In our last article we discussed how to develop a true customer focus. This month we focus on how best to respond to your market place by identifying new trends and ‘benchmarking’ best practices, learning from the competition, clarifying your unique business strengths and weaknesses, and planning marketing and promotional activities.
By becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and by subscribing to relevant trade journals, you increase your exposure to business networks and the latest information and trends. Most chambers are mandated to support small companies in their quest for new opportunities.
This is achieved through a number of services (including enterprise development, business intelligence and training) and opportunities to swap ideas with similar minded individuals. Over half of chamber members are small, medium and micro enterprises with turnovers below R5 million per annum, so they’re definitely the right company to keep. The tough trading climate means chambers have adopted a more pragmatic view and spend more time helping companies drive efficiencies, reach export potential and run their operations within national compliance regulations.
The CapeChamber of Commerce, for example, aware that ‘deal flow’ is critical to small business growth, has developed an aggressive pan-African policy which sees it connecting with other African chambers, governments and agencies. A quick glance at online magazine news stands like www.magazines.co.za, which showcases several categories of South African magazines, including free digital ones, reveals there are many options to choose from. You should search trade publications related to your industry sector and preview latest issues (if you can) before subscribing to the actual publication of your choice.
Learning from competitors
In order to learn from competition one needs to set aside all prejudices and be prepared to learn from other companies. Having correctly identified your competition you can begin to plan comparative shops. Be sure to think as broadly as possible. Competition in food retailing, for example, is diverse and numerous. Everyone from the large supermarket across the highway, to speciality food retailers/food standalones at the end of your driveway, convenience shops at garages and numerous ‘mom & pop’ style small businesses are competition.
It’s important to conduct thorough desktop research before you leave home. Search websites for clues on strategy and product positioning; check advertising and promotional activities in the mass media (local and / or national press, radio and on TV). Is your competition focused on selling ‘quality’ goods or price leadership? Once you view them close-up, what messages are prominent in their window displays? What happens once you’re inside their premises? Take note of everything from shop layout through product range or catalogue, to price-points and approach to customer service. Write down all key information and take photographs if you can.
Benchmarking for success
Benchmarking is the process of comparing your company and your processes/performance to the best in the trade. Aspects typically measured are the quality of goods and services, time to manufacture product and or delivery schedules and costs. The process of benchmarking involves identifying the best companies in your sector, or in another sector where similar processes exist, and comparing them with your own.
In this way you learn how well you are performing and, more importantly, the reasons certain companies are successful or not. Benchmarking is especially effective when used to measure performance against a specific indicator (cost of a product, productivity improvements, cycle time or defects per product) resulting in a measure that is comparable with your own performance. Benchmarking then allows you to develop new objectives to improve or adapt specific processes with the aim of increasing your performance. Benchmarking may be a once-off event, but is usually an ongoing, continuous improvement process.
There is no single benchmarking process, but you should first understand your own processes in detail and then identify potential benchmark companies. Having completed the benchmarking exercise one can then determine the gap and / or process differences. Finally you should set targets for future performance and communicate to everyone involved. Having implemented the changes you should review improvements on an ongoing basis.
To understand your own business strengths and weaknesses you will need to start with a simple analysis. Ensure you have the right people in the room in the first place. Quality input ensures quality output. Then be brutally honest about your company and its potential. Jim Collins in his best-selling book ‘Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t’ calls this confronting the “brutal facts”. Follow this up with a simple SWOT Analysis. Ask your team what your company’s strengths are i.e. what you are particularly good at? Conversely. What are you weak at i.e. what does your company struggle with? What opportunities exist for you to take advantage of (given your unique strengths) and what are the threats from competition i.e. how can they beat you at what you do? Once you’ve established your strengths and weaknesses you’ll be able to identify your unique offering (see last month’s article).
