Four ways to identify more business opportunities

To be successful entrepreneurs we need to be continually innovating and looking for opportunities to grow our business.

But how do you find new opportunities to take your business to new markets and growth levels? Here are four ways to identify more business opportunities.

1. Listen to your potential clients and past leads

When you’re targeting potential customers listen to their needs, wants, challenges and frustrations with your industry. Have they used similar products and services before? What did they like/dislike? Why did they come to you? What are their objections with your products or services?

This will help you to find opportunities to develop more tailored products and services, hone your target market and identify and overcome common objections.

2. Listen to your customers

When you’re talking to your customers listen to what they saying about your industry, products and services. What are their frequently asked questions? Experiences? Frustrations? Feedback and complaints?

This valuable customer information will help you identify key business opportunities to expand and develop your current products and services.

3. Look at your competitors

Do a little competitive analysis (don’t let it lead to competitive paralysis though!) to see what they doing and more importantly not doing? Where are they falling down? What are they doing right? What makes customers go to them over you?

Analysing your competitors will help you identify key business opportunities to expand your market reach and develop your products and services.

4. Look at industry trends and insights

Subscribe to industry publications, join relevant associations, set Google alerts for key industry terms and news and follow other industry experts on social media. Absorb yourself in your industry and continually educate yourself on the latest techniques and trends.

How do you identify additional business opportunities?

Amanda


How to avoid being overwhelmed by your competitors

Researching your competitors can be a great way to keep up to date with industry developments, identify new market opportunities and find out what is and isn’t working for others.

But occasionally competitive analysis can turn into competitive paralysis, where you become so focused on what your competitors are doing that you lose sight of what you are trying to achieve or worse lose all motivation.

To prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and distracted by your competitors, here are five tips to keep your competition in the proper perspective.

1. Be a leader not a follower

When you change the way you do business or take an alternate course of action because of what your competitors are doing, they become the leader and you become the follower.

You are making business decisions based on someone else’s plans and goals instead of your own. Your business becomes dependent on what your competitors are doing, putting you always one step behind.

As a business owner you shouldn’t change your actions or decisions in reaction to any competitor. Certainly innovate when needed, though focus on building a business that works for you and value-adds to your customers.

2. Remember you won’t get every customer

It’s important to realise that you won’t get every customer, there will always be those that go elsewhere. So don’t covet your competitor’s customers, even if some of them once belonged to you. Instead focus on your own ideal target market and look to dominate there.

3. Be different

If you want to get ahead in business the key is to be different. You can certainly learn from other people’s successes and failures though don’t spend all of your time looking in the rear view or side mirrors watching what everyone else is doing, focus ahead on your goals and the best direction to go.

Develop your point of difference, what you can offer your clients and prospects that no one else can (or at least not as well). Perhaps it is in your processes, the quality of your products or services, your experience and expertise or the follow up services you provide. Focus on your differences and what your current clients say they love about you.

4. Look at their weaknesses not strengths

When you do look at what your competitors are doing, look for their weaknesses and the growth opportunities you have out of those, instead of focusing on their strengths and how you can replicate them. Find where they fall down or are vulnerable and turn those areas into your strengths.  

5. Stay focused on your customer, not your competition

If you want to grow your business and expand your market share, the best and quickest way to do it is to stay focused on your customer not your competitors.

What do your customers want and need? What are their problems and challenges? What results do they want from your product or service? The more you can get inside your customers mind the more relevant and targeted you can make your products, services and marketing. Give your customers what they want and they will not only keep coming back they will also refer their family, friends and colleagues.

So be a leader, find opportunities to be different, stay focused on what your customer wants and continually value-add and innovate to give it to them. Do this and you won’t have to worry about your competitors. They on the other hand will have a lot to worry about with you.

Amanda


Finding your point of difference

In business it pays to be different, but when you’re selling the same products or services as everyone else in your industry, it can be hard to find a way to differentiate yourself that doesn’t include competing on price.

While it can seem like a good idea to begin with, focusing on price alone means you have to work harder to make a profit, it leaves you vulnerable to competitors who undercut and you tend to attract a certain kind of customer – those difficult, fickle, price-driven customers who will up and leave you the moment they find a cheaper price.

So how do you find your point of difference when you have the same offering as others? Here are six ideas to get you thinking about how you can differentiate your business without competing on price.

