So you’re going to stop smoking or stop eating Chinese takeaways or stop watching Jeremy Kyle after midnight? Great! But what about your business? Well don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Read on for some terrific New Year’s resolutions that will surely enhance the success of your organisation in 2016:
Resolution 1: Stop Hiding
These days, you need, more than ever, to tell your organisation’s story. The story of who you are; what makes you different; why you do what you do. It creates your organisation’s unique identity in the eyes of its customers. Gone are the days of shifting boxes anonymously in the hope you won’t be undercut. You will be. Your story, brand and identity are key to building a merry band of loyal followers who, like the early adopters of Apple’s latest iPhone, will happily pay a premium for your product and shout your message from the rooftops into the bargain!
We can’t all be quite like Apple, but every business has its own unique story to tell. Yet so many small businesses fail to tell that story. They hide themselves away behind bland, impersonal websites where you can’t even find a business address or the name of ANY person working in the organisation, let alone get a feel for its values and culture. Why? What are the business owners afraid of? Are they ashamed of their own enterprises? This kind of anonymity breeds serious distrust and drives customers to the front door of the competition in prepaid taxis! To quote the website SME Insider, “A faceless company is no longer a high performance business”.
make mistakes, bake cakes, swim lakes and do what it takes
Now I’m sure you’re not afraid to show your face personally and talk about what you do, but what about your company’s web presence and communications? Are your employees hiding behind an anonymous website or impersonal cut-and-paste emails? It really is time to stop hiding and start showing the human side of your organisation in 2016: Get that blog going. Tell people about the production problem you had; the mistake you made; the cakes that Muriel brought into the office; the lake that Neville swam for charity. Let people see that your business is made up of people just like them – people who make mistakes, bake cakes, swim lakes and do what it takes to make people happy.
Another great tip to build trust and loyalty is to tell people WHY you are doing what you are doing. This is your mission statement or purpose or whatever you want to call it. It’s not WHAT you do. It’s WHY. Virgin Atlantic’s “why” is “to embrace the human spirit and let it fly”. Pretty inspirational! But let’s say (like most of us) you do something a little more down-to-earth than transatlantic flights. You make pots. Everyone knows Acme Pots makes pots. But if people can easily understand WHY you bother to do it, you’ve become a little more human, open and loveable. So don’t make your mission statement: “Making the best pots in Shropshire.” That’s WHAT you do, not WHY. Instead, tell them you’re: “Preserving Shropshire’s unique ceramic craft tradition.” So now people know that your company is not just about selling pots for fat wads of cash. It’s also about preserving age-old crafts. That’s the “why”. Quite nice, that. People will buy into that – literally.
Resolution 2: Stop Acting
Well, to be more accurate – stop acting like a PLC if you’re actually an SME. Why would you want to appear THAT BAD? Follow these valuable tips to make the most of your “SME advantage”:
In general PLCs are pretty BAD at CRM (Customer Relationship Management), yet some SMEs emulate them by setting up an inhuman support “ticketing” system or a web of automated phone menus or a stack of cut-and-paste, jargon-filled, corporate-speak email templates until one day they realise that they really are serving their customers as badly as the biggest, baddest PLC!
I am sure this is not you. I am sure you want to do better when it comes to customer relationships, and one way in which you can beat the big boys is simply by getting personal. It’s EASIER for you. You have fewer customers to know. You share the same local knowledge with your customer base. So why not mine your customer data – and if you have no CRM data to mine, then 2016 is the time to get a CRM database and start collecting data. It’s like gold dust, that CRM data. Every SME needs it. You need to know who buys what; how old they are; where they live; how much they spend each year; what turns them on – and off. Then, you can keep in touch with relevant, customised offers that you know will be genuinely appreciated. Send birthday wishes. Say thanks. Make them feel wanted. Make it personal. You want them to LIKE you. It all builds trust and longer-term repeat business, which, as you probably know, is a lot less expensive to obtain than new business.
full of sliminess
Business strategy is another area where you don’t want to act like a PLC. You see, big organisations are like oil tankers. It’s not just that they’re full of sliminess and leave a trail of pollution wherever they go. It’s also that they take AGES to change tack. MegaBloat Corporation needs to launch a new service? Time for consultations, project teams and endless meetings. You too can act like a PLC if you WANT to. Get yourself a complicated project plan with task dependencies and critical paths and “what-if” scenarios. OK so you lost the essence of what you were trying to achieve, but full marks for the lovely PowerPoint presentation and enough meeting notes to fill a confidential waste wheelbarrow!
It’s not the best way as I am sure you realise. Why would you act like a PLC and handicap yourself with all that time-wasting administrative junk if you really don’t need it at your level? Far better to keep it as simple and lean as you can. Just say “let’s do it” and you’ll have your brand new service generating hard cash in the real world before the big boys have pressed the button on the coffee machine on the way to that first project meeting.
Resolution 3: Stop Shouting
We all need to stop shouting “come and get your taters ‘ere”. This is not Dickensian Britain and as you have probably realised if you’ve spent any money on old-style advertising recently, it’s extraordinarily inefficient (and costly) to broadcast your message to the world in the hope that some of the seeds you are scattering will eventually bear fruit. We’ve been bombarded with so much of this kind of marketing over the years that nowadays, with multiple media streams and digital TV channels, nobody’s listening any more.
Nobody has TIME to listen to all that background noise in the hope that some of it will one day be relevant to them. So if you’re still doing it, now is the time to stop shouting into the wind. There is a better way:
people who will wave and run towards you
2016 is the time to build relationships with customers past, present and future. Use your customer base to form a clear picture of your “tribe”; the people who genuinely benefit from what you can provide; the people who will wave and run towards you when they spot you on the horizon. Then, spend time and money connecting directly and personally with these lovely, valuable, receptive people. Open a two-way dialogue on Twitter or Facebook or face-to-face or wherever. Build trust by communicating humanly and authentically. If they can see that you are genuine in your desire to satisfy their very real needs, they will buy from you without you actually having to sell at all because together you will have achieved that Holy Grail of business transactions: the balanced, two-way, win-win situation.
Resolution 4: Stop Managing
Well, make sure your managers stop managing your PEOPLE anyway. Your people don’t need managing. The stock of paperclips needs managing. The cash flow needs managing. People are totally unmanageable so you might as well forget it.
time to drop all that damaging, big-boss authoritarian control stuff
In this age of increasingly commoditised products and services, an organisation’s people are the one true way of unlocking its very special uniqueness. So what better time to stop trying to shoe-horn our staff into little job-description-constrained boxes. Let’s embrace the unique skills they bring to our organisations; enable them to be autonomous so they can manage THEMSELVES; empower them to bring their full creativity to bear. Let’s support them and train them and lead them by all means, but please, let’s not try to manage them. This is 2016 not 1816 and it really is time to finally drop all that damaging, big-boss authoritarian control stuff, even if you ARE the “big boss” in reality. Your organisation will benefit and so will your people. They will feel in control of their own destinies and they’ll be proud to be part of something really worthwhile. Absence and staff turnover will fall off a cliff. Productivity will soar. Happiness at work will abound and as a result your customers will be falling over each other in the rush to praise your wonderful service. And your bottom line? Suffice to say it will look a lot less… bottomey! What’s not to like?
So if your organisation is hiding, acting, shouting or managing (its people) why not do yourself a favour and consider Always Consult’s 2016 New Year’s resolutions, for the sake of your business and those it serves.
Author: Carol Ewels, Managing Director of Always Consult Ltd.