Dear M & M: It seems to be a struggle every day. Competition has increased I am not getting new customers. What should I do? –Donald
In today’s economic environment businesses cannot just turn on the lights, open the doors and expect customers to flock in. There are many things one needs to consider. Circumstances must be assessed; new strategies must be framed, locating the appropriate resources, and implementing one’s plan are all part of surviving in today’s marketplace. Here are a few questions one should answer about their business;
1). Do you have a business plan that has been updated in the last 6 months?
2). Have you updated your marketing plan and budget or do you even have a marketing plan?
3). Do you know your strengths and weaknesses of your key competitors and have you adjusted your business strategies accordingly?
4). Do you have a process to measure customer satisfaction?
5). Have you considered possible strategic alliances, merger opportunities, or acquisition of competitors or their product lines?
6). Do you have an established process to monitor and control inventory?
7). Have you identified your greatest potential threats to your business?
8). Do you prepare and monitor monthly financial statements (cash flow, income statements, balance sheet, and aging of receivables)? Most importantly do you know the answer to these questions? Why will consumers do business with me?
What is it that I am offering that makes me stand out from competition? Why will they come to me to buy my products and services? Who are my customers? How do they receive information? What am I doing to deliver my message to get customers to do business with me? Finally, are they ready, willing, and able to make the purchase from me? It is time to step back look and your business.
What does the customer see? Start with the parking lot. Is it clean? Is it easy to get in and out? Are signs visible, well lit and easy recognizable? This is common sense stuff. Is the door clean or does it have finger prints, old outdated flyers, tape or unwanted clutter? I have walked into stores and seen mop buckets, boxes of supplies and junk lying all over the place.
To include, yesterdays, lunch half eaten on a counter. One of the most important things a small business can do giving it a major competitive advantage over the competition is to pay attention to your customers’ needs and give them what they want. You will find them looking for service and being treated kindly will get them and their friends back in your store every time. We can’t just show up and hope people will come in. We have to do some planning. Once again, stand back; look at your business in the eyes of your customer. Remember, the only store or person you have to be better than is the one you were yesterday. It takes effort and thought.