With September now fully upon us, most business minds are focused on the Autumn ahead. What’s more, over the summer we’ve been hearing more positive economic forecasts emerging and many business owners are wondering how to take advantage of the possible upturn. If there is going to be a more bountiful autumn in 2013, what can businesses do to make the most of it?
1. Toughen key client defences
It’s often the case that a small number of key client accounts bring in the bulk of a business’s revenue. When returning to work after the summer, it is important to plan how you will keep in touch and nurture those key client relationships. Avoid months slipping by without some form of positive contact from you. In time this leads key clients to believe you’re not interested in their account and they may become more accommodating to your competitors’ attempts to try to woo them away from you.
So if you haven’t already scheduled some face to face time with key client contacts now’s the time to do it. Use this interaction to find out their plans for the Autumn and their key deadlines. See how you can help and support their ‘to do’ list this season. Where possible try to build relationships with more than one contact on the client side. This will help you to retain the business even if one of your key contacts moves on to another job.
2. Weigh up your sales channel success
Compare the volume and quality of the sales you get from all your different channels. The key here is to work out which is bringing the best return and lowest cost of sale. Refocus your resources accordingly to make more of the better channels and reduce expenditure on the weaker ones. If there is a channel that is proving disappointing, but which you feel still has commercial potential given your target markets, then look closely at your approach and identify why it’s underperforming.
If you’ve invested in a website, social media or online advertising then check how this investment has delivered. As well as assessing visitor numbers, bounce rates and popular navigation routes through your site see what phrases people typed into the likes of Google to get to you. What phrases aren’t bringing the traffic you want your way? With this information perhaps rethink the search engine effectiveness of your digital content.
3. Agility test your products and services
Client needs and buying behaviour often change and it’s worth evaluating from time to time as to whether your products or services still ‘fit the bill’. Seasonal changes may affect purchasing patterns and so consider if you need to package your products or services slightly differently to tap into seasonal preferences, trends or changes.
If recent technology advances are adversely affecting one of your products or services, start adapting it to accommodate these latest changes. If this is not possible consider steadily phasing it out in favour of other more resilient business lines. The most successful products and services move with the times. Sometimes this just requires a bit of fine-tuning but at other times it can mean a more radical evolution. The key is to keep track of how your customers’ use of your offering is changing. Talk to them and find out. Identify which issues your products and services solve and how this may have changed. Use this insight to further evolve your products and re-fine your marketing message.
4. Pack a punchy price
And in stepping back and reviewing how your product or service offering is fairing in today’s world, factor your pricing approach into that assessment. What are your competitors charging for a similar offering and how does your output differ from them? Sometimes businesses get caught out by a competitor delivering a similar offering at a cheaper price. It therefore pays to periodically check your competitors’ approach and be alert to them suddenly cutting prices or dolling out incentives etc. If they do, they may have developed a cheaper business model or more efficient production process which you could be pressurised to follow. To help strengthen your position, find out how your customers view your price in relation to other providers – what additional benefits or features do they feel they get from purchasing from you… and you alone. Armed with this insight, find ways to safeguard this position and focus on being better and stronger at delivering on those counts.
5. Become a talking point
The noise levels from the myriad of media channels around will only intensify in the Autumn. This means people will become even more sophisticated at screening out marketing and sales messages. Only those which tie in with their interests and situation will have a chance of getting through this filtering system. Rather than adding to the general hubbub and background wall of noise, think of a handful of distinct topics that you can initiate. Draw on what would interest your customers, what challenges they’re facing and what might be fun or helpful to them at this point in time.
Space your messages out over the Autumn – going for quality not quantity in your planning. To gain attention and build interest consider tapping into current moods/sentiments, latest news and seasonal issues with your messages. Also consider creating something people can interact with and talk about to others, for example:
- Running a special event – loyal customer night, preview, workshop, taster session, free Q&A session
- Launching a new product or service line
- Tying up with a complementary business to offer an extended packaged offering or discount
- Publicising add-ons or different uses of your product or service range
- Bring along a friend buying sessions or offers
- Early bird offers
Focus on one discussion piece at a time and integrate it across all your marketing channels to give it a decent chance of coverage and to give it resonance. Be consistent in what you say and measure the response you get.
It’s not too late to get your business into shape for the Autumn. These five simple tactics are easy to undertake and yet can really help your business build competitive advantage over the coming months. They can also help you avoid wasting resources on areas that just aren’t bringing the return on investment you need. So before you get too side-tracked on the day-to-day elements of your business offering, invest time to step back and see what fine-tuning your business needs to get fit for the opportunities ahead.
Are you in shape for Autumn – let me know in the comments below!