With the news that the UK’s GDP figure shrunk by 0.3% in the final three months of 2012, there are worries that Britain will be entering a triple-dip recession. For small businesses then, the economic climate is tougher than ever; we need to work harder for less.
Those are the realities, but what can be done to keep on top? Helen Cross at the British Assessment Bureau shares her client-focused advice on getting the most out of your efforts in 2013.
Investing in the existing client base
There is obsession within most businesses that new business is the priority. New clients represent progress, so surely it’s the right strategy to focus efforts on then? Undoubtedly, new clients are important, but whilst filling up your ‘bucket’ of clients, are you checking for leaks at the bottom?
It’s sometimes easy to get complacent about old clients, but sobering research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing revealed that it costs on average 10 times more to win a new client than it does to keep an existing one! So, honestly, how does your new business marketing budget compare to looking after your existing client base?
Having a solid base of existing clients represents stability. Sleeping soundly at night in the knowledge you have a dependable loyal client base is better than laying wide-awake in bed knowing tomorrow will be another desperate bid to get new clients. Make it one of your 2013 resolutions to measure and monitor your client attrition rate. Once done, set an improvement target!
The personal touch
They say the little things in life make the difference, and it’s not rocket science to keep clients buying from you. Thanking them is an obvious, but not always religiously carried out activity. Similarly, remembering to check in on them is important; don’t get into a situation when you’re speaking to clients annually only to found they’ve already gone elsewhere. Remember, your competition is desperate for business, and your clients are probably looking to save money wherever possible (just like you!); reinforce value regularly to ensure they don’t stray.
Feedback brings improvement
There are many out there afraid to ask for feedback because they’re worried about what the clients will say! It’s worth remembering that negative feedback can be the most valuable you can get. It’s an opportunity to win a client back that is thinking of leaving, and allows you to put preventative measures in place so the same mistakes don’t happen again.
Many organizations carry out an annual survey, but not a continuous one. Ideally, you should be tracking satisfaction at every contact point with your clients. This helps to quickly isolate and deal with issues. Positive feedback can of course be used to try and gain recommendations, leading to vital new business.
Things can slip through the net without an effective Quality Management System in place. If there aren’t processes in place showing who is responsible for what, mistakes and errors can occur leaving clients unhappy. Worst still, if you’re not keeping tabs, you may be completely unaware it’s happening until you’ve found your client no longer wants to use you.
Having an efficient business leads to employees content within their roles. This leads us to employee motivation, ironically something that can fall by the wayside in the management to-do list when times are tough. The reality is though; this is the exact time when employee productivity is essential.
Showing gratitude to employees doesn’t have to equal a pay rise. A thank you speech from the boss, a little note or a gift card to their favourite shop can go along way. Honesty with the businesses’ current position, challenges and targets can help foster a team mentality. After works drinks on a Friday can go a long way too! Bersin & Associates Research found little efforts like these are more than worthwhile, finding firms that invested in effective recognition programs achieving 14% better engagement, productivity and customer service.
Get that big-business look
With everyone’s purse stringers tighter than normal, buyers want to ensure they aren’t taking a risk in choosing you. This is always a problem for smaller businesses; quite often they can deliver a more personal, responsive service, but are beaten by larger competition simply because the prospect decided to buy safe; they need to know their suppliers will still be around the next year.
So, what can you do? Your website is normally your main window to the world. So get an old, faithful client to give it an honest assessment; does it look small-time, or does it make you look established and trustworthy? Web analytics software can give you a detailed view of how long people spend on your site too, if you’d like to assess things in the black and white of numbers.
If you think you could do with polishing your image, look no further than your clients again to help you out. These days are cynical about supposed ‘client testimonials’, which is why it’s important to put more effort into gaining feedback. Developing case studies allow you to explain how you’ve turned a problem into a solution, which is far more engaging to someone assessing whether they should get in touch with you.
The above suggestions will undoubtedly take time to implement, but the great thing is most can be done with little or no expenditure. If funding is required, the pay back far exceeds the initial investment. If you’re inspired to try any of the above, why not share your story? Let us know by tweeting us @PARTNERACCOUNT.
This article was written by Helen Cross from the British Assessment Bureau. Specialists in ISO management standards, the British Assessment Bureau helps SMEs implement quality, environmental and health and safety systems in order to become more competitive when bidding for public and private sector contracts.
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