Defining your market
Another trick is to define your market in really simple dimensions. Let’s illustrate with an example. Take a cosmetic product i.e. body cream or lotion. Does the product fall into the category ‘therapeutic’ or ‘beauty’, high or low price? Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion for example would be a therapeutic product (with variants including Aloe & Cucumber for skin repair etc.) and also low to medium-priced. Your task is to plot all your competitors on a scale with just two axes.
Now answer this question for yourself. Where does Ingram’s Camphor Cream fit into the picture versus say a Coty or Lancôme product? Having identified your customers (we also completed this exercise last time) you can now begin to plan your marketing or promotional effort.
This is a subject on its own, but it starts with identifying an annual calendar of events. Start with the bigger ones e.g. seasonal changes & weather patterns (rain or shine), then public holidays & major sporting and / or special events in your geographical location. Finally record competitor activities (the more history you have the easier it will be to predict their behaviour). Now plan your promotions. If you’re a small food retailer do you want to expose an existing product or launch a new one?
When is the ideal time to do this – at the beginning of a week, on a Monday say, or a Friday in the case of boerewors – when it sells well as most customers braai on weekends? When would you advertise croissants? On a Monday – right? Because that’s when most customers buy them. Plan special events to coincide with the reduction activities of competition, your own reductions and clearances on weekends when most customers shop you – and so on.
5 Signs Your Customers Have Questions You Aren’t Answering
You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey. And confused customers don’t buy.
When you come to my website, the first thing you see is me, a description of what I do and a button that encourages you to click on it. There are no surprises, no guessing where you should go next. I’ve laid it all out right in front of you.
Not all businesses make things this clear. Some have too much clutter on their homepage, overwhelming visitors with information. In fact, 75 percent of consumers polled in research by Stanford said that they judged a company’s credibility by its website design.
Such lack of clarity doesn’t apply just to websites. This could be a problem in your emails, your sales process, even your physical stores. And a lack of clarity is troubling, because it confuses your customers, and confused customers don’t want to buy from you.
You need to make sure your business is focused on ensuring a positive experience. That means making sure no customer question is left unanswered.
Not sure if your business is suffering from a lack of clarity? If you recognise any of these five signs, there’s a good chance your customers are confused.
1. Your website stats seem off
We tend to assume that most people know what to do when they come to a website. But if your website is unorganised or cluttered, customers may not know where to go when they get there.
Maybe the customer wants to call you, but your contact information is buried. Or maybe he or she wants to purchase a product directly off your site, but the checkout process is too clunky.
If something on your website is off, your stats are going to show it. You’ll probably see a lot of visitors but not a lot of return visitors, and the amount of time they spend on your site may be low.
So, how do you fix it? Go through your website with a fine-toothed comb. Have someone unfamiliar with your site go through it and give you feedback. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at the site from their perspective. How can you make their experience on your site as smooth as possible?
Related: How To Win Trust And Wax Sales
2. The customer is indecisive
When customers are in the decision phase, you want to do everything you can to seal the deal and push them along with their decision. If they’re waffling or can’t seem to make that decision, there’s something wrong.
It could be that they don’t have all the information they need. If they’re confused about something, it’s your job to set their mind at ease. Make sure you’re open with your customers, and offer help with any questions or concerns they might have. FAQs, live chat options, videos and product resource pages can help tremendously here.
3. The customer doesn’t know how to use the product
Is there one question that keeps coming up again and again from your customers? If you’re constantly getting the same question about your product or service, the answer needs to be clearer.
Customers shouldn’t have to call in to your support team for simple issues. You need to make it easy for customers to use your products and services. That means offering to help set things up for them and properly onboarding and training them in your product’s use. The more you can prepare your customers and anticipate their needs, the more satisfied they’ll be.
4. The customer is complaining
According to a survey by American Express, seven out of ten consumers in the United States have spent more money to do business with a company that offers great service. Excellent customer support is key to the success of your business, and without it, customers will be unhappy.
When customers are unsatisfied with the level of service they’re receiving, you’ll hear about it. If you’re getting a lot of complaints or seeing a lot of product returns, there’s probably something wrong.