1. Experience or expertise

Take a closer look at what you personally bring to your business and clients that your competitors don’t.

  • Have you been in business longer?
  • Have you had more industry experience?
  • Have you built your business out of your own need so have first-hand experience with the issue your clients are facing?
  • Do you specialise in an area most don’t?
  • Do you have any specific qualifications that are hard to attain or very exclusive?
  • Have you dealt with difficult or uncommon situations that have given you more specialised knowledge?
  • Are you or your business more well-known and trusted?
  • Have you worked for any major companies?
  • Have you written a book?
  • Are you a member of any exclusive groups or associations?
  • Have you won an award?

 
2. Better processes

Are there any key differences in the way you develop, produce (or source) and deliver your products or services compared to the way others do?

  • Is your project briefing more comprehensive to ensure more tailored products or services?
  • Do you take extra steps to ensure higher quality products or services?
  • Do you follow a specific process or formula that gets more consistent results?  
  • Do you have better client follow up to ensure they received what they needed/wanted?
  • Do you offer a guarantee that is more inclusive or longer than your competitors?

 
3. Exceptional quality and/or consistent results

Do you produce higher quality products or services or do you get greater or more consistent results? If you can prove you products or services are of a higher standard, have more value or achieve better results than your competitors, a potential client will quickly select your business even if you are more expensive.

  • Have you helped a large percentage of clients achieve something? (70% of clients achieve their goal weight within six months of training with you)
  • Do you have quantifiable results that are proven through testimonials or case studies? (Doubling profit, halving expenses)
  • Do your products last longer or work faster?
  • Are they more environmentally friendly or energy efficient?
  • Do you use more stronger, durable and/or safer materials?
  • Do you as a business have a better safety record?
  • Do you have the exclusive rights to sell a particular brand or product?

 
4. A wider range of products or services

Do you or could you offer a wider range of products or services than your competitors?

  • Do you have a wider range of colours, shapes or styles?
  • Do you have it available in different material?
  • Do you have better or more add-ons?
  • Do you offer (or have you aligned with other businesses to offer) a one stop shop of services?
  • Do you include “how to” guides, workshops, or webinars on how to get the most from your products or as a value add for your services?

 
5. More personalised and/or quicker service

Do you provide a really quick turnaround on products or services compared to others in your industry? Or a more personalised service where your competitors are faceless? Many people will choose a business and pay more if products and services are received quicker and/or they have the convenience of being able to contact someone easily.

  • Will customers always talk to a human being or only be on hold for a certain period of time? (particularly important in industries where you are normally left on hold or have to do everything through a website and not talk to someone)
  • Are you easier to get hold of?
  • Are you available for longer hours or have an emergency after hours call service (if applicable to your industry)?
  • Do you have a set time you answer enquiries by?
  • Do you ship products or deliver services quicker?
  • Do you have a guaranteed delivery time?
  • Do you give your clients more one-on-one time?
  • Do you spend more quality time getting to know clients in order to help them better?

 
6. Well-known clients

Do any well-known individuals or brands use your products or services? Being able to differentiate yourself by the quality of your clients can be a great way to establish credibility and generate publicity for your business.

Not only do you appeal to their fans and clients, people will naturally assume you are good if high-profile people or businesses use and endorse your products or services.

Ask your well-known clients if they would mind giving you a testimonial (video is ideal) about how they have enjoyed your products and services. Also ask if you can use their name and logo on your website and in other promotional material, as this will help build credibility and rapport with potential customers.

There are literally hundreds of ways to differentiate your business and establish your value. The key is to get a little creative. Look closely at the needs and frustrations of your potential clients and what your competitors are doing and more importantly not doing, very soon you will start to identify your existing points of difference and additional opportunities for you to differentiate.

Amanda


Five ways to stay in touch with your customers – and have them look forward to it

When it comes to increasing your sales and overall profitability, one of the best places to start is to increase your level of customer interaction. The more contact you have with your customers, the more likely it is that they will buy from you and refer you to others who need your products or services.

It shouldn’t be just any old customer interaction though. You need to be strategic, targeted, value-driven and compelling – without appearing to be desperate, spamming or annoying.

Not always the easiest feat, but to help you here are five proven ways to maintain regular customer contact and how to use them more effectively so your customers look forward to hearing from you.

1. Newsletters

While some will argue the trusty newsletter has had its day, I tend to disagree. If you are going to make it work in this day and age of endless emails though, you’re going to have to shake things up a bit.

