'Pulling the right lever': The areas you need to work on to see your business grow – Stuff

Rachel Klaver is a marketing coach at Identify Marketing, podcast host, and author. She is a regular opinion contributor.
OPINION: Even as a marketing strategist I don’t always advocate that marketing is your best next step when it comes to business growth.
One of the big differences between a marketing strategy and a digital marketing strategy is that the former will have a more global view of all of your business and how it might be impacted once you turn marketing on. I know that many of my clients are often surprised at some questions we during a strategy, as we’ll often talk a look at areas that look at the current health of the business, and how that could be impacted once the marketing is turned on
Marketing is an amplifier of whatever is going on in your business. If your offer is profitable, if you’ve got good systems in place, and you’ve got capacity for growth, then the marketing will healthily grow your business. If there are gaps in how you deliver your offer, your pricing is problematic, or you have systemic internal issues, the marketing can become a road to far more complications.
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Part of the reason we take a global look at your business is because as small business owners we often don’t have someone else looking across everything with a fresh set of eyes. Starting a small business is relatively easy in New Zealand, but growing a profitable one can be more complicated than it looks, especially in the early days when you’re having to juggle several complex roles including operations, management, marketing, and sales.
Before we take a look at the five levers you can press to see growth, it helps to have an idea of the end goals first. If you’ve had a few difficult years, or are feeling like leads and sales have slowed this year, it’s easy to allow that to impact your mindset around what’s possible. This might include what growth you want to see, what you’d like to be paid from the business, or what new markets you’d like to explore.
Take time to write out where you want your business to be in twelve months, and beyond. Be as specific as possible, including the ideal profit goals, what you’ll personally earn from the business, and what type of work or products you’ll be mainly selling. Writing these goals down can not only help you stay proactive but also see your business grow.
There are five key levers you can focus on in your business, to help grow it. For me as a strategist, I need to make sure that some of them are already operating well, or any marketing that’s introduced can cause far more problems than it’s worth.
There are two simple things you can do to increase your profit. The first is to put your prices up, and the second is to reduce your costs. Whether you’re selling a product or a service, it needs to be priced in a way that each sale shows a profit.
One mistake solopreneurs and emerging manufacturers make is setting pricing without considering future growth, and costing other people being involved in the creation, marketing, and admin. This is a mistake I also made when I started Identify Marketing eight years ago.
I initially had no plans to grow it beyond myself, so set the pricing at freelancer rates. However, we grew fast, and I quickly became the only person not being paid! It took several stressful years to fix our pricing, and grow the team more profitably.
Improving profit may also involve spending, even if that feels counterintuitive. For example, if you’re doing everything, and this prevents you from working more hours doing income-generating tasks, you might find adding a part-time team member or virtual assistant can help you increase your capacity. You might also find certain app subscriptions can serve you hours every month and reduce your need for an extra pair of hands. Setting up your CRM, or effective email marketing automation can help improve processes and create more visibility, and sales, and improve your bottom line.
All of these costs can feel a little counterintuitive but can help you see more profit in your accounts as they quickly recoup back the initial investment.
It feels a bit weird asking you to try and get people to spend more when many people are going through rough times. I’m not into manipulative selling methods, so I prefer to see this as “How can I help them know and then choose more of what I have to offer that they need.” I know it’s a little tenuous, but it helps me sleep at night!
If I asked you what the average order or purchase amount was per customer would you know it offhand? It’s a really important metric to know and understand as it can help with predicting cash flow, and projections, especially when increasing traffic (the next stage).
To grow our business, we can just get our current customers to buy a little more from us in their initial purchase. In sales speak this is cross-selling and upselling. Cross-selling is selling something that complements what they are buying (such as a pen with a notebook) and an upsell is selling them a more expensive option (such as a vegan leather-bound notebook).
If you’re an e-commerce business, it can be as simple as offering free shipping over a certain amount of spend. Or bundling products together for a special that benefits the purchaser and ups the average order total.
In a service-based business, you can also bundle your services, or package them in a way to encourage a longer engagement with you. (Such as buying a block of ten training sessions in advance, over buying them one at a time. )
Once we’ve got a clear idea of where our profit should be coming from, and how much our average customers would ideally spend, it’s often time to look at the marketing. A traffic strategy is simply finding ways to increase the number of people coming to your website, your store, or another place of business to increase sales.
To explain this in a digital marketing framework, I like to imagine all of your ideal people in a massive train station. Your job is to create “decorative trains” such as your Linkedin train, TikTok train, and Facebook Train, that call out to your ideal customers and ask them to hop on board. You might even have some more expensive trains like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or some non-digital methods such as Radio, or Print. The ride in these trains is your opportunity to build trust that they are on the right train and keep them interested in getting to your website, or an alternative place they’ll make a purchasing decision.
In that busy train station are all your competitors too, all doing the same thing. The traffic is always there. It’s just our job to help get it on our trains. That’s essentially what marketing does. If your marketing is not getting you the right traffic, then you need to make your trains better, and make sure they’re running consistently.
While this is the fourth lever, I’ll pop this right up to the top with a client if they have very little of it. Repeat business is a sign of a healthy business. We are, as humans, creatures of habit. We like easy things. So if people buy from you and then don’t come back again, that’s a warning sign
You can increase your likelihood of getting repeat business by doing a great job, and delivering your promises. (Don’t be like the company I once worked with who had the saying “A new customer is one we haven’t annoyed yet.”! )
You can also improve repeat business with those traffic trains (people like taking the same train twice if the journey was good), and by staying in touch via email. Email marketing is one of the most undervalued and ignored methods for increasing repeat business, but is an incredible, inexpensive and effective tool.
Like repeat business, referral business is a sign of business health. If someone trusts your business enough to share it with someone else, you’ve delivered on your promises. If no one is referring, then you might be doing an average job, but nothing that anyone would put their reputation behind
Besides doing a good job, and making your customer feel valued you can also use third-party referrals to help attract new customers. This involves asking your customers for reviews, and then sharing them, or working alongside clients to create detailed case studies that you can share with prospects.
As humans, we will feel safer choosing a business that someone else has had a good experience with. If it’s not someone we directly know, a review or case study can help build that trust.
While I love marketing, I know that getting those trains in that busy station might not be the best move right away. Sometimes we need to take a look at a few other areas and pull some different levers before trying to find new people to choose us. It’s all about pulling the right lever for right now.
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