In business you have to be prepared for everything and anything; you must accept that things change and you must be prepared for change.
When consulting with clients we cover a variety of things, namely about the business and the management, how it’s structured, the customers and services, etc. Sometimes after initial discussion, a client may tell us that they want us to provide a service but after much in depth consultation, it may turn out the business needs a different type of service and as such we must change our approach accordingly.
When talking with clients we always emphasise value. How valuable is your product or service? What value are you bringing to your clients? How can you increase your service/product value to your clients? This is because there are so many products and services on the market that unless your own is completely different from the rest, your business will not survive.
Even if you have a similar business to someone else in the same town or the same street you have to find a way to differentiate it from your competitors in order for the business to not only survive but thrive. This may be done by packaging your product/service in such a way that it provides value to a different type of customer.
A good example of this is mobile phones; there are a number of different mobile phones from various manufacturers out in the market, they all have the same basic functions which are make/receive calls and send texts. Most, if not all now allow people access to their emails and the internet. After these functions, there are then other phones that have a variety of add-ons to attract different customers, sometimes a specific customer. For example, a particular type of customer will buy an iPhone and another will buy a Blackberry. Now it is possible that the same customer will have both phones but it will nearly always be for different reasons; the Blackberry is seen as a ‘work’ mobile phone – most corporate companies give this phone to their management. It’s an extension of the office where people can quickly and easily access their emails from the phone, whilst the iPhone is still seen as an entertainment phone that provides a lot of different applications, and it’s even marketed as such.
Of course, with the mobile phone market currently being very competitive, there is an element of cross-over across a number of phones, however, each manufacturer is targeting a particular type of customer and bringing out products that they believe will be of value to that type of customer, whether it’s for their work, play or both.
As a business owner you will always have competitors, at Ashcroft Templeton we believe that having competition helps a business because it makes you think of more creative and inventive ways to bring value to your clients. You must always be thinking – what would my clients want or need? What would make their lives easier, less stressful, and more fun? What would make them smile? If you want your business to thrive, you must always be on the ball and be alert to current trends, no matter how swapped you may be. Customers don’t care how swapped you are, they want their wants and needs to be met.
room for improvement
Irrespective of your business and the type of products/services you provide, there will always be a way to improve and provide something that a customer will want. I read a story in the Evening Standard newspaper last week about an entrepreneur, Emma Wood, who owns a ceramic business.
In the article, Ms Wood talked about how she put jokes and banter by family and friends on the crockery, mugs, teapots, etc, that she made and then sold them at Greenwich Market and also how the Royal Wedding has helped increase her business sales. Now this business isn’t one that you would say provides a product that people need; after all, you can buy crockery from anywhere and possibly even cheaper in a Pound shop.
However, I can imagine myself buying one of her Royal Wedding edition mugs – ‘If only I had gone to St. Andrew’s’ or ‘Harry’s Hotter’ mug; because its fun and it will put a smile on my face. For a customer like me the value of that product is that it will make me smile or even laugh every time I see it and I use it.
This is what I mean by being prepared for change, being on trend and offering something of value to your customers, whatever that value is. Ms Wood may have made other mugs that hadn’t sold but took a risk to make additional mugs and put ‘Royal Wedding jokes’ on them that she thought people will appreciate.
Each of these things carries an element of risk; it will costly either in the time or money that needs to be invested, but in the end the results will pay because you will be providing the customer something of value to them and they will buy your product/service.
‘Don’t care how, I want it NOW!’
Another thing that we’ve noticed when consulting with clients is that they want everything NOW. They want to see big and immediate results from being prepared for constant change, from being on trend and from offering a valuable service. In as much as we seem to live in a microwave society of instant gratification, instant results don’t always happen in business. I won’t say it’s rare but I will definitely say it’s uncommon.
You have to resolve within yourself to keep at it no matter what. If your business isn’t going the way you want it to go, take a time out and move away from being the centre of your business. Ask yourself questions like, ‘What do I want my business to be?’ ‘What value do I want to bring to my customers?’ ‘What does my business need to have to offer value to its customers?’ Take the time to investigate all of these things; don’t be in such a hurry to get customers and profits that your business is built on an unsteady foundation which can fall at any hurdle.
If you don’t know have the time to ask yourself these questions and to get the answers your business needs, I would also suggest that you ask for a relative or friend’s absolutely honest opinion, or even better go to a business consultant.
keep it simple
If you’ve taken the courageous step to start your own business then you can’t afford not to regularly set aside time to find out how your business can continually be better, can continually provide value to customers.
Most of the suggestions I offer may seem obvious but working with clients has shown us that people tend to complicate things. Business owners try to think of everything their business needs and most are probably doing everything themselves, they are so time-starved and stressed that they feel the solution to their problems is hard and difficult, as such they overlook the simple solutions. Our work with small businesses has shown that because their budget is limited they appreciate when we suggest simple solutions that won’t break the bank.
As for me, I’m off to buy my ‘Harry’s Hotter’ mug.
About the Author: Shisha Dublin-Green is a Director at Ashcroft Templeton Consulting, www.ashcrofttempleton.com, a Business Support and Lifestyle Management Consultancy.
To get your hands on your very own mug, visit http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/sweetwilliamdesigns