When producing your newsletter, e-zine or e-news always come at it from the perspective “What’s in it for my customer? What information, tips and offers can I include that will make my customer want to give up 5, 10 or 15 minutes of their life to read this every month?”

Think industry insights or a market update, some key tips that could be helpful and implemented the day they receive your newsletter, a relevant article and a call to action by way of a special offer.

You want to keep it short and succinct, and where possible in the reading pane of their email. If you do have any long articles or pieces of information you want to include, publish them as a blog post on your website so you can provide a short sentence or two with a link to “read more” in your newsletter to save space and increase your website traffic.

2. Special offers and competitions

A special offer for the month can be a great way to stay in touch with you customers and get them buying from you. Competitions also have the benefit of getting customers to engage with you by sharing your brand both online and offline.

To hold your customers’ interests and ensure the best results, make sure your special offers are different each time and your competition prizes are desired items that are relevant to your business.

3. Emails using auto-responders

Not only are auto-responders an effective way of interacting with your customers, they can also save you a lot of time in the process.

You could have a set email sequence start from when a customer or potential customer first enquires, becomes a customer, signs up to your mailing list or downloads a resource from your website so there is a clear process leading them to a sale or repeat sale.

Or you could use it to give a quick weekly tip, update, thought, special offer, or all of the above to add more value to them.

For optimum impact, make it concise, poignant, relevant and educational. Also use a value-driven or fear-based headline in order to stand out in an overcrowded email inbox.

4.  Social Media

Social media is perhaps one of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers as it’s the most accepted regular form of contact, and a more “social” form of contact, making rapport building quicker and easier when done right.

On social media, most people are anticipating regular updates from you – normally daily updates and possibly even multiple daily updates depending on your business. No other communication method has as much expected or allowed regular communication with a customer, making it an extremely valuable tool.

To use it effectively and maintain your customer’s interest, you need to do more than post special offers and sales pitches. Look to inform, entertain and add value to your customers first, and then add some business promotion in.

5. Blogging

While it is a slightly more passive way of communicating with customers as they are coming to you, when you post relevant, interesting and educational content regularly, you can build a loyal readership that will keep coming back for more.

To make it a little less passive, give readers the opportunity to subscribe to your blog by email or RSS feed. This way they can have updates sent to them immediately instead of potentially missing something when they are left to come back on their own.

To monetize your blog and covert your readers to customers, add a call to action or special offer that relates to what you wrote about in the post as a P.S. at the end of your blog post.

How do you stay in regular contact with your customers? What works best for you?

Amanda


‘Tis the season to be busy – four tips to boost downtime profits

For some business owners the Christmas and New Year period is one of their busiest times, but for others it can be nervously slow.  So how do you ensure you generate as much income as possible through the holiday season? Here are four tried and tested tips to help you boost your downtime profits.

1. Have a special

Specials can be a great way to generate business though you do need to do it wisely. Not just to make sure you preserve as much of your profit margin as possible, but because discounting too much or having specials too regularly can make you seem desperate, and it can also make customers question your pricing and the value of your products and services.

So how do you not sound desperate? It’s all in the way you market your sale. Your sale should be seen to be of a bigger benefit to your customers than to you. For example saying “Giving you/your business a Merry little Christmas with our …% off sale” is far better than hinting or saying directly that business is slow or we need to move stock.   

2. Develop limited edition or “limited time only” products, services and packages

Never underestimate the power of limited edition or “limited time only” products, services and packages. Scarcity and competition can be great selling motivators. Build desire by making your limited products, services and packages attractive, full of value and of course, strictly limited.

3. Value add

Value adding can be a great way to increase sales and a good alternative to discounting, provided add-ons are valuable and relevant to your audience. Think about what bonuses you could add in to make your product or service a “must-have” in the eyes of your customers, and get them buying now and not later.

4. Do a little PR

While some of the more major publications have published their Christmas editions, there are still a number of opportunities around for some Christmas themed PR, particularly in publications that are local or published more frequently. Don’t neglect blogs and large websites either as many of them will also do Christmas gift guides and features.

If you have a product or service that would make a good Christmas gift or you could do up some suggested gift ideas using a number of your products and services (like “Ten gifts your [mum/dad/partner/kids/pet] will love this Christmas”) it’s worth doing up a media release or quick editorial and sending it out. Also keep an eye on SourceBottle to monitor requests and opportunities.