To avoid getting an earful, you need to get to the root of the issue and find out the cause of your customers’ unhappiness. Is it your customer service team? Slow shipping times? Or something deeper? You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey.
5. Sales are down
If you aren’t selling, something is wrong. It’s as simple as that. If sales are consistently on a decline, you need to go back and find out where the problem is.
Customers want to know what they’re getting into when they make a purchase. You need to make it clear what you offer, why customers should buy from you and how exactly they can go about buying.
The key here is clarity. Customers aren’t going to jump through hoops to purchase your product. You need to guide them through the sale by ensuring their questions are answered before they’ve even asked them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
On Top Of Their Game
Innovative and focused on always providing superior solutions to the energy sector, Karebo Group works with top-quality providers to ensure 100% service delivery to its clients.
As a provider of dynamic professional services and products to the energy sector, Karebo Group’s core focus is delivering high-quality services and products to its clients.
“Our team has a long-standing and proven track record within the energy market,” says Ravi Govender, owner of Karebo Group. “Our in-depth knowledge and experience enables us to offer innovative and superior solutions to our clients. As a team, we thrive on the intellectual challenges that energy markets present.”
Karebo Group’s value proposition is to always deliver within time and budget, 100% customer commitment according to contract; operations must deliver consistently; and the entire team must be committed and 100% professional in delivery.
Because Karebo Group provides a turnkey solution to its clients, managing its own fleet enables the team to provide the best and most efficient service possible. “We’ve learnt the benefits of controlling the entire value chain,” says Ravi.
“In the past we have outsourced our logistics, and it impacted both our costs and our service delivery. By managing our own fleet, we can reduce costs and have happier clients.”
Karebo’s customers face significant challenges related to energy costs, which means it’s essential for the business to offer its solutions as cost-effectively as possible. Controlling transport and logistics costs is one way to do this, but it’s just one factor that the business considers. “We have solutions for all of the cost challenges that our customers face,” says Ravi.
“The problem is that while these solutions have a great return on investment, the ability to raise or channel capital to them is a challenge. General market conditions are also contributing to the indecision on allocating limited capital to these projects.”
In response, Karebo has overcome many of these challenges by assisting its customers to raise their own capital for projects. “We have moved the conversation from a CAPEX conversation to an OPEX conversation,” he explains.
The TomTom Telematics Difference
In order to keep its own operating expenses as lean as possible, it’s essential for Karebo to work with suppliers who understand their business and its needs. “We’ve been working with TomTom Telematics for three years and in that time we’ve reaped the full benefits of using the system to its full potential.
“WEBFLEET’s features include loading orders, geofencing, tracking and reporting, all of which have assisted us in optimising routes and working efficiently to see more customers, thereby increasing productivity.
“The order dispatch features via navigation device enable our teams to keep to their schedules, while address-visit reports help our teams to be more efficient by eliminating unnecessary visits to the same locations. The onboard navigation system also assists in communicating with our teams via a messaging service — teams can message our head office via the system if they need immediate assistance with correcting addresses or if any vehicle maintenance required. In addition, head office has a full view of the location of all of its teams across Africa, at any given point in time.”
According to Ravi, TomTom Telematics has played a significant role in the overall business, not just in terms of monitoring vehicles, but on bottom line costs as well.
“We chose TomTom Telematics based on its services, which met our specific requirements. Thanks to WEBFLEET, our company has seen a reduction in fuel costs, increased productivity and vehicle maintenance costs have been reduced as we place all driver behaviour reports on our company chat to correct driver behaviour.”
The leading edge
Ravi Govender was part of the national steering committee that put together the M&V framework that the original Eskom DSM programme was measured against. He also led the UKZN M&V team from January 2002 to December 2003 before joining Karebo in 2004.
Since joining Karebo, Ravi has ensured that his passion in developing solutions that transform and promote DSM has helped to place Karebo at the forefront of energy efficiency in South Africa.
Under Ravi’s leadership, Karebo has been focused on increasing the penetration of DSM in the South African environment and beyond. As a result, Karebo has been involved in several notable projects in this arena, including developing the framework and methodology to develop and implement large-scale mass rollout programmes.
