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20 April  2008 ~

Working with your customers I recently did a webinar with a business partner, entitled “Five Steps to Accelerate Growth”.  For us, the genesis of this presentation started with a question… What if There Were Five Actionable Steps That Consistently Identified Six-Figure Profit Opportunities for Your Firm… To begin to answer that question, we worked with a premise that I previously shared in another blog post, specifically that Business growth, be it for the Candy Store or the Consultant or the large Corporation, will generally follow a similar path.  The “secret” is…

…if it really is a secret, is to understand the components of growth, make time to address them and then put them into practice.  Three simple steps all companies must follow – Call it the Ready – Aim – Fire sequence.  Three parts… 1) Understand the components for growth, 2) Make time to address them and 3) Execute upon these findings!!
So let’s jump into the very first critical component of growth and that is to know and understand your customer!  I cannot stress that phrase enough, if you don’t know your customer, I will guarantee your competition will.

Question #1
The most basic question, any enterprise needs to ask and answer is – who is your target customer? You should be able to address that question in as much detail as possible. For instance, you should know:
Demographic information
Income & Education
Marital Status
What they tend to read
Where they tend to spend their time online
What are their collective goals

It is up to you to find your customers where they “prefer” to be found and then persuade them of the value your products/services offer. If you can’t address the details of who your target customer is, then to put it bluntly, you don’t really have a business model. 
Question #2
The natural follow up to question #1 is, what are you selling them?

This is important because it identifies your selling opportunities.  For instance, recently I was talking with an entrepreneur and upon discussing this issue, he mentioned that he was selling “a short 2 month service with no additional add-on services to offer”.  Thus he had a series of 1-shot customers, which in turn forced him to be constantly in the “marketing mode” and never really having time to be in the “customer mode”.  Upon answering this question, he clearly saw his dilemma and his takeaway was to restructure his offerings – extend the life on them and create related service opportunities to “up- sell” into his existing customer base – after all, the selling cycle is significantly shorter when selling to existing customers as opposed to prospecting for new ones.

Question #3
The next question, you need to ask is why do your customers buy from you? This is very important to understand and goes right to the heart of how much you really know about your customer base – for instance, do they do business with you because of convenience, price, reputation, unique skills… I think you know what I’m getting at.  Based on the answer to this, you can better position the products and services that you are selling to make them more attractive to your target customer

Question #4
Another subtle concept to address is, where do your customers purchase your products?  For instance, do your customers purchase your products through another supplier, another partner, online, in person, over the phone, by mail, over cocktails, etc.

Understanding this, along with the previous couple of points, will help you fine tune your selling cycle and enhance your customer’s value they receive from you.

Question #5
What do you do to keep your customers happy?
The best way to answer this is to ask a couple of additional questions – starting with, how often do you perform a customer satisfaction survey? Next, do you offer them; superior customer service, bulk discounts, special pricing, tickets to special events or do you even know if they are happy?  As most of you already know, we are in a Web 2.0 world and losing a customer is only just a click away.  In addition, your customers now have the power to describe your services & products online to the rest of the world.  From a positive side, they will tell their friends, who can tell their friends and so on, which will bring you additional customers.  From a negative side, …well, I think you get the point that it is imperative that you keep your customers happy.  

One significant way to keep your customers happy is to communicate with them.  Again in today’s Web 2.0 world, there are a myriad of ways to do this that are extremely easy, low cost or no cost and time effective. 

For instance, you can use:
 U.S. Mail
 Planned Event
                     …to name but a few.

For those of you that have read this far… here is a bonus…

Question #6
Last but not least – let’s quickly focus on Customer Analysis
Think of the old 80/20 rule… 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.  How often do you explore your existing customer base to identify your top 10 highest opportunities for business growth?  Your best customers are often your best opportunities for business growth.   Do you know how to most effectively prioritize your attention on your best customers.  I reviewed this question with a person whose business I’ve come to know pretty well.  The results were astounding!!!  Their top 10 customers provided not 80% but 90% of their revenues.  With that type of analysis, now you can go in and revamp your business model to make sure the focus on your top clients is increased. Work with them to develop the services that they will be buying from you in the future.  They are a top customer for a very strong reason – they are happy with the value you provide them and will be very willing to buy more of it in the future!

I have quite a few more points to make as this as a very rich topic.  Perhaps we will revisit it and add to it in a later post but for now, we’ll end this post with a couple of quick tips…

One – always make sure to ask for Referrals from existing customers/clients.  This is the quickest way to generating new customers.

Second – Please remember the 80/20 rule – identify your top 5 customers in terms of revenue and focus on ways to grow their business

Here’s where you can contribute… please leave a comment on what you’ve experienced and some tips you would offer.

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