‘Marketing Strategy’ Category

10 Steps in Buying a Business – Part 1

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Thinking of buying a business? Then you have come to the right place.

There is probably no situation more pregnant with opportunity – or risk and loss – than buying a business. You can lose by buying “the wrong business” or even buying the right business at the wrong price.

So, if you are thinking of buying a business, here are some key steps you can take to accurately quantify their potential for risk and reward in your hands:
1. Are you looking at businesses in a market in which you already have domain or commercial experience, or will you be an amateur in a market new to you? If the latter, you will need to ensure that:
a. The business comes with a stable, moral key team whom you can grow to like and who can grow to like you as their new owner; or
b. You have access to expert advisors/consultants/coaches who have experience in your new industry and market along with a track record of assisting their clients to succeed.

2. Market Research. The time to do this is before you become a member of a new market by buying a business. If you have a business in mind, compare them and their competition and see how they stack up from the customer-experience point of view. Include such interesting information as market share; relative pricing; quality of service; marketing clout. Tapping into reps from one or two key industry suppliers and asking them for their ideas on the relative ranking of the key players can provide useful insight.

3. Value. Warren Buffet’s rule for buying businesses (besides a track record of strong cash flow, excellent management and a good market relevance) is that they be priced at least 20% below their market value. It means 20% below what you think – and have calculated – they are worth, it does not mean 20% below what other people thing they are worth.

Stay tuned, we are just getting started. We will cover more steps you need to take to assure you are on track.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Customer Satisfaction – Tips to Turn Unhappy to Loyal Customers

Monday, June 9th, 2014

The unhappy customer. We’ve all had them. Believe it or not, an unhappy customer gives you the opportunity to regain their trust and even turn them into one of your most loyal.

Customers understand, and sometimes may even expect problems to occur. The critical thing is to handle it well.   Customers are much more likely to work with you through the resolution process if you handle the mistake recovery process properly and work in their best interest.

When that next unhappy customer storms into your office or calls you on the phone, stay calm and follow these simple steps.

1)   Apologize Immediately
Even if you aren’t at fault, the apology is crucial. Everyone who has ever felt wronged really wants to hear a genuine apology.  When you or someone in your company has made a mistake, it goes without saying that you need to accept responsibility and apologize. In the case when it is not your fault, or even the customer’s fault, and they’ve contacted you to vent or to resolve the issue, here is a suggested wording…

“Mr. Jones, I’m so sorry that this situation is happening.”

Notice that you are not saying that the situation is out of your control, or placing blame wherever may be appropriate.  You are expressing true apologies for the situation and that is exactly what the customer needs to hear.

2)  Use Empathy
Empathy is the golden piece of this equation. The customer appreciates the apology, but they really want to know that you feel their pain.  Keep in mind that the customer is usually more irritated by the need and time necessary to resolve the situation than the issue itself.

“I know it is really frustrating when your product is delayed due to paperwork and logistics. You wanted to get it on time and now you are forced to wait.  I’m sorry.”

Throwing in an additional apology at the end is always a good choice. The most important thing is that you are letting the customer know that you understand what they are most frustrated about and that you identify with what they were trying to accomplish.

3)  Make it Better
This is crucial.  Not only fix the problem, do it in a way that not only makes up for the initial problem, but also makes the customer feel good about it.  Offer the customer no more than three possible solutions, all of which you are confident will work in their best interest. If challenged to come up with an acceptable fix, simply ask the customer what they would like to see happen. Often times, they’ll ask for far less than you were prepared to have to offer.

Bonus Tip – Follow Up on the Resolution
Go the extra mile and call them within a few days to again apologize for the situation happening and to find out how they are doing with the resolution.  This is when they will thank you for the follow up, your help in resolving the issue, and really give you some honest feedback that you can apply.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Customer Satisfaction – Key to Profitability and Success

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Most people don’t seem to understand that when they go into business that they have given over the power and their ability to be successful to their customer.

Profitability no longer lies in your hands, it lies in the hands of customers.

Earl Nightengale stated that all of the money you’re ever going to have is currently in the hands of someone else.

In business, that someone else is the customer.  They’ve got the money. And the best way to get it from them is to serve them well.  It’s not that complicated a process. It just comes down to figuring out what they want. Then again, why not ask people what they want and then give it to them?

