughout not just on the Home Page, but also in all Landing Pages. It starts the ‘conversion’ process.
And please optimise it for the search engines, which means doing some keyword research, so when the prospect goes searching, he or she will find you.
Having found you, you want the prospect to take action. Both my clients were getting a respectable number of hits, but not getting enquiries or sales. Their content needs attention, giving the visitor compelling reasons to act.
Also see an earlier blog, “Do you chase your customers, or do they chase you?”
To your profitability.
© Copyright 2014 Adam Gordon, The Profits Leak Detective
Some profit losses are pretty obvious - so you fix them.
BUT, what if you don't know profits are leaking, cash out the door?
Possible leaks could be anywhere.
Are there some clues or symptoms that are tell-tales?