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Could you be spinning on the same step this time next year?

I have had the privilege of working with some fantastic companies this year has been one of my most exciting years in business. I want to share some of the insights I gleaned and the most effective assignments we completed to achieve our goals.

It appears that many companies have been thrown out of sync by the dramatically changed economy and most are trying to deal with the new phenomena of  “non-consumption”, where consumers are not buying at all in a particular category, so it is not the competition that is gaining at the company’s expense, everyone is losing.

Spinning on the same step is a phrase that a visionary leader suggested his team were doing by focusing entirely on operations, instead of making the required step change that was needed to catch the next market opportunity to ensure continued profit growth.

The biggest challenge most companies face trying to make a step change, is taking time out to think and discuss the new conditions and then re-focus their vision and strategy. Is this a familiar challenge for you and your team?

Now that the entire environment and market context that you operate in has experienced seismic changes, you and your management team need take a step back from the doing and spend some time thinking.

To do this well you need to gather critical information on the changing market context and the new needs of customers. From here you can decide how best to re-align to deliver to this new customer and move on to a new path for growth. Without information and insight you could continue to work as hard as you can but end up delivering in the wrong area, and thus continue to spiral downwards.

I urge you to set up a series of conversations with your management team to look at your market space, your competitors and your customers needs, in a systematic way. The following is the first assignment for you to consider so that you can set out the context for the business, as it stands today. With this completed, it is easier to make decisions about where the future opportunities may lie.

Assignment 1: Review the current situation.

Market:

What market space are you in, at its broadest level (consider the alternatives the customer has to solve their problem)

How has it changed?

What would the industry experts say is happening in the industry?

Who are the competitors if you look at them from the customer perspective?

Company capability:

What do you want to be famous for?

What are the projects, services or products that your team are most proud of?

How is your product or service different?

Who are your different customer segments? (try to group customers with shared characteristics, all customers are not the same)

What does it take to win in your sector?

How easy is it to copy what you do?

What are the competencies you think you need to develop to be the best?

Customers:

What would your customers say you are famous for?

What benefits do you provide for them? How would they describe the benefits they get from your product or service? What problem do you solve for them?

What do they consider to be really important when they are making a decision to buy?

How do you think you perform on these criteria?

Competitors:

How is your product/service better for them than going to a competitor?

Why should they choose you over your competitor?

 

Tip for the week: Get your managers to complete the questions individually and then come together and record you answers. You get a richer picture as each person brings their own unique perspective. This is first step in gathering the critical information to make more profitable decisions. More next week.

If you need any help or need to clarify anything, come to a breakthrough clinic where we can discuss the best way for you to approach this for your business. Don’t hesitate to drop me an email on cathyb.winston@gmail.com or call me 086-2566116. I will ask you the right questions to provoke new thinking within your company and  I will work relentlessly with the team to find opportunities for the company to grow. I bring momentum, inspiration, concrete solid market information, collaborative fresh thinking and most of all results.

Now it’s time to tell people what you actually do.

“When business is down you paint the shop.”

 

I heard this Albert Reynold’s quote at the Dublin Chamber dinner in the Convention Centre. It really sums up my philosophy for business and gives me the perfect lead in to this week’s blog.

 

Why I love this quote is because it has layers to it. Painting the shop shows a self-belief and a confidence that the business is here to stay. In the painting part itself, everyone is aware that work is being done and the investment is being made so the future is bright. It communicates that the shop is “open for business and is looking for more”

Such a simple task actually communicates a powerful message both internally and externally.

 

Now I know that the purse strings are really tight at the moment and there are some who would believe customers might think it extravagant but you have to push through this and trust that it will have the desired positive effect.

 

This step in the process is all about  communications. It is critical now more than ever, that you spend some money to stay in the ring. You may have adjusted your service to meet needs or streamlined your costs and passed the value onto the customer, but if you do not tell your customers and potential customers then all your work will have been in vain.

Your customers have a job to do staying alive and trying to thrive in their own world, so seeking out information about what you are doing is very low on their agenda. Yet it is imperative for you that you stay on their radar.

How can you do this?

All the previous steps should have crystalised what you stand for, what are the benefits of using your product or service, what you will do for your customer, how you are unique, better or different to your customer and what it is they are looking for from you. It is the combination of all these insights that gets distilled into a single message.

Try not to fall into the trap of just firing out any old message, as it truly is a waste of money. The message you distill must be:

Engaging, relevant, credible and motivating. For example…

 

Come in to Dunnes for value and range in Halloween gear.

It ticks all the boxes, as over time Dunnes have delivered on this reputation every time and people want value for their Halloween gear.

On the other hand, the major banks advertisingsuggests that you should drop in if you need a loan for your business or a mortgage”. This is completely incredible, even though it is something 1000’s of businesses need.

Once you have the message then the next step is to find ways of telling your customers or potential customers. A communications company is invaluable for these last two steps and worth the expense, as it will ensure you spend every penny wisely.

Call me on 086-2566116 or email me on cathyb.winston@gmail.com if you need advice and I will point you in the right direction.

It’s not a walk in the park, reinventing your business, so get help!

Is anyone else exhausted in the relentless pursuit of your goals in this uncertain environment?

I have been talking about the need for relentless pursuit of goals as being critical to survive so it was an indication of how tired I was that I just could not sit down and blog. I have found reinventing myself to suit the changed environment an exhausting process, which has taken the guts of 18 months and I don’t even have a large company to turn around or need to change direction through engaging large teams of people. In the more recent past I have begun to involve other people in the process and it does make a difference.