One could adopt a fairly simple philosophy of selling and serving: Find out what people want and give them a whole lot of it.  Find out what they don’t’ want and don’t give them any of that.  They don’t want you to be late.  They don’t want you to lie.  They don’t’ want you to hem-haw around when you say what your product does.  They want your product to do what you said it would do.

Seems simple enough, but we’ve complicated it by not bothering to teach our employees, the people who actually deliver the customer service, that it’s all in the hands of the customer.

We don’t teach employees that the real boss is the customer.  And then we don’t enforce that whole feeling that the customer is in charge and that they are the boss.  And so they end up treating the customer like an inconvenience instead of “the boss.”

Is the Customer the Boss of your company?  The customer ultimately signs the paycheck and pays the bills for everything you do within your organization. Sounds like he just might be.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Customer Satisfaction – the New CXO

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Everything starts with intention…. we intend to carry through on our projects, plans, and goals. Otherwise, we wouldn’t set them, right?

But how many of us actually put our intentions into practice? This is where knowing exactly what to do really matters. It’s like anything else… losing weight, assembling a product, learning a new skill. You have to know what you are doing in order to save time, money, and frustration.

As a Business Owner or Executive your time is valuable. When you are spending time with your customers and discovering what it is that they want you to deliver, you are hopefully tracking and making plans to deliver these. If you don’t follow through, everyone’s time is wasted… yours, the customer’s, your team’s.

However, you need to take the next step moving from from intention toward implementation.

The ultimate Customer Experience doesn’t just happen. It takes some planning to design service into your processes. So who is responsible within your organization to ensure that the plans and ideas you have don’t languish without implementation? When there is a leader for who is responsible and accountable for these plans, the likelihood of success increases all around.

Your Customer Satisfaction Officer should be the one to help keep your operations focused on the customer and to ensure that all customer centric projects are kept on track. This person will also ideally have the authority to assist in any way possible and/or obtain the resources necessary to accomplish your goals.

They would also be the one to address the area of customer centricity during your team meetings. Customer issues, service, satisfaction and training need to be an integral part of your team meetings. This can best achieved by beginning your meetings spending 10-15 minutes on the Customer Experience.

Customer satisfaction, often overlooked, can be an integral element to maximizing your profitability and success. More thoughts to come on giving it the attention it deserves.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Attracting Your Ideal Customer

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

You’ve probably already determined that the “wrong” customers can make you broke. They are the ones that want top quality at the lowest price. These people are not interested in working with you for your mutual benefit; they’d probably be happier if slavery were re-introduced and if you were their first body.

So how do you find a sufficient number of good customers to build yourself a strong and profitable business in which it’s a joy to work?

The first step in the process may sound a bit simple, but it is as easy as drawing up a list of the characteristics that your present (and past) best customers have in common.

Here’s a simple step-by-step process for winning great customers whenever you want them:

1. Define the essential common attributes of the very best customers in your industry. Those may include:

* Annual sales value

* Number of employees

* Corporate structure (private or public company, Government body, etc.

* Management mindset (progressive, oriented towards investing in their people, etc)

* Location

* Market sector

2. Where do they gather:

* Do they frequent certain associations, events, conventions or clubs?

* Do your ideal clients tend to locate their businesses in certain locations?

* Where might your advertising or promotions be more likely to be seen by your ideal client base?

3. What do they read or watch:

* Magazines, newspapers, blogs, eNewsletters

* Certain TV or video channels or sites

4. Survey candidates to discover what they are looking for in an ideal supplier:

* Once you have identified your ideal client, select the cream of the crop, put together the 10 most important questions you could ever ask them, and survey a sample of them. You’ll probably get some “bites” in the process, as well as some invaluable data on what type of information, products or service you should be promoting to these folks.

* Resolve to advertise in the media that your ideal client is most likely to use – and nowhere else!

5. Create a contact system that is low effort, easy to maintain:

* In this age of information overload you don’t gain “mindshare” for your brand or product until you have had at least 7 varied contacts with an individual person. You also need to establish a process whereby your best prospects will be contacted by you on a regular and varied basis, so that when they are actually ready to buy (or consider buying), you are there in their field of attention?

* If you find your target is not ready to buy, a follow-up frequency or sequence should be established and not exceed every 10-12 weeks.

6. Create a fast response system:

* No point in creating a great contact system if you the blow the opportunity when someone responds.

* Define what to do and say before you get your first response then make sure that anyone else in the business that is likely to take an incoming response, knows what this is to heighten the likelihood of success for both you and your new client.

