Saturday, 30 August 2014

Remember Your Clients - Or They Will Forget About You!

If you don’t ask you don’t get! Just because you're good at what you do, it doesn't mean you'll get referrals for new business. Many business owners know that the best source of referrals is from satisfied clients. They go about doing great work and making their customers happy, then wait for the referrals to come in.

To a degree this works, depending on your business and its reputation in the market. However, this alone does not generate enough new referral work. The problem is that receiving referrals is more important to you than giving referrals is to your past clients. Clients may love working with you, but may be too busy to pass your name along.

Asking for referrals is a good place to start. You might mention it in a phone call or email as a natural part of the work you do together. You can have a form on your website or in paper form that clients fill out when they start work with you. It doesn't matter what you do, just as long as you have integrated it into your business system.

If you don't remember past clients, they certainly won’t remember you. When you stop working with a client, they don't have a reason to think about you anymore. If you want them to remember who you are, keep in touch with them. This is easy to do with ongoing clients. If you work with them every month, they will naturally remember you.

Stay in touch with former clients with regular email marketing, an invitation to an annual client event or perhaps a message through social media. You could consider following them on Twitter as they may follow you back.

The key is to keep in touch with previous clients through scheduled email / marketing. Quarterly or twice yearly contact is often enough, and don’t forget to ask for a referral. Make sure you get the message right rather then being too pushy.  Something along the lines of, “Business is going well. We are always looking for more. If you would like to refer a friend or contact to us we will look after them as well as we looked after you…”

Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments to make us better.

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At APJ Accountancy we aim to provide you with the most relevant information to run your business whether you are a Contractor or Small business.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why Businesses STOP Growing?

To understand why growth slows or stagnates in any business, we first need to look at how a typical business evolves and why the frustration starts to mount as this growth slows. We call this the ‘Growth Roller-Coaster’.
Take a look at the illustration below. 

The starting point is the beginning of a business, usually created by a sole proprietor or a small partnership/directorship. Typically, the owners are very hands-on at this stage with few, if any, staff and modest resources. In the early months and years the business grows very well. 
Customers receive a high degree of director attention with high levels of expertise and customer-care as a result. Costs in the modest operation are relatively low and the business can respond quickly to customer and market needs. 
Word is spread by customers and referrers about the great, cost-effective products or services and new business is easily gained. The business quickly expands to a peak at point A, driven by the personalities and skills of its owners.
In an ideal world, two conditions will now be met. Firstly, the directors will recognise that they have reached the pinnacle for a personality-driven business and secondly, the business and financial performance will be at a level that completely satisfies them. In reality, neither is the case.
What happens in the real world is that the owners continue to drive forward. However, with growth problems materialise…
Staff and resource levels have been increased to serve the growing customer base, increasing costs and tying up director time. The owners themselves come under increasing time pressure, being torn between customer, staff and business needs. Falling service levels and rising costs see the growth constricted and dissatisfaction around the business grows in its place.
Have you ever heard yourself or a colleague say, “This was so much easier in the early days!”
Now the owners find themselves at point C. Right now, you are likely to be at some point between A and C.
Reality has dawned and the business is at a crossroads. 
Do you remain a personality-driven business and attempt to claw your way back to point A by downsizing, culling customers and laying off staff and try and raise point A to a higher point?
Or, do you undertake the investment (mostly in time and effort) required to move forward and become a systems-based business at point C. I guess as you’re taking this course, it’s highly likely this is what you want to achieve.              
Interestingly both types of business can be successful with the right planning and management. But, too many businesses find themselves falling into the trough in between simply because they’ve didn’t consider early enough what their fundamental strategies and goals should be.
Instead emphasis is placed on the process functions of the business like, delivering the product or service and support to customers and essential marketing and management of the business is overlooked. Growth, consequently, is limited.
Let’s look then at the high-level view of your business (which can be any business). As I mentioned earlier, it has three key components…
1. Process
The mechanics by which any business ‘produces’ its saleable products or services.  This is how you generate income.
2. Marketing
The generation of new customers, the retention of existing customers and the maximisation of customer value.  This is how you acquire and retain customers and this course focuses on this particular component.
3. Management
The running of the business – its performance management, strategies and goals as well as the financial management of your business (where we come in!). This is where you generate profit and wealth.
 When a business is growing steadily and reaching the owner-managers’ objectives, the 3 functions work together to create a harmonious cycle (see diagram below) 

In reality, the majority of people in business are taught process skills from school days, through skills training and onwards.
We are taught how to read and write. How to follow instructions and answer questions. How to replicate what we learn. You develop expertise in how to do ‘things’.
In other words, your expertise and skills invariably lie in the PROCESS function. Consequently, with the skills and knowledge loaded towards the Process function, businesses can only grow whilst there is capacity within the Process function to do so.
But without the same relative development in the management and in particular marketing functions either side, growth becomes limited…
The cycle now starts to look very different (see diagram below).
 So the solution is simple…
You need to start putting more effort into the marketing and management functions of the business to realign the balance.
This doesn’t mean you neglect the process function.
It just means you work smarter and allocate your time and effort better to include these two crucial areas of your business.
So, there is little doubt as to why most businesses do not achieve the growth objectives the directors or partners have set  and why now is the time to make the transition from a process-led business to a management- and, in particular, a marketing-led business.
Our goal is for you to have a systems-based business that’s set up to achieve your objectives. In each issue of blog series, we’ll do our best to give you everything you need in order to achieve this goal.  
APJ Accountancy - Together We Will Make It Happen
Phone us on 020 89310165  Now!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Why Are You Making It So Hard?

