Businesses that struggle in normal economic times can find an extended recession turning into a slow painful downward spiral but are there easy ways to trouble shoot and fix the problems? Our MD, James Macdonald, offers insights on both some of the challenges small businesses face and ways to fix them.
Here’s some of the obvious signs that indicate a business is likely to be struggling:
No marketing plan. There is no excuse for not having a marketing plan. A good marketing agency or consultant will always supply a framework marketing plan on request. If they can’t do that for free then find someone who can. You’re not asking them for ideas or hard work you’re asking them for an outline of the type of things you should be doing and whether or not what you have is up to scratch. It should be easy for them and unwillingness is a sign they don’t see you as an appropriate client or that they don’t actually know how to do it.
Under investing. I laugh (and cry) every time I see the ad on TV that says “You built your own business, you can build your own website.” Where does that scenario end? “You built your own business so you can build your own house?” No. For most business owners their business is the biggest most challenging and important activity they will engage in their whole lives (Ok maybe they’ll get married and that could be harder!) but it is critical that the key foundations are as strong and fit for purpose as they can be. Get an expert to do it but make sure the expert is actually an expert! You need an architect not a builder or decorator when it comes to websites if you want maximum value and results. As an example we have a client who’s sales went up 30% when they invested less than £5k in a marketing led website and a new logo, that translated to a £50k a year profit increase!! They were already investing in advertising and that stayed the same, the increase was due to more conversions of better quality customers with bigger budgets.
Stop, start marketing. Doing bits and pieces sporadically and failing to evaluate and sustain activities is fatal. It comes back to having no plan and failing to make sacrifices. I know struggling businesses that never find money to advertise but then go on an expensive holiday every year burning up the credit cards. If they could just invest properly for one year they might establish a better steadier income stream and actually be able to afford the holiday, a new car and even save a bit too!
Get the whole process right. There is a brilliant book by a guy called Michael Gerber called “The E-Myth Revisited” it should be called the small business operator’s answer to everything because it absolutely clarifies the issues faced by small businesses and gives some good advice on how to solve them. The point is that if one part of the process is broken the whole thing doesn’t work, so if you aren’t sure get some external help.
Fear of expert advice. A lot of businesses seem afraid to get expert help. I guess its worrying to deal with people on matters that are a bit of a mystery but in the end a good expert should be able to clarify the options and associated costs without charging anything. The ones that want to charge for initial advice are basically saying they can’t actually do anything and the ones that don’t offer initial advice are basically selling a service like design or web building without any understanding of the marketing process. In the end just as you need an accountant to do your accountants you need a Marketing Agency to do your marketing. The difference between a marketing agency and a marketing consultant is that the consultant will refer other businesses for implementing work and the agency will actually carry out the work for you.
So to recap: Find an expert, get a marketing plan, invest in quality marketing, promote your business consistently, understand the entire business process, review and repeat.
If you would like to speak to one our our team or even grab James for a coffee and a chat why not give us a call on 01293 406000!3