7. Keep your promises!

* Last but not least: Make sure that whatever experience, service, outcome or feeling you promised during your marketing and promotional phase, is delivered intact, perfectly and completely. You might read this and say to yourself, “Yep, that sounds right, but who’s got the time to do all of this?” The answer is simple: Those business owners or executives who have realized that working for the wrong customers just keeps you busy and broke, and have decided to do something differently will make the time to create the type of process I’ve outlined here; and then make the resolution to apply it.

If you choose to become one of those, stand by for a whole different customer experience!

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Winning Your Customer’s Heart – and Mind

Monday, March 24th, 2014

There a number of statistics in the field of selling. One of the most interesting has to do with the time it takes to gain customer awareness.

The Rule of 7 says:

A prospective client needs to see, hear, or otherwise be exposed to your message at least seven times before they respond in some way, shape or form.

If you don’t have a Client Contact strategy with at least 7 steps, you significantly reduce your odds of sales success.

The reason for this is simple: Most of us have learned that the average sales person is not interested in a relationship, but rather in a quick and easy (“quick and sleazy”?) transaction. Most of us want a relationship with our service or product providers, but few sales people seem willing to invest the time it takes to establish a relationship, and so we tend to stick with our suppliers-of-habit, not necessarily because they are particularly good or effective, but rather because it is “better the devil you know.”

The Rule of 7 is based on building familiarity for the sales person, their company and their products, or what is called “mindshare” (the portion of the person’s “buying awareness” that you occupy). After a couple of contacts you might achieve 1% mindshare, but at this point your prospective Client barely knows you, and the odds of a sale are proportional, but if you increase the mindshare to say, 60%, you significantly increase your odds of success.

It is common sense: Familiarity breeds trust and trust breeds sales. So here are …

4 Steps to Building Mindshare:

1. Define who is worthy of Contact. Your criteria might be prospects with size, prestige, influence or, if you are just establishing a market, it could be “everyone.” The main point here is to think this through before acting.

2. Create a Positive Contact System. This might include resources that positively impress your Client (brochures, uniforms, website, signage, service level at first contact, newsletters, information, education, advice), and a schedule or system for passing those to a prospective Client in a planned manner. For example, a small handwritten “Thank you” card sent after a sales call, is an old fashioned yet still very powerful way to create a positive impression and set yourself apart from the crowd competing for attention.

3. Vary the Contact. Use e-mail, fax, direct mail, courier service, the telephone and, if appropriate, a visit. Mix them up and orchestrate them (that means “planning” again!) Sending seven e-mails or leaving seven voice mails won’t build a relationship. In fact, they look a lot like stalking! Varying the medium creates the need for your prospect to interact with you at different levels.

4. Schedule the Contact. Accept the reality that it may take 4-6 months to have a prospective Client accept that you are interested in a “real relationship”, at which point you still may not sell something, but at least you have become a “serious contender”. What gets scheduled tends to get done, so develop a “contact calendar” for every new prospect (this is why step 1. is in here, by the way), and stick to it, while taking care to avoid “overwhelming” or “inundating” your contact. A good rule of thumb is to never let more than two weeks go by without a contact. Using a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will make this task much easier, and there are many options to choose from.

We forget that it is more than your company’s market reputation, your technology and your marketing prowess. People buy when they are comfortable at the point of contact and when they trust you to perform. The best relationships take time and a solid strategy to bring it to fruition.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Customer Retention – Key to Growth

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

In the search for growth, we typically think about new products, new markets, and yes, new customers. However, rarely do we spend enough time and thought as to how valuable our current customers are, and how they can be a excellent source of the very growth we seek.

What Are Good Reasons to Retain Customers?

1. It’s cost effective: It costs around 1/6th to 1/5th as much to keep an existing client – or to resell to them – as to win a new one!

2. It’s sanitary: You limit the number of people in the marketplace who say, “Yeah I used to use that product” and increase the number who say, “Yeah I’ve used that product for years!”

3. It’s good manners: the old adage treat others as you would have them treat you applies 10 fold here.

4. It’s feedback: Clients who leave you, leave for a reason. Sometimes that reason has nothing to do with you and your product – and sometimes it does! You need to know when it does. A customer retention strategy will make sure you know why they want to leave or have already left.

What Are the Absolute Basics of Customer Retention?

The following are a list of ideas and tips for maximizing your customer retention. Why not include some of your own ideas and meet with your staff or team to determine how you can incorporate a number of them in your customer retention strategy.

