We’ve all experienced it as owner managers and family run businesses.
Slowly then suddenly, that’s how markets change and all too often you find yourself without enough resources, too little time and competitors swooping in and securing the fresh new prospects.
So, what do you do?
Doing nothing and ignoring the change is not an option.
Plotting the survival and growth of your business is your primary responsibility as the business leader and this is one of the contingency or opportunities you need to plan and prepare for.
With more than three decades as a business strategist and performance coach of seeing businesses and their leaders cope with, and prosper from, boom and bust cycles – three things have become very clear to me. The winners are those who have, practice and put into play a three pronged action plan.
Re-allocate Your Resources
Not all customers are equal and require the same level of service or support. Find out what customers value about doing business with you – and in what priority order they would put each thing they value.
When we did this exercise with the What If? Forum group, it transpired that order turn around speed and flexibility over order size where two things certain customers valued most about doing business with a member’s company.
To overcome the strain these particular competitive advantages were putting on the business and to free up capacity, the Sales director followed the example of many on-line retailers and offered customers differential pricing for speed of order turn round while others were given options over order size flexibility. Giving customers the freedom to choose freed up capacity and enabled them to take on other highly profitable work.
Speed Up Your Communications
Smart phones, tablets and social media enable you to be in touch with and engage with customers and prospects almost instantly. Do your sales and customer service people know what mobile applications your customers and prospects use? They may have e-mail addresses but do they have Twitter handles, Facebook addresses and Linked In details. Do you have #tags, groups and blogs set up on social media sites so you can reach out to your customers, prospects and your own sales people at the click of a button?
Previously a What If? Forum member in the construction industry was very dismissive of social media; he is now a total convert after his builder customers told him they all had smart phones and were using them for everything but making phone calls. Video blogging is his next challenge and he has discovered several customers who are willing to help him get up to speed.
Reassure the Fearful
No one likes change – especially when it’s significant and, unlike you, not everyone sees opportunity in change. Many customers and suppliers dislike uncertainty which creates even bigger opportunities if you harness them effectively.
Maximise social media, traditional PR and digital media to communicate to the marketplace how you are ready and prepared to provide whatever help or service they need. Explain how your track record, experience and capabilities can meet their every need.
Set up and promote a special landing page on your web site with the answers to questions that potential customers who may find themselves without a supplier would ask.
How you answer that first enquiry is critical; too eager and ‘salesy’ and you may frighten them off. Too slow and laid back may also cause them to think again. You need the right balance of empathy and interest. Asking the right questions, listening properly and checking your understanding of what the enquirer needs and what they want – is crucial.
To get this spot on, you could also ask your sales and customer service people to prepare and practice a lost customer phone script as an exercise at your next sales and or customer service meeting.
What tips do you have to share with us on how to take advantage of market changes? For more on how I can help you to harness your competitive advantage and boost your effectiveness and profitability, e-mail me via firstname.lastname@example.org, go to @RichardWhatIf on Twitter, Richard Bosworth on LinkedIn or post on www.whatifforums.com.