There are a lot of business “hacks” out there. I love hacks. However, that isn’t the best way to grow your business. We have given a lot of thought to what you need to make your business work, to create a business that grows and delivers the lifestyle you want.
Real, sustainable, money generating growth that frees you up to run the business and live your life, requires a well thought through approach to designing your company. Building a business is a discipline, it requires a systematic approach to creating an entity that can exist and grow without you.We’ve defined nine keys to creating a business that runs like a business. These are not five-minute activities or get rich quick ideas, but they are the fundamentals you need to get right.
I promise: work on these and you will create a thriving entity and soon you will be able to take a vacation.
Our nine business fundamentals are:
- Know your market
- Clarify your kick-ass product or service
- Choose the right technology
- Create a Marketing Strategy
- Develop the sales strategy
- Research the competition
- Make your customers/clients happy
- Develop strategic partnerships
- Never stop thinking about what comes next
Number 1: Know your market
Before you do anything else ask yourself this: what is the problem I solve and for whom.
Many entrepreneurs can’t answer this question clearly or succinctly, and that impedes growth. If you don’t know who your customers are, how will your customers know that they are your customers?
We host a morning networking meeting instead of asking people what they do we ask them what problem they solve and for whom. 99% of attendees answer with their title or profession.
As in, the problem I solve is that I am a lawyer.
That you are a lawyer, or architect, or consultant, or babysitter, or whatever you do is not the problem you solve for your clients.
They have some legal challenge, and you have to be clear and specific about what that challenge is. It has nothing to do with you or what you do - defining what you do comes next.
So ask yourself these key questions:
- Who is my perfect customer?
- What is missing in their life?
- Why are they not able to complete that missing piece?
Number 2: Clarify your kick-ass product/service.
So now you know what the problem is: what is your solution?
You must have a clear solution.
Again, your solution is not your profession restated as in "I am a lawyer, and I do law."
You must show your prospects how you solve the problem that you identified. This is your signature program, and it is what sets you apart.
One of our clients is a stylist. She used to introduce herself as a Stylist, and nobody cares. Now she presents herself as a stylist who works with men who don’t like shopping and know nothing about fashion or style.
The challenge is clear , but it begs the question: what do you do about that.
Define your signature program
Her signature program involves understanding what you want to dress for, what you do and how you present. Then she shops for you picks out clothes for you and takes away all of the need to think about style and fashion.
She has developed a whole program that takes away all of that concern about style and annoyance of shopping.
That is much more compelling than being a “Stylist.”
A signature program helps grow both in terms of attracting clients and also in terms of price. Having a clear signature program will allow you to charge more for your services while you spend less time delivering.
Number 3: Choose the right technology
Technology is the infrastructure that will make your business work. Way too often we see companies haphazardly implementing lots of systems that don’t work together and don’t deliver results.
Alternatively, they shy away from tech and try to do everything manually. We had one client pull out a paper ledger to show us her numbers.
The inefficiencies of too much and too little technology can keep you wrapped up with internal minutia and keep you from being in front of your prospects.
Once you have a strategy in place, there is a lot you can do to use technology to automate and enhance your plan.
Some of the basics include:
- Use an office suite that will allow you to create professional materials (Google for business or Office 365, for example).
- Your e-mail address should always be firstname.lastname@example.org; it should never be @gmail.com
- Get a good CRM; it will help you track your customers and prospects and is key to ensuring you follow up and deliver.
- You must have a website. It can be simple, but you must have one.
Depending on what you do and how you sell yourself there are many other solutions out there to help you. The key to using technology right rather than being bogged down with technology issues is to develop a strategy.
Sometimes technology is not the answer. One client tried to automate everything about her booking process, but she had so many layers and so much complexity that the automation was taking her more time to manage than if she had just done things manually.
So use the right technology but keep it simple.
