In the early days of a business venture it is natural to want to attract as many customers as possible and perhaps “feel your way” around where the strongest business demand is. However being all things to all people isn’t going to help you develop a reputation for expertise or excellence.
Ask yourself – if a family member has a serious health problem are you satisfied with the advice of your GP? Of course not, you want to see a specialist.
Focus your attention on profitable niche business within sectors where you can offer a particularly good fit.
2. Don’t be CHEAP, provide VALUE
When starting my first business, over 20 years ago, I proposed charging services out at £20 an hour. A Business Link advisor told me in no uncertain terms I would be broke within a year unless I charged at least double that figure for my specialist knowledge and pointed out I would only need half the number of customers to achieve the same income. I took his advice. I soon discovered that some potential customers felt £40 an hour was “cheap” and this made them doubt the quality of the advice; they WANTED to pay more.
Pricing has to be appropriate to the expectations of your customer, the options available and your business and lifestyle goals. Thank you to the Business Link small business advisor, for a valuable lesson learned.
3. Don’t buy too much PRINT – save your sanity, storage space and trees
If your mailing list and exhibition plans suggest you need five hundred brochures, buy five hundred. Although there appear to be substantial “savings” when buying in larger numbers (unit prices plummet), having hundreds or thousands of brochures hanging around, that feel dated in no time, is a sure route to feeling overwhelmed and inadequate – and will stop you thinking forward to your next, improved campaign.
4. Don’t enter in to long term contracts
Particularly with telephony providers! BT are one of the worst offenders here, signing you up over the phone then telling you 12 months down the road that your contract (did you ever agree to this?) has a further 12 months to run and if you want to cease you will have to pay a full 12 month penalty.
Gradwell.com – and all my other key suppliers understand that if you provide what you have promised your customers won’t want to leave with a bad taste in their mouth. There is no need to impose punitive terms for short term gain.
5. Don’t lie to cover up problems or mistakes
To err is human. I’ve never lost a client because of admitting to a problem or mistake, and I make sure my team aren’t afraid to behave honestly too.
How you handle mistakes or problems is key here, my advice is simple: tackle problems immediately, call the affected customer and apologise, honestly and openly, find out what the impact is and tell your client how (if possible) you are going to rectify the issue AND avoid the error in future. This approach can actually improve your customer relationship, it shows how much you car
6. Don’t skimp on legals such as Terms & Conditions, Partnership Agreements, Shareholder Agreements
Late in 2009 my business came close to disaster because of the lack of a partnership agreement. It would have been five years work down the drain. Luckily I got great legal advice – but it cost me many times more than a partnership agreement would have done!
Good, clear Terms & Conditions show your customers you are serious and will make you a “priority to pay” rather than “can wait to pay” supplier if a customers’ cashflow is tight.
7. Don’t select and work with outstanding suppliers and advisers, then fail to thank them frequently and sincerely
Thank you to Peter Gradwell, Frances Critchlow and the team at www.Gradwell.com for the opportunity to post this blog and also to Martin Leib of www.theseat.co.uk for marketing advice and inspiration. Thank you especially to Chris Bowles of www.oldmillgroup.co.uk; my accountant who gives over and above the call of duty and also to Graeme Crosbie of Level Up South West – www.levelupsouthwest.co.uk – business leadership coach, truly kind, inspirational and all round good guy, TelePA wouldn’t be here without you, you are worth your weight in gold!
More information about Judith Ludovino
Judith Ludovino is Managing Director of www.TelePA.co.uk; TelePA specialises in supporting B2B consultants, trainers and professional service providers. TelePA manages telephone enquiries and appointment diaries on behalf of its clients.
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