“Growing a small business is hard. If it were easy, everyone would have a business,” says Tom Tarasiuk, who knows first-hand the difficulties that small businesses go through when they try to succeed at online marketing.
As president and owner of Discount Water Softeners, Tarasiuk has helped his company streamline its efforts to provide an outstanding user experience and increase sales. This undeviating focus on the customer and a willingness to take risks have enabled the business to grow.
Here are those all-important strategies he’s used:
Customer-centric product development
Tarasiuk says that a key tactic in his company’s growth has been the work by leadership to keep overhead costs low. One way that’s been done is by eliminating the usual middle men and purchasing water systems directly from the manufacturer.
But even more important has been the company’s customer-focused philosophy. The company keeps its overall inventory minimal and develops products and features that will meet the needs of its clients. It’s done this by avoiding stocking merchandise that won’t sell because people don’t need it.
As Tarasiuk told me: “Happy customers are a critical part of our growth. We base our additional or new products on what customers are requesting or what areas of the market need a void filled.”
Improving the user experience
The company’s emphasis on the customer plays out in its online marketing strategy. Case in point is when managers decided in 2013 to switch ecommerce platforms. They had been using Volusion and transitioned to Magento.
Tarasiuk says they wanted a framework that would allow them to customize various types of content (images, videos, etc.) on any of their pages. Their goal was to improve the user experience and increase conversions. They did have some concerns about the switch, he says. They feared Magento would be less user-friendly on the back end. But without taking risks, an organisation cannot grow. The result? After changing to Magento, the company’s sales nearly doubled.
And it saw its organic SEO increase noticeably with almost no additional effort. At that time, the company completely redesigned its website. Again, prioritising the customer was key. The location of optional items and upgrades on the site was improved, for instance.
This allowed customers, Tarasiuk says, to “customise their orders and learn what upgrades would benefit them the most for their needs.” The site redesign, he says, increased company sales by as much as 15 percent.
Saving time with email
Another major part of refining the user experience and cutting costs at Discount Water Softeners entailed enabling customers to resolve some of their issues through email instead of over the phone. At one point, customer service reps were taking 45 minutes to handle each call that came through. Tarasiuk says he didn’t have enough employees to handle the volume of the calls. And hiring more workers would mean increasing overhead costs.
Instead, he solved the problem by allowing people to ask their most common questions through email. Through Magento, the company added PHP forms for people to fill out and used Crazy Egg to determine the best places on the site to put the forms. The company also increased sales by driving traffic to the forms by using Google AdWords. This solution cut, by 30 minutes, the time that its reps spent on each call, Tarasiuk says. It allowed the reps to handle a higher volume of calls without adding more employees.
Google AdWords has been crucial to growth.
Google AdWords has been crucial to the growth of Discount Water Softeners. In fact, Tarasiuk goes so so far as to call AdWords “essential to efficient performance and high ROI for sales.” He says he believes every company should have someone who is skilled at leveraging AdWords to its full potential.
Tarasiuk’s business has been using Google AdWords for over 10 years, and he describes learning how to leverage this tool as “pivotal in our growth.”
When the company first started using AdWords, it wasn’t selling much and was spending only $20 per day on the tool. But then Tarasiuk found Gail Gardner, an AdWords advisor teaching pay per click strategies at the now-defunct SearchEngineForums, and the situation changed. The advisor told him that if he wanted his company to be “discovered,” he should be spending at least $70 to $80 on AdWords per day.
Following that advice, Tarsiuk says, has revolutionized his company’s online presence and has been a decision he’s never regretted. At one point, when Gardner changed her work and switched to managing PPC accounts, the company had to go without an advisor for a period and instead rely on Google support. That situation wasn’t ideal because it wasn’t clear whether Google was prioritising the company’s campaigns or focusing on its own interests, Tarasiuk says.
Google did help keep Discount Water Softeners going, but it also didn’t see a marked improvement in its campaigns at the time. The assistance of an advisor was what really made a difference in itsprofits. So Tarasiuk contacted Gardner and asked for a recommendation for a new AdWords manager.