1. Be very clear on the true value of retaining your average Customer – work out their Life Time Value to you and act accordingly.

2. Keep the quality of your communications at the highest level. Make sure you are always;

a. Professionally courteous

b. Personally caring

c. Mindful – have systems that track facts about your clients so that you can recall their details, history, preferences easily before or while talking to them

3. Automate the bottom 80% of your client base revenue, and personalize the top 20%, you can do this through;

a. Social media

b. Members area on your website if relevant

c. Newsletter

i. On-line survey’s tied to the newsletter can increase engagement and help to gather important information

ii. Product or feature reviews

iii. Educational tidbits

iv. Profile on team member

v. Success stories of customers (ask then to submit to win a prize, then use the content for this item)

4. Keep your promises. “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.” Thomas J. Watson

5. Over deliver (which sometimes means under-promising);

a. On the products

b. On your services

6. Maintain regular, quality personal communications;

a. Outgoing – try sending out links to interesting articles that you suggest as a relevant read

b. Incoming

i. Make feedback easy

ii. Invite it

c. Two-way, engage with your customers in a meaningful and authentic way

7. Value-add regularly, what else do you have to offer your customers that they may not already be using.

8. Sell to them regularly;

a. Reinforces their prior commitment and keeps you in the forefront of their mind

9. Accept complaints as a gift – the person making them could have just walked out, but here they are telling you what you need to do to keep their business. The insights gained should be incorporated into your evolving systems to avoid triggering this same instance in future. There will be other instances with different causes, but it’s a matter of swatting them successively until they are a rare event.

In the case of customers, as in many areas of life, the grass always looks greener on the other side. We need to appreciate the ones we have, especially the ones who fit our ideal client, and make it our priority to serve them. Our return will equal our investment in them.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Revenue Growth Tips – Could be time to build a Global Business

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Have been holding back from taking the plunge to going global? It’s understandable, as it requires a lot of hard work and investment to be successful. Not for the faint of heart. However, it may open up a key area of growth, one where you need not fight over ever smaller small gains in market share domestically. To be successful, you need to invest upfront in market research to gain knowledge of which countries have businesses and consumers with cash, and hold the best opportunity for your products and services. Some efforts I think you should be doing to ramp up your own global business.

1. Set stretch goals – Aim to generate 20-30%, up to 50% of revenue outside North America within three to five years. Why such a big number? If you don’t set a stretch goal, it may not get the attention it deserves and it will become just another project. Stretch goals can generate a level of energy and excitement that will light up your organization. Something that may be missing today.

2. Go native –You can get by in many countries by speaking English, but you’ll have an edge if you hire staff who speak the language. But it goes beyond this. You need to understand customs, the culture and how business gets done in the country. There are ways to slowly enter a country – marketing, distribution before establishing a beachhead, but having someone who is native to the market is hugely beneficial. It is an investment that will return itself many times over.

3. Focus narrow and deep –The tendency is to try to sell the entire product line instead of picking a narrow focus and doing it well. That is a steep learning curve that can lead to disaster. Much better to create an entry strategy that targets one or 2 products, the sales strategy, promotional tools and aids to make a real inroad into the market. As you learn and get established, you can broaden it. This learning period will also allow you to tailor products and services to meet local requirements as well as tuning your marketing, sales and customer service strategy to maximize effectiveness.

4. Source globally –To keep prices competitive, along with and lead and service turn-around times to a minimum, one needs to look for factories and support centers in the country or region. Personnel costs can also be lowered by relying on sales, and service centers located in areas offering either lower wage rates or tax incentives. It can also create business opportunities where local companies or governments give preference to firms with a local presence.

5. Follow your customer –This seems obvious, but many times gets overlooked. To map your route overseas, contact your existing customers or partners and ask if they need your support internationally. If you are a solid supplier with a strong reputation it reduces their risk of supply. It also greatly reduces your risk of going global if you have sales revenue flowing on day one.

Going global is an option that may be closer than you think. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Revenue Growth Tips – Slay the Vampires

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Too many items on your to-do list? Or have you stopped looking? It’s easy to fall behind if you are short-handed because of recent cutbacks. The solution: just stop all those activities that drain energy out of your business, and focus on the work that will actually produce profitable growth. It is easy to get spread out chasing the next wave. Why not hit the reset and drive a stake into actions that keep you from the success you deserve.