If you don’t have a product or service that would be considered a Christmas gift look at other different Christmas and New Year angles you could use. For example, a Financial Planner could share “[x] tips for spending within your means this Christmas” or an accountant could share “[x] tips to get your business fit for the New Year”. Have a bit of fun and get a little creative in order to find ways you can piggyback of the holiday season.

What are you doing to boost your business through the downtime?

Amanda


Five tips to help you think on your feet

Whether you’re attending a meeting, pitching an idea, presenting a proposal, speaking at an event or answering an unanticipated client question, being able to think on your feet and speak clearly and intelligently at a moment’s notice is a vital skill in business.

But it’s not the easiest to do when you’re under pressure and feeling nervous and intimidated. So how do you keep your composure when put on the spot? Here are five tips to help you think on your feet.

1. Listen carefully

The key to responding to a comment well, answering a question effectively or understanding a statement is to listen carefully. Look directly at the person speaking and ask them to repeat their statement or question if necessary.

Asking them to repeat the question will also give you a chance to think about what was said and respond better, often people will rephrase and clarify what they mean the second time around.

2. Breathe

While the person is talking and before you respond take slow deep breaths. This will give you more oxygen to your brain and help you think more clearly and calmly.

Being able to control your breathing can really help you to master your nerves and quieten the inner voice that goes into overdrive with negative and limiting thoughts when someone asks an unexpected question or gives an alternate view.

3. Pause if you need to

Provided you don’t look terrified, pausing can actually help you to look as though you are carefully considering your answer in order to give the right response.

Don’t feel pressured to fill the silence immediately. This can lead to rambling or giving a response that isn’t well thought out. A thoughtful pause will give you time to compose yourself, think about your answer and deliver it confidently.

4. Don’t be afraid to delay your answer

For those questions that are a little more intricate or you don’t know the answer to, don’t be afraid to delay your answer.

If in a presentation (and it’s applicable) say you will talk to them after to go into more detail with their specific circumstances. If one-on-one with someone say you will investigate it further, think about it in more detail or find out the answer for them.

When handled right delaying your answer won’t be seen as a sign of weakness, inexperience or lack of knowledge like we all worry it will. It can actually be seen as a sign of professionalism, that you want to make sure you give the right answer and information to help your audience.

5. Be an expert in your area

The best way to be prepared for the unexpected is to become an expert in your product or service, topic and industry.

Knowing your subject will give you greater confidence, help you to give better answers and equip you to handle tricky questions by having a strong knowledge base to draw on.

Do you have any tips for thinking on your feet?

Amanda


Four ways to enhance your customer experiences and improve profits

I’m guest posting over at Flying Solo on ways to enhance your customer experience and boost your profitability. You can read the full article here, though here is a sneak peek…

Of the many ways to increase profitability in your business, giving your customers an experience they’ll never forget is a highly effective one.

No one sells your business like a happy customer. When your customers sing your praises and prove your value and claims through their own experiences, a whole new level of trust and credibility is awarded to you and your business.

With repeat customer sales and referrals also being the cheapest and easiest business you will ever generate, it‘s smart to spend more time nurturing and leveraging your existing customer relationships to create even more happy customers.

With this in mind, here are four tips to help you enhance your customer experience and increase profitability in the process.

1. Stop selling and start serving

Instead of focusing on generating sales, focus on your potential customer’s needs, wants, goals, challenges and how you can help them.

You will find that when you stop selling and start serving, your customer’s guard comes down. Not only will they be more receptive to what you are saying, they will open up to you, rewarding you with more information that will help you make the sale and turn them into a satisfied customer.

2. Ask questions and listen to the answers

Questions are incredibly powerful. You can qualify a potential customer, establish rapport, identify needs, build relationships, increase credibility and close a sale simply by asking the right questions and listening closely to the answers.

The more targeted your questions, the easier it is to give your customers exactly what they need, reward and “wow” them in ways they would personally appreciate, and find even more ways to help to them.

3. Stay in contact regularly

To build a relationship with your customers you need to stay in regular contact with them, but not just with newsletters and email marketing. Instead, make genuine, personal contact. Talk to them to see how they are going. Keep in touch in a way that makes them say “wow”

For example, once your customer has bought your product or service you could send out a small gift voucher they can use for their next purchase as a thank you for doing business with you. A week after they have used your product or service you could call them to see how they are going, if they have any questions and if you can help them with anything further. This can be a great way to show you care, create opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell and get feedback, which can generate testimonials or help you address any concerns.