“That original AdWords advisor was essential at not only jump-starting our internet presence, [but] she showed us how to use and manage AdWords,” he says.
While there is no formula for growing a business successfully, there are principles that can guide you along that way. Take smart risks, and make your decisions based on what will help your customers. Because of the time and money Discount Water Softeners saved on strategies it adopted, it has been able to use the extra resources it gained to launch a new line of high-efficiency water softeners.
The company has also been able to diversify its merchandise, improve its product and benefit the environment, Tarasiuk says.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take,” he says, quoting hockey star Wayne Gretzky.
This doesn’t mean you should be reckless. It means to get good advice, and then take a leap of faith based on that information. If you don’t, you’ll never know what you could be missing.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
What To Look Out For When Seeking A Mentor Or Coach
There is value in choosing a mentor or coach to help you build your business, says Dr John Demartini. Here he offers some sound advice on how to go about doing this so that you benefit from the experience.
When I was in practice I noticed many doctors attempting to build a business would seek out mentorship from management consultants, from people who have already been down that path. And there’s wisdom from learning from foresight and not learning from trial and error. But there’s a pitfall – I noticed that not everybody is able to do or sustain the actions that these consultants would suggest. Where some would follow and immediately go and succeed, there were others who would sometimes feel self defeated because they couldn’t sustain the actions that the consultants would suggest and recommend.
So a small percentage would excel and do extremely well. But there were those who would spend their money on the coaching and they’d never get anything in return. So the question is – what made the few excel with the help of a coach, consultant or mentor? And why is it that the majority of them didn’t do as well? And it boils down to how congruent the actions of the coach or consultant are with the values of the person that’s striving to build a business.
I have listened to numerous professional consultants all offering slightly different information about how to build a business. I have taken and learned from all of them. Some of them would suggest things I just couldn’t do – it just wasn’t me – and other things that I could do. And when I couldn’t do something, the coaches and consultants believed I just was not disciplined, not driven. They would imply that I didn’t have the drive… Their material works, but I wasn’t following it.
And those of you who have had the same experience will understand what I’m saying. And you need to know that the reason you don’t do what these coaches suggest is because it’s not aligning to your values. So you are labeled lazy, undisciplined, not driven. You are given these labels instead of realising that you’re self defeating because what they suggest is not congruent with your values. And so you go to different consultants until you finally find the one who matches, whose values are aligned with yours.
So it’s important to not envy and imitate somebody with a drastically different set of values. If you’re seeking a coach or mentor, make sure the coach/mentor has a value system that is closely enough aligned to yours or you will be setting yourself up to fail. Just because somebody is successful doesn’t mean if they are your coach or mentor that they will have the values that will lead you to that same form of success. You need to either shift your values to be able to succeed in their system or you need to find the mentor that aligns more with your values. Otherwise you’ll be beating yourself up thinking there’s something wrong with you when there’s nothing wrong with you. When you find the right mentor, you will take off.
So you either have to change your values to match the objectives of the coach, or change the coach to match the truth of your own values.
So the bottom line is, if you’re going to get mentorship, coaching or consulting from somebody, don’t just select the person because they’re successful. Select them because they’re successful and they have some alignment with your mission and your values. Make sure you select your mentorship and a consultant that is truly valuable to you; don’t live in a fantasy about who you are.
The Link Between Scaling, Relationship Building And Technology
It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The challenges and opportunities of this new world and that the world is more connected than ever. The constraints of distance is no longer applicable and as a result business has little constraining borders. Networking is therefore still a component in key relationship building.
It brings me to my real point – in a world so busy and connected, what we cannot make more of is time and time, unlike any other commodity is invaluable when it comes to forging important relationships and sustaining them. So, if technology can break barriers when it comes to legal cost and time spent on it… why not? Especially when so many have experienced the consequences of not documenting the most important relationships in their business.
