Top 5 Ways to Grow Your Business without More Marketing
Growing a business can be accomplished in many different ways, but they are all about the bottom line: profit.
It’s important to learn to think in terms of ROI (return on investment) when thinking about growth, and not just growing numbers.
Most advice about growing your business focuses on marketing, but this isn’t always the highest leverage area to look for growth. In this article I’ll look at 5 ways to grow your business that don’t involve marketing, but can produce very powerful results and, if done correctly, will also greatly enhance your marketing efforts.
1. Uncover your Blind Spots
I was watching a business show about a company that had been hit hard by the recession. The host of the show, a business consultant could see the problem immediately: while their business declined they hadn’t gone out and tried to get any new clients. The company was used to being fully booked and didn’t even have a sales or marketing department!
They believed that clients weren’t calling because of the recession, and couldn’t see any other solution but to wait for the economy to turn around.
Their business had a huge blind spot.
It seems laughable but unfortunately this type of circumstance is very common with small businesses. Because they are small they don’t have a lot of new employees coming and going, they get stuck in ruts of how to do things.
Action item: hire a consultant, or find a friend who is experienced in business and get them to have a look at your business to provide an objective point of view… I bet you’ll be amazed at what seems obvious to them, that you hadn’t thought of.
2. Streamline – Eliminate Repetitive Tasks
This is a huge one. Most business owners know there is a big opportunity here, but don’t devote any resources to it. Again it comes down to ROI, and I’ll bet you’d be amazed that the ROI on streamlining and efficiency is much higher than you realized.
So many things can be automated that can save time over the long run.
Are you tracking questions the are being asked over and over by your customers and putting them on you voicemail and FAQ section of your website?
Let’s explore the ROI of this one example. If you spend 5 minutes a day answering the same simple questions about your product. Take 1 hour to put the solution on your voicemail and website. Let’s say this eliminates half of the questions, so that you have saved over 9 hours a year (220 business days * 2.5 minutes). That’s a 1000% return on your hour invested. Now factor in if you will take those 9 hours and work on another growth activity and the ROI gets exponential.
I’m still constantly amazed at how many times I have to call a retail outlet and talk to a real person, after checking their website, to find out their hours (especially around holidays). A waste of my time as a customer and their time as a business.
Action item: take 10 minutes to sit down and write a list of 10 ways to streamline or make more efficient some small aspects of your business. Then schedule time to solve one a week – you’ll think you don’t have the time, but remember the 1000% ROI!
Get in the habit of noticing these opportunities and make solving them a regular part of your schedule.
3. Gold Mining in your Sales Numbers
Many companies spend a great deal of time and effort attracting new customers, but the fact is that it is MUCH easier to get an existing customer to spend a bit more than to overcome all the barriers to create a new customer.
Spend some time to investigate the industry average spend per client for your industry. How do your numbers compare? This will give you an good idea of how much room there is for improvement.
The upsells and add-on sales that are attached to your core business are often the difference between being wildly profitable and just getting by in a business.
The key to getting these sales is to first design them into your business. Think of a gas station; when I was a kid all they sold was gas and oil, now they are full grocery stores. This is all a strategy to increase the average spend per customer visit. The second step is to train your staff to make them aware of the importance of these add-on sales.
A lot of staff who are not salespeople have a negative view of selling. They need to be trained to understand that clients like to be sold (educated) about other products. Of course a good sales person is never pushy.
Action item: find out your average spend per customer; compare it to the average for your business / industry. Then brainstorm and implement a system to increase this number. There are some great tools that you can use to track average customer spend and your progress in creating growth in this area.
Resource: this is an average spend analysis report for a salon business that was purchased on Google Answers for $75. A very valuable amount of information for a very reasonable price.
4. Is your Janitor Selling?
Continuing on our point above about average customer spend by creating new revenue sources to increase average customer spend, is to increase average customer spend by better sales process.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure that every point of contact with a customer is a sales opportunity.
It is important to realize that this is a delicate art. When implemented with a heavy hand (like my credit card company that insisted on hard pitching me 3 new monthly insurance offers when I am calling to activate my new card) you can turn away your existing customers.
However, when support staff and service providers are properly trained to match existing an customer’s needs to your products (and empowered to make adjustments and fine tune offers so the client’s needs are really taken care of) sales magic can happen.
Also, don’t overlook the obvious. When I was a waiter working my way through university I won the dessert and add-on sales competition every month. At a certain point I just decided that my best strategy was simply to assume that everyone really did want to buy an appetizer/salad or dessert with every meal, so I asked, in a polite and friendly and fun way, EVERY single person at every table I served, if they want appetizers and desserts.
The results were staggering. I would double the add-ons sales of the other waiters. No magic, no flowery description of ingredients, just a straight forward suggestion to every person I came in contact with.
Action item: begin asking for more sales. Be in tune to your clients’ wants and needs and connect them to your products. Study a “perfect” client interaction for clues for how every customer interaction could go.
Sales tip: great salespeople ask questions and really listen to the customer’s answers. Only then to they suggest a solution. If the company they work for doesn’t offer a solution to a problem that they see repeatedly, then they make sure management creates a solution.
5. Play Time = Profit Time
This may seem C-R-A-Z-Y, but hear me out. Did you know that engineers at Google are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want?
That’s one full day a week with no deadline, no project manager, no “bottom line”, just pure fun and creativity. Can you imagine? As a small business owner it almost makes my stomach flip to consider giving that freedom to myself, never mind my employees.
Here’s the kicker though: many of Google’s greatest, and most profitable, innovations of come from these fun days. How about: Gmail, Google News, Google Finance? Yes, all started as fun projects by employees using their 20% time.
Action Item: block off some time each week (if you can’t do 20%, then try a couple hours) to do something purely for fun. It should be related to your interests, not your business needs. And if possible set aside any possible focus on results… the measure of success here is how much fun you had, not the bottom line.
If you have employees, roll this fun time out to them as well… deep breath! Hey, it works for Google, and last time I checked they were doing pretty well.
During the rest of the week, with your business owner’s cap back on, of course it is okay to monitor these project for potentially profitable synergies for your business.
Bonus Strategy – Save your Money!
It is amazing how many small businesses don’t take advantage of the Internet to lower their costs. Especially smaller local businesses can get set in their ways and never consider other options for purchasing supplies and raw materials.
Business checks and banking supplies are a perfect example, I actually started this site when I realized that the checks my bank was charging me over $1/each for, well sure enough I could be order business checks online for less than half that price.
There are many, many items that can be sourced online for a fraction of the cost. Office supplies, furnishings, uniforms and even many services. Every time you buy something, get in the habit of questioning the whether or not you are getting the best price from your current supplier.
[photo credit: thanks to bamyers4az from Flickr for the great shot of a goose playing hide and seek.]