1. Stop listening to bad news – The old saying is that bad news sells newspapers. Not sure if you noticed, but newspapers are on their way out. This is due more to alternate forms of news transfer, but all bad news does for you is freeze you in your tracks. By the way, you can’t do anything about most of it. So why not make your own news – good news. Focus on spending more time connecting with customers, developing new solutions to their problems, working to streamline your business.

2. End a contentious relationship – Sometimes we hang on to a creative, but disruptive employee, a non-performing supplier or a difficult customer. There may be a tendency to continue the status quo for fear that the replacement will be no better. One needs to instead take the opposite view – and pull the plug on a bad relationship. As one of the biggest energy-suckers, once the relationship is severed, the organization can many times quickly overcome the change and actually thrive as a result. You’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.

3. Quit selling unprofitable products or services – While new products and services are the lifeblood of a business, too many can actually sink the ship. As pointed out in a couple of earlier tips, focusing on fewer products and one’s core competencies can reap great dividends. Too many products can mean your team is being pulled in too many directions and you are not getting the intensity to master any of them. Scale works in Marketing and Engineering as well as in Manufacturing. Take a hard look and focus on your most successful products, letting the marginal ones head for the door.

4. Don’t answer your own e-mail – With the ability to communicate 24/7, we inadvertently find ourselves chained to it. Email can be a huge time sucker, where the more you communicate by it the more time you spend tackling your in-box. To increase productivity, Business Leaders need to utilize their assistants to take over and handle their email. This creates time to engage and inspire their teams more effectively. Having time to walk around and talk with your team is how Leaders build great businesses.

5. Never eat alone – Sometimes there is a tendency to think that if you only worked harder, and used that extra 30-45 minutes at your desk, you could achieve that breakthrough. Think again. Not spending time with your team or out in the market, you lose contact, you lose touch and you lose potential leads that could change your business. Not only is it important to change your scenery to refresh your mind, you need to maintain or create new contacts to open up new avenues. Think of it as 2 holes of golf and a sandwich.

Drive a stake in the vampires that hold you back. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Revenue Growth Tips – Make sure you’ve got the Right Business Strategy

Monday, February 10th, 2014

It’s great to be fired up about your company’s strategic plan, but before you commit the rest of the year to executing it, make sure it passes the test. If not, head back to the drawing board with your leadership team. Keep in mind, you are betting your company’s future on your plan. If you haven’t gotten the details right or shaped it from the proper perspective, time spent at your offsite will ultimately hurt your company. Take a step back and reflect, and the time to polish it so that you can make the most of the year.

1. Play to win – Sometimes, after a series of setbacks, or an economic downturn, a firm can become overly cautious. This can result in reductions in expenses, staff, and planned future investments. Perhaps unknowingly you begin to play defense. It has been shown, that one of the best times to invest is during a down-turn or slow period, as you prepare to accelerate. To grow through the cycle, you need to go on the offensive – investing in marketing, new products and services, upgrading your team’s skills. Change your mindset and change your future.

2. Seek customer input…Voice of the Customer is a valuable process used by leading firms to rev up growth. It can help define what are considered the most important attributes that are desired in current or future products. Another approach called LeadUsers employs efforts by Customers, who failing to find a solution to their needs from suppliers, build their own. These prototypes or fully-functioning products can provide the genesis of new products, even new industries.

3 …but know what to ignore – The upside of Customer input is you build your relationship and provide products and services more closely aligned with their needs. The downside is if you act on every suggestion your customers make, you end up in bankruptcy. The trick is to achieve a balance between creating greater value for the Customer and more profit for your business. That’s a win-win every one can use.

4. Involve the broader team – While it takes a great strategy from the leadership team to win in the marketplace, as on the battlefield, it takes the troops and middle management to execute it successfully. Too often the people who are expected to win on the battlefield haven’t heard of, been involved in, or bought into “the plan.” It is not surprising that success has been compromised at the onset. Instead of getting blindsided, middle managers should be an integral part of annual and quarterly planning sessions. What results is a plan that people understand and can be part of.

5. Set fewer priorities – There is always a trade-off between defining the needs of a business, setting goals and priorities. The tendency is to get everything on the table and create a huge list to knock off. But having too many goals by itself can lead to distraction. An option is to establish a set of goals that fall into a logical sequence, building upon one another throughout the year – somewhat like building a brick wall. Then to focus on the top three for the quarter, and one per month, making sure a high-priority project is completed before moving on. In this case, less is more.

Great strategy requires some good fundamentals. Keep watching, we will provide more tips along the way.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2014. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.