The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM is the ideal tool for any member-based organisation wanting to capacitate and empower members. It is an affordable and reliable online solution for start-ups and SMEs, where Users can customise and download their own contracts online and in minutes. It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The following documents are examples of those available on the platform (currently hosting over 35 documents / agreement types):
- Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”)
- Independent Contractor Agreement
- JV Agreement
- MOI and Shareholder’s Agreement
- Supplier Agreement
- Letter Demanding Payment
- Various HR Documents and Company Resolutions
- BBBEE Affidavits (EME and generic QSE)
and many more!
Prices range from R195 and R895 per document if downloaded on a pay- as- you- need- basis or R249 / R495 per month on a subscription basis, this is over 75% less than usual rates if traditionally drafted by an Attorney. What is more, Users have the support of a Law Firm not only having created, but who maintains the platform and supports each User. We even offer customisable solutions. So, there support and a solution for any business regardless of size and industry are on offer.
The platform is easy to use, no prior legal training is required, and Users are supported through help texts, free podcasts, videos and training events. In the case of a legal incident occurring, you can consult with an attorney with the click of a button.
The platform is also ever evolving and completely customer- driven. Documents are added as and when customers request them. All the documents are also frequently updated to ensure that they align to the latest best practice. There is no need to leave your legal needs unattended ever again! The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM therefore ensures that SMEs are no longer invisible and capacitates them to free up time needed to build relationships, grow and scale their businesses.
Empower your business today, go to: https://www.schoemanlaw.co.za/online-legal-services/
5 Winning Ways To Strengthen Your Bottom Line This Year
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of your profitability.
The beginning of the year is upon us, and the question everyone is asking is, “How are we going to make this year more profitable than 2018?” Break away sessions to strategies are always good, however, the most effective organisations know that the best ideas didn’t come from high-level planning, rather, they come from the field.
1. Your winning market
The saying goes, ‘The riches are in the niches.’ This year, stop spreading your sales focus thinly across several markets. Review your data on the which niche or subgroup of buyers make up your best customers. Then laser focus your best sales efforts and talent on these prospects this year. If you don’t have data on your buyers, then make a commitment to invest in your CRM software this year, so that next year your focus can be accurate.
2. Your winning product or service
Don’t let chance dictate which sale you focus on, rather identify which of your products or services has the highest margins. Your data will tell you which products or services you should focus your sales efforts on this year, and which you should phase out, or simply terminate immediately.
3. Win more customers
You have a big budget for your lead generation, but invest more this year on optimising your lead conversion rate. No matter what industry you are in, or if you convert leads digitally or face to face, your ability to turn leads into sales is a potent leverage point to increase profits. For example, if you increase your conversion from 20% to 25%, that 5% increase in conversion will lead to a 20% or more increase in profitability (assuming your costs stay steady.)
4. Whittle down waste
One immediate way to see your bottom line improve this year is to keep a tight rein on your sales team giving out discounts and freebies, and on your production team’s unregulated wastage. You’ll be surprised when you add it all up how much profit you’ve lost this way. Set boundaries over what is and isn’t okay for your sales team to do during the sales cycle.
Rather create bonuses or value adds that they can add in that have high perceived value but low cost of goods sold. For example, you might offer two free training classes to a new customer when they buy a year’s subscription to your software service.
A training class has a high value, but likely costs very little to add more seats to the room. As far as your production team goes, if you haven’t already, you should invest in business software that tracks productivity in your team, as well as in your machinery and equipment, to improve efficiency and reduce wastage. This alone is worth the investment costs of the software.
5. Say ‘No’ to scope creep
Scope creep is when your customer alters the scope of your product or service after the initial agreement of work has been signed off, but with no alteration to the initial quote. It is excessively common and can be very detrimental to a bottom line in service businesses.
This year, be clear about what is and isn’t on offer in the quote, and if there are any adjustments down the road, inform the client upfront of these additional costs. Wait for approval before starting the work. Be clear about prices for common extras that clients may want and let them know you’d be happy to provide these additional items for them at these pre-agreed prices. This could also be an opportunity for gentle upselling.
With this in mind, may 2019 see your bottom line grow from strength to strength.
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