As a Director of a small business for five years I don’t consider myself an expert in business, however as someone with a technical background and a relative newcomer over the past few years, like many businesses I’ve found many challenges.
Here are a few ideas and things that I have done that have certainly helped me with my business and will hopefully help you too.
1) Customer Relationship Management software (CRM)
CRM is both a bit of a buzzword and potentially a minefield when selecting the right software, that said it’s important!
So many businesses (like ours not so many years ago) don’t have a consolidated database of all of their customers, up-to-date contact details, your customer’s needs and more importantly work you previously did for your customer.
It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The benefits outweigh the cost and effort of setting up such a system, especially as your business grows and you hire staff to work with your existing customers that you know well but your new staff don’t.
2) Regular contact with existing customers
It sounds silly, but so many businesses I work with have no strategy for this. Spending a little planned time to speak to existing customers every three months makes a big difference. This can be either by phone or e-mail.
A Marketing expert will tell you that the easiest sell is existing services to existing customers, and they’re not wrong!
If you need to make regular phone contact but don’t have the time or resources, why not consider outsourcing this.
Companies like Castle10 have proved very effective in providing this service and more to the point proved it can be done no matter how complicated you think your business is.
The single most effective initiative we undertook in 2009 was our e-mail newsletter.
Since starting ours, we have done the same for many of our customers and the results have been equally beneficial.
3) If you dislike writing proposals, there’s probably a reason
If you’re anything like me, you don’t enjoy writing proposals. You know how to help your customer, you know your service is right for them, but it’s not easy getting it into writing.
If you’re good at what you do, you can win business face-to-face, but your proposals let you down, so get help!
This was exactly where we were!
Talking to the experts, for us Castle10 and Bid Navigator, is an enormous help.
Since then, writing proposals is no longer a chore. The difference it has made to our business is phenomenal.
4) Are you a typer or a talker?
Some people find it easy to compile their thoughts in detail in the written word, more often than not verbally.
With our business we’re forever moving from meeting to meeting with little time to write up thoughts, getting everything in writing used to be a lengthy process.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. This was certainly the case for me.
Six months ago I purchased some voice dictation software that enables me to talk directly from my phone headset into an e-mail or Word document.
Today, I would be utterly lost without this software. The difference it has made for me dictating my thoughts or the results of conversations quickly and efficiently is staggering.
For the cost of a couple of hundred pounds the return on investment has been immense.
For advice and equipment speak to Adapt-IT
5) Off-line and online networking; Do you do it?
Many people attend networking events with the sole expectation of turning up a couple of times and winning lots of new business.
This may or may not happen, however the value of meeting like-minded businesses is much more than that.
Meeting a new supplier or company that can add value to your business can be worth so much more than one new customer.
For me, the car mechanic, Plumber, builder, marketing consultant, printer and like-minded friend has added a huge amount to my business.
For example, the car mechanic you trust that will pick your car up, service it, and bring it back to you ready to drive has saved me hours of my own time in sourcing and organising which means more time working on my own business.
Groups such as BNI, the Verulam Business Forum, St Albans Networking Cooperative and The Business Club should not be underestimated.
And if you find it helpful, why not take it online with networking websites for businesses such as Ecademy and LinkedIn, these offer equal if not more value.
These are just a few things I’ve found useful, and hope you do too.
So on that note, I wish you every success in business for 2010, and of course, feel free to drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or need any impartial advice on any of the above.