A Social media presence is becoming more and more necessary. Business growth depends on your customers being able to find out about you and nowadays they will look on the web to see what they can find out. Face to face is always best when dealing business to business. Conversely that important meeting may well not happen if your potential client is put off when they search for you on the web. You should therefore be present and be useful on the web.
A good social media presence does NOT mean you need to spend many thousands of pounds on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, You-tube, instagram or any of the many other platforms there are. It does mean you need to understand your customers and ensure you exist where they are looking.
You need to think long and hard about who your customers are. Think about how they go about choosing their supplier. Social media presense is a key component of modern marketing. You need a strategy. Your strategy MUST fit with your business. More importantly it must fit with what your customers want. If 99% of your customers buy their product from Amazon then you must be using Amazon to sell your product. This is true regardless.
If you are selling (say) stuctural engineering services then it is unlikely that your potential customers will use Amazon to find you. They WILL look at your web-site. They may also be users of Twitter or Linked-in. This therefore means you need to be where they are looking. In this case your social media presense may therefore need to focus around Twitter or Linked-in specifically.
Nowadays we really must have a strategy for our social media presence. It means you need to think through your customer behaviours and ensure that you are present wherever it is they are looking to buy your services.
Many small business owners are now using a mentor. The evidence is that as a consequence these businesses are much more likely to survive and are growing faster. I recently attended the Association of Business Mentors (ABM) Annual conference at the British Library. This was another excellent event, really demonstrating how business mentoring is helping SMEs across the country.
There was an inspiring message from THE ABM’s Patron Sean Gallagher.
Having a business mentor is about having someone the business owner can talk to. Phrases such as “a shoulder to cry on”, “I just need to talk things through”, “I’d like to run this by you to see what you think” are often used. A good mentor is a good listener and is someone whose opinion you can trust. They will also help to steer the business away from making bad decisions. They will also help the business to work through the options and come up with the best choice for that particular business. If you want to grow your business they will therefore be able to help to do it in a controlled and sustainable fashion.
The Association of Business Mentors is working closely with government to promote professional business mentoring, something that is especially important as we re-invigorate UK business after these difficult times. Click here to find out more about how the ABM is taking this forward.
Everyone needs someone to talk to. As a business owner, there is very often no-one. A good mentor will therefore be worth their weight in gold.
People matter. This is even more true now, despite the explosion of social media. I have just come from a Business Breakfast where we were told of the growth of social media and how crucial it is to be part of it if we are to be successful businesses. This is absolutely right and it is something that few businesses are really paying enough attention to. At the same time, I am currently working with a company, helping them to grow. Around 90% of their business comes directly from personal contact. This might be referrals, knowing the right person or moving in the right circles. They also get a lot of repeat business because they are getting their customer service right. Especially in the business to business marketplace let us all make sure we are doing the face to face work – alongside the digital marketplace.
The face to face approach still works. This is especially true if you are the sort of business that has repeat orders from your customer. It really is important that you continue to talk to your customer. Understand what they need and work with them to deliver that need.
“People still buy from people”.
I went to a meeting of the Wiltshire Coaches Network recently. It was a really useful event. There’s a great mix of different coaches around the table. These coaches all have different skills. As a consequence we were able to get some powerful discussion going and great ideas. I think the best aspect is understanding the different capabilities of the members. This also matters when my clients need help in specific areas of expertise. For me this is the critical aspect of any client relationship, the use of others where I don’t have the specific skills. This also means that my clients can get access to the very best skills for their businesses. This group is therefore a “must” for anyone delivering services to Wiltshire Clients. It also means that Wiltshire businesses can get access to the very best local skills to help them grow.
Get the right business coaching skill
I believe strongly that it is important to have the right skill for the job. In Wiltshire we have coaches with a huge variety of skills and customers often need access to these skills for particular issues. Being a member of such a varied and capable network means I can bring those skills to my clients when they need them.
Growing is the natural way of businesses. As time progresses all businesses need to grow. This does not necessarily mean huge exponential growth but can be just normal steady consistent growth. The world moves on, sometimes at quite a rapid pace, and consequently we all need to change as this happens. This means that some of the things we currently do, we should stop doing, or do them differently and for some things we need to adapt to new ways of working. If you manage this change process in a controlled and sustainable manner, then the business will naturally grow. You will find new customers. Our usual excellent customer service will ensure that we keep these new customers and our existing customers will stay with us – for the same reasons.
If there is one key factor for successful growth that I work through with all my clients it is to ensure that the business can cope with it. We will also ensure the infrastructure is there and that the processes are there to handle the extra work. Successful business growth is NOT just about sales, it is about the business infrastructure. This is therefore what makes the difference between success and failure.
Consequences of un-controlled growing
Keep growing your business in a controlled way and you will be successful. If you let it get out of hand then there can be huge problems:
- you over-promise and under-deliver;
- staff are working too hard and are stressed;
- people try to take shortcuts;
- mistakes happen;
- you rush and quality fails;
- you fail your existing customers as you are too busy trying to satisfy too many new ones.
If you take an holisitc approach to growth, you can ensure you cover all the bases. You can then make sure you do not try to do too much, too quickly.
Controlled growth leads to success. In contrast if it is un-controlled you will fail.
I watched a TV programme recently that suggested that as we grow older we become more honest. This is a good thing, but perhaps we should be focussing on honesty in our business lives a little more. There are very few that would suggest that they are dishonest, but do we occasionally stretch the truth a little, or perhaps hide things that we shouldn’t? If the customer needs his order delivered by Friday, do we promise it even if we are not sure we can deliver? When we make a mistake with the order how quickly and easily do we “own up”?
If cash flow is tight or the profitability is struggling somewhat, do we hide it from the staff?
I believe very strongly that the more honest you are with everyone you deal with then the more successful you will be. People respond to honesty. They value it and develop trust in a person or organisation that is open and honest. This brings loyalty – and more business.
No-one is suggesting that business owners are dishonest. We often hear in the news about transparency. In my view this is a form of honesty. Let us always be honest with everyone. This approach will mean that we will keep our customers, and gain a reputation that will bring more.
Business inertia – is something that every business has to be extremely careful of. It is sometimes all too easy to find an excuse NOT to do something. Maybe the economic climate is not right, maybe “I want to wait and see what happens with Brexit”, or “let’s wait and see what this month’s figures look like before we do it.”
We simply cannot run our businesses in this way. Whilst you are sitting on your hands your competitor is busily making the investment. As a result they will be trying out the new technology or instigating a marketing campaign to your customers. There is a lot of truth in the old adage that if you are standing still then your are in fact moving backwards. Business inertia is endemic. It is too easy to find excuses for retaining the status quo.
Let’s all carry on doing the things that need doing and driving our businesses forward. Make sure we don’t sit back and wait. Take the actions that need taking and progress our businesses, therefore continuing to grow.
Let all the talk about Brexit just carry on in the background. We can deal with anything that needs dealing with, if and when it needs doing.