There are many different personality types. Some people are outgoing. Some are more introvert. But, it isn’t just those that are higher on the extrovert scale that set up and run small businesses. There are all manner of reasons why people leave the safety of a job to set up a business. Some may feel stifled. Others may have held a long-standing ambition to be their own boss. Yet others may have been thrown into it by redundancy or by some other event or situation.
Whatever the reason, not every SME business owner has all the skills necessary to establish and grow a business. The excellent book ‘The E Myth’, by Michael Gerber explains that there are broadly 3 types of role necessary to develop a business. And, whether it’s just you, or you have others with you, you’ll need those abilities within the organisation in order to prosper.
Those skills or roles are called technician, manager and entrepreneur. At its most simple, the technician knows how to do something. They are the doers. They know how to make things. They know how to deliver services. They are operational and thank goodness for them since most businesses can’t survive without them despite the emergence of business models like Uber and Booking.com where they don’t make or own anything. These new market entrants facilitate the process. But, most businesses need one or more individuals that it can turn to be sure that I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. These are your ‘completer-finishers’
Then there are the managers. They take pleasure in getting things done. They create order and make sure everything is carried out appropriately not least so the business doesn’t fall over. The book explains that while someone is baking the bread and making lovely cakes at the back of the store, someone needs to be at the front not just serving customers but also dealing with the finances, encouraging customers to visit the shop through marketing and dealing with staff.
Finally, growth comes, to some extent from vision, creativity and risk taking. That’s the role of the entrepreneur. Someone needs the drive to make things happen, to unearth and see the opportunities. And, that isn’t just setting up in the first place. They have energy and purpose and energise those around them to greater achievement. Where would Virgin have been without Richard Branson or Easyjet without Stelios Haji-Ioannou?
Now, some readers of this blog may be well past the time when they set up their business. They may be trading profitably. Maybe they took with them a set of past contacts or customers when they left corporate life. Perhaps they had plenty of referrals to start their enterprise. And, possibly they are now well established with an effective ‘lifestyle’ business that gives them a decent living.
However, the problem is that in business, as in life generally, nothing stands still. Just look at the emergence of firms like booking.com and Uber. Perhaps, look at what the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair did to the traditional airline model. Equally, Nokia and Sony used to be leaders in mobile technology. Kodak led the way in cameras. These brands have been blown away by new entrants such as Apple, HTC, Samsung and so on and by new technology that means everyone has a camera that takes great pictures in their pocket all the time.
And, consider how the Internet and social media are changing the way we search, buy and communicate.
So, things are changing. Take at our presentation on this subject. So how does this relate to my business, you may ask? Well, the ‘so what’ is that you cannot stand still. Business development is an ongoing challenge. There will always be new competitors that target your customers. How secure are your relationships? It’s well known that a satisfied customer can still be lured away with offers whereas a delighted customer remains loyal and buys more. What are you doing to evaluate where you stand?
Likewise, whilst you may not have a degree in marketing or be an arch sales person, not much will happen long- term without some form of marketing. This isn’t the blog to explain every type of marketing open to small business owners. Nor is it a blog to provide deep sales skills. Check out our other blogs lots of tips and skills related to lead generation and marketing.
My point is that unless you have the knowledge and skills to make those important decisions around how to grow:
- You probably won’t grow
- You may find yourself making costly mistakes
- You need to find someone who knows how to do what you don’t know
Marketing and sales are not precise sciences. And, not all of your business will or should come from overt marketing tactics. One would hope that customer referrals will be your best source. But, what if that has dried up? Will prospects just find you? If so, how? Will Google come to your rescue and feature you on first page amongst the first 3 organic listings in search? Will legions of prospects locate your profile on LinkedIn and connect followed by a sales enquiry? If that isn’t the case, and if you want to ensure that you don’t go backwards let alone grow, you’ll need to do something proactive. Maybe, that’s exhibiting at a trade event where your customers congregate. Perhaps, it’s email marketing. Maybe cold-calling is the answer.
Do you know what the best solution is for your business? If you don’t, it’s important that you seek advice. That’s just the way it is. There are tons of marketing solution providers out there that all look the same and talk a good talk. So, what questions do you need to ask?
You can’t guarantee success with any solution. No method of marketing s truly foolproof. However, to help you, below are our 5 essential questions and considerations.
- How do you feel about the person or organisation giving advice? Do they have your interests in mind? As far as they can, are they providing seemingly unbiased advice even outlining the pitfalls of using their service? Any service provider you choose should be a ‘trusted adviser’ giving you balanced input and advice before you spend your hard-earned cash.
- Does the service provider tailor the advice and service to your target market or are they offering what feels like a vanilla service that is pretty much what you sense they say to anyone? Does their proposal feel boiler-plated? Whilst there may need to be some element of templating, it’s important that they demonstrate that they’ve understood what you need, the peculiarities of your business and that they have a plan for how to reach your target audience.
- Does the cost of marketing equate to the value of sale? If your value of sale is very low, you need a large number of clients to generate sufficient revenue. That suggests that some routes to market won’t work. It’s probable that you need a more ‘mass’ solution at a low cost per contact like email marketing or even advertising. The latter isn’t necessarily low cost per se but it may enable you to reach large numbers at a lower cost per head. If the value of sale is high, you can potentially afford to spend more on a cost per head basis such as telemarketing or creative direct mail.
- What is the time duration? How long will it take to get results and how long should you run any activity? To some extent, this is connected to the other points above. Over what timeframe do you measure success, especially from a standing start? If you’ve chosen the right provider that acts as a trusted adviser, they should offer pragmatic advice without over promising and under delivering. You have to be realistic.
If your current marketing amounts to a website that hasn’t been updated in ages and it has no interesting content like blogs and videos, it’s going to be hard for any provider to simply turn the tap on without significant effort. There is rarely a quick fix so beware of any service provider that over-promises.
- What can you do yourself? This question is partly rhetorical. On one hand, it’s cheaper to do what you can in house. However, there’s the potential cost of wasting time and money and the opportunity cost of diverting your attention from what you’re good at (see our reference to the e myth above). What’s more, if you and your colleagues are not skilled in the area of marketing and sales, it’s likely that any results will be sporadic and disappointing. On the other hand, whilst it still may take time, making effective use of tools like LinkedIn can be carried out in house with a reasonable level of effort. That doesn’t mean just having a profile by the way. There’s a lot more to LinkedIn than just being there.
We all make mistakes and not every solution works for every business. Planning is essential. And, testing is also important. Ultimately, someone needs to take control. If you don’t want to be overtaken by your competitors, you need to take action. You don’t want to be a passenger in your own business. If you want to be the driver of growth, you will need to learn how to steer or find a chauffeur that you trust to get you to your destination safely, in the appropriate amount of time and at the right cost.
GSA helps businesses become more effective in their marketing and business development. We run outbound telemarketing campaigns into the UK, Europe and further afield. Also, with our experience, we provide telemarketing training to help sales teams improve their results. If you’d like to know more, give us a call.