Karebo pioneered the mass rollout of CFLs for Eskom and through this foundation several other programmes that been implemented, from the mass rollout of solar water heaters and residential mass rollouts, to developing the first large-scale LED programmes that were funded by Eskom. At that point it was the first and largest LED rollout approved anywhere in the world.
Karebo was also involved in both of Eskom’s Residential Mass Rollout phases; was contracted by the World Bank to assist Malawi on an advisory basis for the first CFL programme rolled out in that country; and was recently appointed by the EU through the European Commission to implement Solar Power Lighting to Communities and Schools in Lesotho.
How To Win Trust And Wax Sales
Small changes to your ecommerce platform could transform your turnover.
Any ecommerce business venture is risky. Your products are not going to walk off the site by themselves from day one. You have done your market research. You have identified and targeted consumer needs. You believe in your product.
What you need now is for consumers to believe in it too. But that is not enough. Your consumers also need to believe in you and your brand. Your ecommerce platform is the vehicle which allows the consumer to experience an insight into the quintessence of you, your product, and your brand.
Take your ecommerce experience from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’.
Your ecommerce platform is a place that gives you, your brand and your products a voice. Your voice needs to speak out and tell your story. How you came to this point with your product. How and why you know it is the best on offer. Who you are.
What your brand stands for. Drive engagement with your voice through blogging. Show your investment in remaining relevant and meeting consumer needs. Invite feedback to build diversity and growth. Your products need a voice too, but they cannot speak for themselves. Let customers know your products’ worth by offering clear, detailed, jargon-free descriptions.
Give your customers pictures. Lots of them. From every angle. Show what you and your products are made of. Bring your products right into the customer’s home. If your products have got it, flaunt it. Convey an effective message that unites you as creator, your creations, and the lifestyle your brand is offering.
Authenticity, honesty, and clarity of purpose will connect the consumer to your brand in a real and relevant way.
Tell all, on call
Respond to consumer enquiries with as little delay as possible. These are personal interactions with the consumer that build relationships. Excellent customer service boosts positive feedback. Aim to provide as much detailed information about your business as possible. Be transparent, and proud of it.
An FAQ section is professional and helps address recurring questions regarding your products, services and business practices. Use the opportunity to provide further info about your brand’s integrity and professionalism. Refer to certifications and licenses. FAQs indicate honest, reliability and well-established business procedures, which further builds consumer trust.
The allure of secure
A steadfast returns policy cuts the risk for consumers when making a purchase. It is far easier to commit if you are assured you can return the product with a full money back guarantee. Make this policy evident from the outset. Include a link to your returns policy on your landing page. Address all returns related queries in your FAQs. Consumers will also trust your ecommerce platform if you guarantee safety and security of information.
Less is more!
Shipping costs are a turnoff. Many consumers abandon their carts just at the finish line because of this final hurdle. So, offer free shipping and seal the deal. Discounts and sales items must be in your face. Feature deals and reductions on your landing page with hard-to-miss, easily understandable images of slashed prices. Build some buzz around sales items with a sense of urgency.
Small trial samples in exchange for email details or a quick survey are another sweet deal. Everybody loves a sample. And you score business leads to follow up. The info you gather can help you to personalise user experience, and fine tune focused target marketing.
That big red button
We have all encountered an enticing call-to-action button. One that offers the promise of a new start, that opens doors, that kicks in the rush of actualisation. A CTA that makes the customer feel like that button has their name on it is what it’s all about. ‘Buy Now’, ‘Add to Cart’, ‘Get Started’. The brand and lifestyle you are selling needs its own effective CTAs. They are the final frontier between deliberation and diving in.
The quick or the dead
First things last: Your ecommerce site had better load, and fast. This is vital. Already, 5 years back, failure to load with sufficient speed meant 1.73 billion GBP in lost sales. Consumer impatience is a fact. There are loads of options out there. Don’t be left dead in the water.
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