Number 4: Create a marketing strategy
If you google marketing strategy pretty much the first term that comes up is the funnel. You will be encouraged to buy all kinds of funnel technologies to manage your marketing.
But what does that mean?
The simple answer is that a funnel takes people from awareness: knowing who you are, through to conversion: being your customer. It is a funnel because you have to make a lot of people aware so that a few engage with you, of those that engage with you a few will be customers.
So if you look at how many people are at any stage of the process, it looks like a funnel. There will be many people at the top, a fraction of those in the middle and a fraction of those in the middle become customers.
Here is the trick: you must define the process by which people become aware of you, go through the funnel and end up customers. If you don’t do this, you end up spending much time talking to many people who won’t be your customers.
That time and effort are better spent on delivering your product and selling to those who want to buy.
So take the time and make an effort to create your clear marketing strategy.
Number 5: Develop the sales strategy
A sales strategy is different from a marketing strategy. With marketing, you want to appeal to many people, drive awareness and weed out those who aren’t interested in what you sell.
Sales is the process by which you move interested people to converted customers.
To define your sales strategy think about what you have to do to encourage interested prospects to sign on the dotted line and become customers.
- When do I start the sales process with a prospect?
- What does the process look like? Do you call or visit, do you send an e-mail, how do you interact?
- What documentation will they need and how can you provide it?
- What are common objections and how can you overcome them?
- How often do you follow up?
- How do you keep in touch with those who are interested but take a long time to convert?
Key to the sales strategy is how you present yourself and how you show your prospects how their lives will change after they work with you.
Also include a feedback loop: when something isn’t working identify what it is, fix it and try again. There isn’t a universal sales strategy: there is the sales strategy that works for you, your market and your customers.
Number 6: Research the competition
Know what your competitors are doing. Look at their strategies and how they attract customers. You can use free services such as similarweb or Adbeat to get an idea of what your competitors are doing and the strategies that they use.
Get ideas from them and challenge yourself to do better. Do they have a great blog post that answers a question your clients have, powerfully? How can you do better?
What ad copy seems to be working for them? What lead magnets seem to be the most powerful?
You don’t need to copy what they do word for word, but you can borrow their strategies and improve on them with your twist and your brand focus.
Number 7: Make your customers/clients happy
It may seem counterintuitive to grow by focusing on the customer that you already have, but in fact, this is a potent growth channel.
Happy customers will continue to buy from you. Once they know you and know the quality, you deliver the hard marketing work is complete. They have learned how to work with you, and the buying decision is easy; switching to someone else takes time and effort that they would rather not invest.
Additionally, happy clients can become powerful advocates. The fact that they love what you do and get value from it is something that they will share with their colleagues, friends, and associates. Happy customers are one of the best ways to fill the top of your marketing funnel.
Number 8: Develop strategic partnerships
There is an adage that rising tides raise all boats. This is even more true in business than boating: building business together allows you to do much more business.
There are a few ways that partners can help:
Partners can open up markets and customers that you hadn’t considered. They may have access to a whole group of people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to attract inexpensively.
They may have complementary services or products that help you offer a complete solution - this makes you and them more value to your customers and theirs.
Sharing the marketing burden can help a lot: developing content with your partners and using their channels can be a tremendous asset in creating awareness. Likewise, their content to your channels can help add variety and interest to what you do.
You may be reluctant to involve partners for fear of competition. However, if you have a clearly defined product and clearly defined customer, this is much less of an issue. You see where there is an isn’t competitive tension.
Also, often we see a competition where there isn’t any. Everyone is much better off working together, rising the tide for all rather than vying for a position.
Number 9: Never stop thinking about what comes next
There will come a time when you have customers when the business is running, and you feel confident enough to take your eye off growth. Don’t do that.
The world, the market, and your customers are always changing. The moment you think you have made it is the beginning of the end. Always keep your focus on what comes next.
Are you ready to start growing your business?
Get started today for free. Download the first chapter of the MAPP book here and start creating a business that works for you.