Here are my 8 simple tips to help you out:
1. Design your ideal customer
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and describe your ideal customer. This will refocus you on what your clients looks like and how you know they are ideal clients when you find them. Questions you may want to ask yourself are: What do my clients look like? What size of company are they? Where are they located? What are they looking for? What issues will they have that I can help them with? What type of relationship are they looking for? What type of language would they understand? I am sure you will start thinking of many more questions as you go through this process.
2. Decide how you are going to find them and reach your customers
Once you have your ideal customer written down think about how you are going to find them. It is much easier to find someone you know you are looking for than just throw the net out into the waters and see what comes back. With your ideal customer in mind you can then research as to where they are hiding. What online directories are out there that you can find for this target group, what networking events might be around that you will find them at? Once you have your target list you need to decide how to contact them. Do you set up an email campaign and send out a nice newsletter? Do you give them a ring and set up a telesales campaign? Whatever it is the key message is the same and that is to be proactive about finding people and not wait for them to find you.
3. Analyse your current client base and get rid of unprofitable ones – or manage them up
You may already have a good client base but is it as profitable as you think? The Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) applies in many aspects of business and you may be able to apply it to your customer base. Does 80% of your business come from 20% of your clients? Do 20% of your clients take up 80% of your time? Figure out who these are and decide what you want to do with them. The top clients need to be looked after – these are the ones where you should be spending a lot of your energy on looking after. For the others you may want to manage them out if they are costing you more than you are making or you need to identify new opportunities to sell to them to manage them up and make them more profitable to you.
4. See problems & complaints as hidden gems
Most of us see problems and complaints as a hassle and a drain on resources. Many companies ask junior members of staff to reply to them or answer them with standard responses and letters (and here's hoping they send the right one!). Nothing infuriates a client more than a standard letter that has been sent out with the wrong details on – it doesn't help the brand when the company is seen not to care. Of course – we can't spend all our time answering complaints but look out for patterns or issues that recur time and time again. Your biggest complainers could be the ones that teach you the most about your product and services. You may be able to resolve the issue with a new process or implement a new product based around the complaints that can make you money.
5. Be aware of chatter going on around you
Do you know what your customers or competitors are saying about you? Have you had the chance to reply to these complaints? Social networking is huge nowadays – recent figures out show that if Facebook was a country it would be the 4th largest country in the world. Think of all these people using it who may be talking about your product or might even be looking for your product or service. Setting up alerts for topics on your brand or on specific words for your industry is now so easy to do and not only gives you some good ideas into what your competitors are doing it will also allow you to react quickly to any issues that come up that can be nipped in the bud and dealt with before your brand his harmed.
6. Empower your teams
Nothing is more important to a company than the people within it. People are the life and soul of the company and are the ones who will come up with the ideas and the processes to put everything in place. Bill Gates is quoted as saying – “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Allow your teams and people around you to have ideas – give them the environment where they can come up with ideas and an atmosphere where they come to you with the solutions and not just the problems. It will take the pressure of you as a manager to keep coming up with solutions and give you more time to run the business and deliver your vision.
7. Introduce systems to help with processes
I am not just talking about IT systems here, although of course they might be a better solution! Putting in any type of system to streamline the business processes will help reduce time and effort which in turn leads to profitability. Don't forget that time is a cost too. Profitability can be measure easily in terms of money in and money out but what we sometimes forget to account for is the time it has taken to deliver. Again, get a pen and a piece of paper and chart down some of your business processes. Look for areas where you have a duplication of effort that can be taken out or that you can put in an automatic trigger to help with events. Then put it into practise. Don't forget about Point 6 on this one! Ask your teams about how their jobs can be made easier. They are the ones that carry it out day in and day out – they might have some great ideas about how to do it easier. It will also then be easier to put into practise if you already have their buy in.
8. Reduce employee time theft
In the rush of the day employees can often let time slip away from them and mistakes can be made. Turning up a few minutes late, coming back from lunch a little bit late and logging off a little bit too early can all add up. A few minutes a day can lead to a number of months in the year and can cost a business a lot of money. Help employees to track their time by giving them guidelines and systems to log in and out. There are many time & attendance systems that can be implemented including a number of web based ones. Employees then know you can monitor their time and are more likely to be prompt in logging in and out and it saves you time and effort by having to stand over them with a watch or go through any disciplinary procedures that are unpleasant for all concerned. It is important to strike a balance between allowing honest workers the flexibility to monitor their time and the business getting its owed hours by the employees.