Also keep track of when customers are due for your product or service, whether it is a refill, check-up, follow-up or replacement, and send them a reminder with a special offer or bonus. By being proactive, your customers will feel more special and your thoughtfulness will be rewarded with loyalty, repeat sales and referrals.

Read more…

Amanda


Four questions that will transform your business

As the end of year approaches quickly, it’s quite natural as business owners to start thinking about the year ahead. What plans we’ll make, the new goals and targets we’ll set and of course how we can make our businesses even better and more profitable in the coming year.

To help you with this process and get you thinking more strategically about your plans, here are four questions to ask yourself that will help you transform your business.

“What are my customers and potential customers’ greatest challenges and what is it costing them?”

Identifying your customers and potential customers’ greatest challenges will help you develop more relevant products and services, identify ways to upsell, cross sell or resell your customers and of course make it easier to position your products or services as a necessity your customers “must” buy.

Beyond that, it will also help you form more profitable alliances and referral partnerships with other businesses your customers may need before or after you, opening up more opportunities and income sources.

By answering the second part of the question, “what is it costing them?” you’ll be able to identify your customers pain points which will make your marketing messages more targeted, strategic, personalised and as a result more effective.

“What are my customers telling me verbally and non-verbally?”

Your customers are always your greatest source of learning so listen closely to what they are saying and also look at what they aren’t saying.

Are some products and services selling more than others? Do they praise you for a particular area consistently? Do they complain about a certain area consistently? Are they coming back and buying regularly? Are they referring others?

When you take the time to listen to what your customers are telling you you’ll start to identify areas you can improve, work out your most profitable products and services and find out ways to make your customers happier, more loyal and as a result more inclined to buy again and refer.

“How can I move away from exchanging time for money?”

This question addresses one of the biggest challenges we can face as business owners, particularly those of us who provide services. With time being our most limited resource, the last thing we want is our income being capped by how much time we can devote to our work.

By starting to think about what else you can do other than just charge for your time you’ll start to develop different products and identify other sources of income, particularly passive income.

“How can I leverage my time, knowledge, money, resources, contacts and efforts to further my business?”

This would have to be one of the most powerful questions you could ask yourself. Leverage will help you to grow your business quicker with less time, money and effort spent.

True entrepreneurs spend most of their time answering this question with one addition – how can I leverage other people’s time, knowledge, money, resources, contacts and efforts too?

If you start asking these questions as you do your business planning for the year ahead, you’ll be sure to make it your best year yet. What questions would you add?

Amanda


Four tips to be more authentic in business

In a growing digital world that is becoming more and more disconnected, customers are looking for more. They don’t just want to purchase a product or service – they want an experience.

But not just any experience. A genuine, transparent, honest experience from a business that knows who they are and stays true to what they stand for. A business that is authentic.

While “authenticity” seems like the latest business buzzword, businesses who are taking it on board and creating an authentic approach are cashing in. So to ensure you’re one of these businesses, here are four tips to help you become more authentic in business.

1. Be real

Know who you are, what you do and who you’re targeting. Work out what you’re passionate about, what you stand for and what the purpose of your business is – beyond making profit, and share it with the world. Be real, be honest, stay true to what you stand for and believe in. The best way to be seen as being authentic is to actually be authentic.

2. Be consistent

We often here this in reference to the look of our brand, but it’s more than that. Be consistent with the messages you create, the tone of voice you use, the quality of your products and services, your work ethic and professionalism and in all other areas of business. Not only will it help your business stay on-brand, it will resonate in the minds of your customers and you will be trusted for your reliability.

3. Back up your claims

If you make a claim, prove it. Show testimonials, reviews or case studies, display your portfolio or give a product demonstration, do whatever you need to do to prove your claims, establish your expertise and show how you can help. This will build your credibility, show you are who you say you are and that you are a trustworthy professional.

4. Be accountable

Take responsibility for your actions and be accountable. If you make a mistake own it, if you have an unhappy client address it and if you’ve made a wrong decision correct it. Be humble, be professional, stay within the lines and apologise for any wrong doing. Protect your reputation. By doing this and being open, honest and accountable for your mistakes you will often turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity.

How do you ensure you stay authentic in business?

Amanda


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