Monday, June 25, 2012

Get your head out of the filthy gutter – people are still spending

So the New Zealand economy might be a bit slow right now, but it doesn’t mean that business needs to stop.  That’s just filthy talk!  People are still buying stuff, they’re still spending money.

Lately, I have been talking to a number of companies who are saying the same thing.  “Sales are down” or “Last quarter was our worst quarter ever”.  The list goes on and on.  I’m yet to have a conversation with a business manager who confidently states that they are experiencing year on year growth with considerable improvement each quarter.

Saturday morning was typical of any Saturday in our household.  My wife was out of bed early and keen to get the grocery shopping done before the crowds had a chance to get out of bed.  Often she is back before I’ve even woken up.  She’s never entirely impressed with that.  But home she is, after spending about $300.00.

I say “$300.00”; like it’s been this way for years, but you’ll probably find that this is more than what we would have spent about five years ago.  The cost of life’s necessities has slowly crept up over time.  The fact is we’re still spending money in this “down” economy.  Last year we even replaced two of our motor vehicles.

So, back to the filthy talk about the economy being slow?  Are sales down? Maybe they are, but now it’s time to look at a couple of areas within your business.
  • Innovation

I hear a lot of people talking about the good old days when the phone would ring with a customer wanting to place an order.  It was hard not to succeed and the corporate weekends away for the sales reps were a dime a dozen.  In fact, you didn’t need a lot of skill to make a sale.  You didn’t even have to really understand the customers’ problem, but now you do.
The problem is, we don’t really know our customers.  We don’t understand their needs, but at the same time, we’re good at telling them what we think they need. 
The bottom line is, we need to consider new and innovative ways of doing business.  A lot of people seem to think that innovation means coming up with a new product.  While that may be one outcome, there may be an opportunity to be innovative in improving internal processes to ensure an exceptional end-to-end customer experience.  You may need new innovative ideas around how to approach a customer; it may even mean a different type of conversation with the customer.
  • Customer Engagement

Customer engagement is key to providing better outcomes.  I talk about customer engagement a lot.  Today, I was talking to a Chief Marketing Officer about a product her company was trying to sell.  After trying all manner of approaches, she was at the point of frustration.  The ROI of her campaigns was virtually non-existent.  I asked her when the last time was that she got a number of customers into a room and asked them for some help.  I don’t need to tell you how that story ends.

Yes, people are still spending money and there are companies out there who are making a fortune right now.  You don’t hear the folks at Apple complaining!  The buying habits of your customers may have changed, now you need to change the way you do business.

What would I do if I were in your shoes right now?

  • Get your employees together to share ideas

Each employee has skills, thoughts and ideas that they can bring to the table.  Often in management, it’s easy to get fixated on insular plans which remove the ability to be nimble.  With today’s technology, virtual discussions can be held to enable employees to collaborate.
Don’t restrict the employees.  Enable them to share any idea on any topic or part of the business.  Work with them to decide on which ideas are worth promoting and reward them appropriately.

  • Talk to your customers

Just as with your employees, treat your customers the same.  Get them to share with you the good, the bad and the downright ugly.  Usually, the greatest opportunity can be found in the negative feedback.  The flip side is that you end up with a customer who is happy to spend more money with you.
By considering just some of what I have mentioned, you will be well on your way to becoming a Social Business.  This is something that your competitors may not be doing.  Be or become a leader while you can.

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