Don't rely on a single big customer
This is your livelihood. Always allow time to seek new customers. A lot of outside influences can affects working relationships with customers. Even the most fastidious buyer can be affected by illness, or an accident, not to mention a cheaper service winning their custom. Or perhaps their financial situation has taken a turn for the worst. Whatever the reason, relying solely on one or two sources of income could spell trouble. In this situation, get feedback where possible to see if the problem stemmed from the business as a supplier. Sticking to this New Year's resolution means you can let a client go gracefully and without fear of your business failing.
Measure the Effectiveness of All Your Marketing Activity
Advertising you do should be effective. Monitor marketing regularly and determine what is bringing the returns in. Any marketing that is unclear about how much business it brings you should stop and efforts concentrated on those with tangible results. Small business especially can't afford to waste precious resources on methods not bringing home the bacon. Keep informed and focus on positive results.
Follow Up All Direct Mail Activity
No point in having the contact if you don't bother to follow up. If this is an area you aren't skilled in outsource it or employ staff who are. Generally speaking, you can expect a 6% response rate when targeting business and for consumers a 7% conversion rate. This means for every 100 prospects you contact, expect 6-7 to return that contact and buy your products. So that leaves 93-94% to follow up on. A simple call can answer why they never responded. Perhaps the product just doesn't suit them, or maybe they haven't even taken it out of their inbox yet. Your call may prompt then to take a look or ask any questions they may have. It's also valuable information for targeting your market effectively.
* source: Direct Mail Response Rates Survey from the Direct Mail Information Service
, published March 2005.
Talk To Customers
Efforts to find new customers is essential but so is maintaining relations with existing ones. It's no good dropping them like a hot scone once they begin to buy from you. If you do, it won't be long before you lose them. Times change, customer needs change, market trends change, it's up to you to keep up with these adjustments. Talking to customers regularly not only means you keep up with trends, you can create them. Giving customers what they want before they know they want it is a learned skill in a successful business.
Know Your Market
Have the ability to value add to your product and services by networking with other customer needs. For example if you supply copywriting services, having on hand some print companies, web designers, or marketing specialists to recommend can show customers you care by anticipating their needs. The added advantage of helping showcase other business services means you will get back the same considerations from them. Learn what else customers who use your products or services need, and present the whole package for them to make a choice on. If you can find them acomplimentary service or get them a cut on price, everybody will benefit.
Know Your Competition.
What other business are you competing with in your area, or the area of your target market? Learning this can open up a completely new world of lateral thinking. If you are selling Indian food, can you relax if there are no other Indian restaurants for miles? No. Anyone who is supplying food to your target market is in competition with you, and you with them. You job is to convince them they really want Indian food and not the fish and chips, Chinese, or a quick sandwich at home.
Keep an Eye on Costs
Study your costs and try to determine what areas the major cost fall in and what your spending patterns are. Key business objectives should correspond with spending patterns. If you plan to increase direct sales staff, you wouldn't necessarily need to increase the advertising by 50%. Look at main costs and align them with key objectives for the year, then you can look at where to save money.
Keep cash flowing, chase up money owed
Meeting expenses is first priority to remain solvent. Make sure you take adequate measures to get paid on time. Running accounts can be seen as convenient by customers, and can be a potential nightmare for small business. Not getting paid on time may mean you don't get to pay your running costs on time. Be organized and timely with accounts, get accounts to customers as soon as possible after service, and follow up shortly after if payment has not arrived. Have as many payment options available as you can. For instance a customer may be able to pay by credit card over the phone during your follow-up call.
Keep the Dream Alive
Where do you what the business to be in a year's time? Make plans and work towards them using the SMART guide:
pecific- be exact about what you want to achieve. You don't just want to increase sales or increase income, make it specific, 'increase sale by 50%' or 'increase income by 30%'. The a forecast can be made with this in mind.
easurable- be able to measure results so you know when objectives are achieved.
chievable- keep goals possible, don't set yourself up for failure. Break larger tasks into smaller ones and work toward the goal.
ealistic- is your goal possible in the time frame allowed? Ensure you have the resources in place to realistically achieve your goal. If not take measure to have everything you need to succeed.
ime bound- Set a major deadline, with smaller milestones along the way. This will keep you focused on moving forward and keep things on track.