I’ve been fortunate to offer counsel to many small business owners over the years on ways to improve revenue generation, customer experience, marketing systems and more. It feels great to watch a business grow and prosper because of some tips and tactics I provided. Most often business owners will at least try my suggestions, but not always. Like Mitch, for instance.
Mitch owned his own business, a martial arts school, for many years. The first ten were great! He had a large client base and was making some good money. However, as it is with most factors in life and business, things change. His business quickly declined at year 15 or so for various reasons, but each challenge was certainly not something that couldn’t have be dealt with or solved.
There was period of the last five years when each and every suggestion I provided (all of which I had used and found success myself by using) was either quickly dismissed or it was just never executed in any way. Here were his top issues:
Gaining New Clients
One thing that Mitch never really worked on was learning how to market. His only way to advertise was in one of those coupon mailers. Twenty years ago, before Facebook and the rest came along, that worked out OK and made the phone ring. Today, not so much.
I suggested he learn about getting out to have a table/booth at local events to get to know the community face to face. Nope, not once. I suggested advertising on Facebook to reach a particular demographic, nope not one. He would just post normally on Facebook and his friends and family would be the only one seeing it. It seemed any idea I had for him to use a new method of advertising or marketing he would fine a reason that it wouldn’t work or he couldn’t afford it. Well done Mitch. Here are some very simple and cost effective ways to advertise:
- Referrals from current clients
- Google reviews (the new word of mouth)
- Table/booth at local events
Increasing Revenue From Current Clients
One thing that most companies will do is look to find a way to gain more funds from current customers. Banks will look to get their customers to have a mortgage, a HELOC and even have the business accounts all under one roof; the same goes for Martial Arts schools. I listed a number of ways for him to up sell his customers to a better program, sell custom/specialized packages, have one-day-only program sales, summer camps or holiday camps and also not to take his customers to outside events that take their money.
In fact, I gave him the idea and systems to host his own events and then he would collect those same funds plus the ones from outside people (also known as prospects) who would attend and had the possibility of becoming a new customer. Nope, all of that was just too difficult to. Well done, Mitch. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Create new programs, packages or products
- Offer something new and exciting
- Offer discounts for certain products that help increase retention
- Reignite and/or renew past customers
Leverage Current Location
I hadn’t visited his location in almost a decade and when I did, I was appalled. Several ceiling tiles were missing and many more were stained brown from old water damage. The light switches on the walls were literally black all around them from years of dirty hands turning them on and off each day. He had very old plastic white chairs that, because they were next to the hot windows for almost 20 years, had melted and could barely hold me up. (I sat in 4 trying to find a safe one to use. I stood the whole time.) Paint color was very dark and created a sort of creepy vibe inside the place. Just to clean up the place would have only been about $200 or $300. Well done, Mitch. Here are easy ways (even if it’s a carpenter shop!):
- Ask a new customer or prospect their thoughts on how your place looks
- New paint job
- New furniture for customers
- New lights
- New carpet/flooring
Pay Attention to Demographics
When Mitch first opened his business, the small strip mall was doing OK. However, fast forward a decade and newer shopping malls had opened up all around that were newer, nicer, bigger and offered more stores that were more modern and in line with what people want. His potential for increased walk-in traffic would have been amazing.
Yet, he found every reason why he couldn’t move to another location. Cost. Loss of clients. Further from his house (really dude?) We discussed in great detail the benefits of relocating and the eventual results of not doing so. Honestly it was as simple as securing a line of credit or even a small personal loan from a bank to help and he just would not do it. Well done, Mitch. Here are a few ideas:
- Every 3 years review what’s changed in your demographics
- Make a 3-year plan based upon that information.
- Build and maintain relationships with landlords and real estate agents
- Establish a line of credit from your bank for that “just-in-case”
- Be brave enough to make a change when it a good thing
- Remember that location have a massive effect of your business
Mitch was a traditionalist when it came to his martial arts and simply refused to learn new arts, like Brazilian Ju-Jitsu for example. His thought process was ‘I’ll teach everyone what I was taught and they’ll like it.’ Well, when no one is beating down your door because they are looking for something new and exciting, then it would behoove you to read the writing on the wall.
The reality is that he didn’t need to change, he just needed to add something new to what he was doing and he would have increased his new customer base. But he didn’t really care about what his students wanted, he cared about what he wanted. Well done, Mitch. Here are a few ideas:
- Stay connected to your industry associations
- Stay current on any new trends in your industry
- Each year make a list of 5 new things your customers want.
- Ask you customers what THEY want
- Give your customers what THEY want