 

So can you get help? Do you believe your team has something valuable to say about where next?

 

A really important step in the process of reinventing your business is clarifying the direction you should go with your business.

As a business owner or manager it is not possible to manage new developments completely by your self.  Getting commitment and a contribution from your team is absolutely fundamental to success.

The more people you have contributing to the new thinking for the company the more likely you are to have new initiatives and more buy in for them. Moreover your team will have a better sense of where the company is trying to go and as such feel more secure. Changing direction and trying new things is not easy at the best of times and is made all the more difficult if you have to do it on your own or within the small management team that has always had to do it. I think you will be amazed with the energy that is created by involving more of the company in the process.

 

Set up an idea generation session and just watch with surprise what emerges.

 

Run an ideation session and business planning session that can generate new thinking on what the company might do to drive growth. Your own team knows more about your company and what it can a achieve, than any other group, so now may be the time to get some insights from your most valuable resource; your employees.

Group thinking far outperforms individual thinking, so identifying the challenges, the goals, the strengths and areas for improvement of the business with a team from the company is likely to be far more constructive than having the same few heads puzzling over the same old chestnuts.

So why not take action on this one area and call me. I run Leadership and Innovation Workshops for individual companies or come with some of your colleagues to the public events we run on a regular basis. In these sessions I will give you simple tools and techniques that can unlock brilliant thinking in a day.

So try not to put it on the long finger, call me now on 086-2566116 or email me on cathyb.winston@gmail.com. to discuss setting something up.

Meanwhile best of luck with all you are doing to move your business from surviving to thriving.

 

 

 

 

 

How to avoid the graveyard shift.

Focusing only on costs is the fastest way to the bottom

In previous blogs, I outlined the marketing process and formula and believe that it will put your business on an upward curve of turnover and profit again.

So now I am continuing to highlight the steps you could follow and am also making a passionate plea against spending every waking moment focused on costs at the expense of looking at the market and the customer.

 

Move the focus from inward to outward.

Previous steps looked inwards, at what you wanted to be famous for and how you make value visible.

Now you need to look outwards at the customer and the competitive set.

Step 3 asks you to understand two critical elements in the customer mix. There are many others but these two will get you going. The first is to understand how your customers describe the benefits of your service to them. What problem does it solve? And then to get a score for their “level of disappointment” if your product or service was not available tomorrow.

The latter Key Performance Indicator  requires that you have at least 40% of your customers claiming they would be disappointed. Anything below that suggests that you need to look at your offering again and find more benefits.

 

Step 4 requires that you understand the competitive set of businesses that are in your space. Your customer is the judge of who your competitors are, as it is they who part with their money and know the offer and benefit better than you. I can guarantee that there will be competitors in the mix that have not been on your radar to date. This is likely to continue as businesses have to realign themselves to generate new business, and as they do they move into your area. You must at all times be better than your competitor to warrant being paid a better price. To be better you have to know them and what they offer.

Ask your customers 4/5 vital questions and your path will become clearer.

There is a simple survey that I have designed that you can carry out with your customers that will answer these questions and give you the critical insights to drive the business forward again. As most customers have access to on-line, the most cost effective way to complete this is to use one of the survey engines such as Survey Monkey.

 

Call me (086-2566116), drop me a mail (cathyb.winston@gmail.com) or come to one of my breakthrough clinic to discuss this survey and I will walk you through the steps and give you the tools to complete it.

 

 

 

 

Marketing drives growth,but how?

The process I will work through with you is a Market Focused Business Planning blueprint and it is guaranteed to deliver growth.

The critical elements you need to understand are:

1) Changed market conditions.

2) Customers new needs.

3) Competitor’s position and strategy.

4) Your Capability, your service defined, what you want to be famous for.

 

But why do this I hear you ask? Because being market-led is the only way to sustainable success and it is about…

 

Understanding customer needs, in a constantly changing environment, then adapting your company to provide them the goods or services they require, in a way that is different to your competitors, so that you have an edge and can make a profit by not having to compete on price.

 

This is the end game.

 

I will give you the techniques to do sections of this yourselves.Interview skills and a guide to have an open conversation about your clients challenges and needs. Foolproof meeting management techniques so you could host idea generation/discussion sessions around your customers needs and challenges and how you can support them.

The rest of the information and material I gather through discussions and workshops I host with you and your team or partners.

 

Step one involves getting a clear definition of what you want to be famous for and how your customers will benefit from using your service. Then we agree on a service and positioning that you can confidently deliver to a segment of the market.

In Step two, I zone in on the service journey that your customer experiences, as it is vital that we find ways to make your value visible.

We itemise the steps of the journey and agree the “moments of truth” for your clients and how they rate the company. The areas you need to improve on will become clear and you can make this a project internally.

You now have a better grasp on who you are as a company and how this might be translated into a service to benefit your customers. You also know what you can tell customers and potential customers in the knowledge that you can deliver.

 

 

Having looked at this market place for the past 2 years I believe that a considerable amount of businesses are stuck, a little like rabbits in the headlights and not sure which way to turn. The old ways of solving declining turnover and a reduction in customers like this are just not working.

 

Working with so many companies and seeing what works or doesn’t I have a myriad of ideas which I would love to share with you.

 

Over the next few weeks, I will tell you how to gather accurate feedback from your customers and how to do an audit on your competitors. All this information give you a better understanding of your business and the environment you are competing in. Armed with this you will make better decisions for your customers and that my friend, leads to more customers, an increase in turnover and greater profits.

Your action for this week is to call me to discuss the challenges facing your business so I can give a better understanding of how marketing can drive growth for your business.