One of the things we like to explore with clients is an area of their business that rarely gets much attention—but IS ALWAYS CLOSELY SCRUTINISED BY CUSTOMERS — and that’s the buying process. In other words… how can you make it EASIER for customers to buy from you?
In their excellent book “WAYMISH: Why Are You Making It So Hard For Me To Give You My Money?” authors Ray Considine and Ted Cohn identify several areas where businesses actually make it more difficult than easy to deal with them. And like virtually everything else we recommend to clients and other business owners, it’s very easy to put this right.
Now, before we look more closely at this, I strongly advise you to walk through your own buying process.
Doing this will immediately identify ‘sticking points’ in your sales process that you’ve so far probably taken for granted.

So here are the four main elements of WAYMISH that you need to focus on to make doing business as easy as possible for your customers…
W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. #1: Making Customers Wait
Having to wait for service is one of the biggest complaints in any business. It sends a message to customers that their time doesn’t count... and neither do they.
Don’t just think in terms of making people wait for meetings and appointments – this covers a multitude of areas…
  • Answering the phone
  • Answering the office door
  • People in waiting areas
  • Delivery of product
  • Meetings/appointments/estimates/consultations, etc.
  • Management of queues
  • Parking spaces available
  • Engaged tones when ringing into  the office
All these things irritate people, so getting them right will give you a significant edge over your competition. A good example of this is the leading supermarkets, who put on extra cashiers if more than two people are waiting in a queue!
W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. #2: Accessibility
How accessible is the business? That doesn’t necessarily mean your location. Here are the things you need to consider…
· Opening times: It still amazes me that many legal firms close for lunch – stupid. Make it easy for your customers.
Ask them when they would prefer the business to open. Change opening and closing times.
Having opening and closing times to suit customers rather than staff is what you must strive to achieve.
Clearly you don’t want to pander to your customers, but maybe staying open late one evening a week will be a massive hit with existing and new customers?
· Days Of Business: How many days a week is your business open? Even open on Sunday if you have to. Again, the business needs to be open on days your customers are most likely to visit. By the same token, there’s no point in opening on days that customers don’t buy.
· 24/7: Having a website makes the business open 24/7.
· Easy Access To Products/Services: The good retail stores understand this completely. They know that product placement can make huge differences to the sales of certain items.
For example, manufacturers will pay a premium to the top supermarkets for their products to be placed at waist/eye level on certain aisles, because they know product placement can mean the difference between making some sales and making large volumes of sales.
W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. #3: Payment Options
Have as many payment options as possible available to customers.
You really are restricting sales if the business only offers one or two payment options.
Allow customers to pay by cash, cheque, credit cards, bank transfer, online payments, etc.
Then also look closely at structuring payments so customers can spread their payments.  In   the current  economic climate, if you can restructure payment terms so customers pay in instalments, this can have an immediate  effect on your business and, of course, your cash flow.

The point is this—what can you do to make it easier?
Remember, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in—you can use these tactics. It also lends itself to monthly billing. For example, a restaurant can create a ‘Members Club’ whereby customers pay a monthly membership fee that entitles them to dine twice a month. And so on.
I urge you to look carefully at how you can incorporate this into your business. The easier you make it for your customers to buy from you – the more sales you’ll generate!
W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. #4: Making It Difficult To Contact The Business
Since the advent of the internet, this has risen to almost epidemic proportions.
How often do you find a product or service online and, before buying, you want to ask a few questions? Then, to your frustration and later disgust, you can’t find any way to get in contact with the supplier. It’s like they’ve hidden their phone number and they don’t want you to contact them.
This is a prime example of losing huge volumes of sales by not making it easy for people to get in contact with the business. Showcase your phone number and e-mail address on all your marketing pieces.
Don’t make it hard.
Make it unbelievably easy for people to reach the business.
Furthermore, I advise you to scrutinise your signage.
I visit a lot of businesses, especially our clients’ offices, retail outlets and restaurants.
I’ve often noticed, especially when visiting for the first time, how either insufficient signage or none at all makes it frustratingly hard to find them.
You must NEVER take this for granted.  Having clear signage not only makes it easy for people to find you, but also showcases and promotes your business. It’s the cheapest form of advertising and you should make maximum use of it.
I like to term all these elements as your ‘slippery slope’. Once someone is interested in your business and, figuratively speaking, they step onto your slope, you make it so slippery, so easy for them to travel down it, that they can’t get off – until they buy, that is! That’s what W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. is all about.
Now it’s your turn. Look at your own business and apply W.A.Y.M.I.S.H. to it. Do that and you’ll increase your sales significantly (without spending a penny)!  
To learn more about building your business better, Arrange Your FREE No-Obligation Meeting Phone us on 020 89310165