By William Lynott
So you’ve built a profitable business—but while you feel that it has greater potential, you’re not quite sure of how to reach out and grab it. Here are nine tips that will help explode business to a level that you hadn’t thought possible:
- Use social media to extend the market. Gone are the days when people used conventional media to find basic information about a business. Today’s customer goes to the Internet to find an address, phone number, or other important information about a business.
Most businesses already have websites for this purpose, but the use of social media is a good way to complement a website by reaching many more prospects than a website alone—and it doesn’t cost anything except time. Even more important, social media helps to build permanent relationships and loyalty through two-way contact with prospects and customers. With a dozen or more social media platforms up and running, getting started may seem a bit overwhelming, but not to worry—one or more of the big three (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) is all a business needs to start putting social media to work for it.
- Ask for referrals. One of the easiest ways to grow a business costs nothing. Perhaps satisfied customers are letting the world know what a great job a company did for them, but don’t count on it. Getting a fair share of that gold mine of referrals requires asking for it. After every completed transaction, first make sure that the customer is satisfied. Then ask if he or she knows anyone else who might be a customer—often the answer is “yes.”
- Set specific goals. The goals for exploding a business must be specific if there is there is to be any chance of accomplishing them. General goals such as “reduce payroll” or “improve profit” are almost certain roads to failure. Specific goals include concrete and measurable criteria. For example, a goal to reduce payroll ratio should specify the target such as reducing the ratio from 9.8% to 9.5% instead of just “reduce payroll.” A goal should also be timely. By setting a specific time for accomplishment such as year-end 2016, a sense of urgency is generated that helps to keep the goal on the “front burner.”
Finally, the goals should be realistic and attainable. Avoid any goal that is too high to be realistic, of course, but be sure to set goals high enough to make the effort worthwhile.
- Keep goals measureable. A measurable goal should be able to answer such questions as: How much? How many? How long? Remember: It can’t be manages if it can’t be measured.
- Learn from the competition. Study top competitors to identify what they do best. Are there opportunities to learn from them? Is there as much as a single program or idea of theirs that can be put to work in the operation? Keeping a close eye on the competition is an important way to keep them from running away with top honors.
- Put more trust in employees. No one knows the intricacies of a particular job better than the person who is doing that job every day. Most employees are anxious to make a positive contribution in their workplace, so establishing an atmosphere that encourages employees to offer suggestions for improvements is a necessity for exploding business.
Also, consider installing a suggestion or, even better, putting a program in place that will reward employees who make usable suggestions with cash or other means of recognition.
- Pledge to keep the best employees. While concentrating on customer satisfaction is an essential management philosophy, it’s important to remember that a high level of customer satisfaction is difficult if not impossible without a high level of employee satisfaction. And while money will always be an essential ingredient in employee satisfaction, independent studies consistently show that other factors such as recognition for a job well done can be as important, or even more important, than money in employee retention.
- Go after a government contract. One way certain to explode business is by signing a government contract. The Federal Government buys goods and services in just about every industry and when the Federal Government buys, it buys in huge quantities. Government contracts aren’t easy to come by, but the law requires that 23% of all federal contract dollars be awarded to small businesses, so the opportunity is always there.
(For help in applying for a government contract work with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) and Small Business Development Center. For more information, log on to https://smallbusiness.house.gov/openmic/governmentcontract.aspx.)
- Contain the cost of doing business. Keep in mind that exploding business actually means exploding the bottom line. Keeping a close eye on operating costs is an important way to do that. Such challenges as paring payroll ratio and finding ways to reduce utility expenses are obvious, but they aren’t the only ways. Reducing the tax bill by understanding and keeping a sharp eye on the critical difference between before-tax dollars and after-tax dollars can go a long way toward reducing costs. Stay in close touch with the company’s accountant with an eye to finding new ways to reduce the tax bill.
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