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What makes a business survive (it’s not what you think)

by Alison Bradford

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Are you fearful that your business will not survive the current economic climate?

It’s big news right now with lots of big names closing down, how can a really small business survive? At the time of writing this, we’ve had 3 big retailers close down in the UK in the past week. (Jessops, HMV, Blockbuster) It’s easy to generalise and say it’s due to the internet – none of these companies had a strong online presence. But there’s more to it that. There’s a lesson that small businesses should be taking and applying to their business.

When times are tough, and especially if you’re not seeing the customers numbers you want in your business, your instinct can be to cut your prices.

We’re surrounded by this message everywhere from the bigger companies. How many emails do you get a week offering you x% off for a limited time only? Or when you wander down your high street, how many stores have got huge banners in their windows proclaiming 20% off and the like?

It can be tempting to get drawn into this and follow the example set by larger companies and think you need to reduce your prices to get more customers. If you’re thinking about doing this my message is to you is:

Competing on price is highly unlikely to be sustainable in a small business, and it will devalue your product or service.

You will find yourself working harder to make less money – is this what you want?

The secret to survival is all about customer service.

Let’s look at a big retailer that’s currently doing well, John Lewis. When you think about John Lewis, what do you come up with? Words like excellent service, customer focused, friendly service normally come to mind – never ‘cheap’.

Yes, they have a big online presence as well as their retail stores, but it’s what they do with their online buying experience that still encapsulates the John Lewis brand as much as walking into one of their stores.

Think about other companies you’ve done business with that embody great customer service for you – what did they do?

How can you take these learning’s and apply them to your business?

  1. Get really clear on who your customers are. I mean really detailed. Think of them as 1 person, give them a name, understand their problems and what’s important to them. Honestly, taking some time and doing this properly can make a huge difference in getting more customers to your business. (If you want a bit more help with this, email me alison@alisonbradford.com and I’ll send you a template I use with my clients)
  2. Get regular feedback from your existing customers – what do they want? why do they buy from you? what would they like to see improved? Depending on your business and the volume of customers, this may be a few phone calls you can make or a quick survey you can pull together on Survey Monkey or similiar. Just remember the next point when you’re asking for feedback…
  3. Make it easy for your customers. Don’t expect them to do the work. Make it easy for them to see what they can buy from you and how it will help them. Make it easy to buy from you. Make it easy for them to receive what they buy. Make it easy for them to give you feedback.  Make it easy for them to recommend you.

Put your customers at the centre of your business and create your processes around them, and for them, not for you.

Your task now is to review these three areas in your business. What are you already doing and how can you improve it? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

After all, do you want your business to be thought of as ‘cheap’, where you’re working really hard but never making any money? Or do you want your business to be perceived as excellent customer service, where customers buy from you as they feel important and valued? This is where you can stand out and charge the price that you deserve.

If this has been useful to you, you can also get my weekly Rock Your Biz tips, helping Solo Entrepreneurs to be more productive and profitable, here or find out ways to work with me here.

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

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