Why You Need to Learn to Plan (And Plan to Learn)
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” But how many of us really take it seriously or take action on it? Do we even clearly understand the benefits? Why we should do it and what is the value to us?
In my experience, until we understand the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) we never really do anything. Normally we need a strong perceived benefit before we’ll generally do anything!
So let’s first take a step back and explore when we do understand planning. Two of the best examples are: 1. A wedding; and 2. Building a house.
Most weddings are either pretty good or even great. And even if you have been to a lousy one, it’s normally in the minority. Weddings generally work out well because they’ve had literally months and months of planning. Planners consider every detail and the plans get reviewed and adjusted all throughout the months before the big day.
For the second example, consider this:
Assistant (at Home Depot): ‘Hi, this is Joe Soap how may I assist you?”
You: “Hi Joe, I’ve just thought about building a house and want to order some bricks please.”
Assistant: “Sure, how many would you like?”
You: “Well I’m not sure, how many do you usually need for a house?”
Assistant: “That depends on the house. Have you thought about the color yet?”
You: “Not yet so maybe give me a few in every color you’ve got.”
This interaction seems absurd, as no one would ever just start building a house. We’d go through meticulous planning, designing and re-planning, long before we even get to ordering the bricks. First in our imagination, and then with an architect and, even a designer.
Yet I see business owners managing their businesses this way every day. Going through the daily motions, keeping all the balls in the air, without a clear plan for getting where they want to go.
So let’s see how and where planning fits in:
Once you have spent some time on getting clear on your dreams and goals (this is another subject), the next step would be to set SMART goals. SMART goals are then translated into plans so that the actions we take again feed up the line to ultimately achieving our dreams. This would be the same for business goals and personal dreams.
The disconnect between these 4 areas normally result in things like procrastination, boredom, being overwhelmed, burnout and the like. Once you have absolute clarity at each step, it’s easy to focus, and more often than not, you achieve your goals and ultimately dreams faster than initially expected.
With this understanding, I often find people wanting to then go straight into planning over a long period. If you’re not yet good at planning your day, there is no use in trying to plan the next three years. Develop a good daily planning habit first (Read, Eat That Frog, Tracy or First Things First, Covey).
So to start, get some clarity on what you’d like to achieve in the next 3 years. With that in mind, what is it you’d like to achieve in the next 12 months? Once you’ve got the 12 month goals, break them down and work backwards to what you should do in the next 90 days only. Start the planning at that level and first get good at creating a 90-day plan, like you would if you’ve been to my GrowthCLUB. Then break it into monthly focus areas and weekly goals, plans and actions that again connect to the 90-day goals.
Take daily action and get good at reviewing the daily plan and preparing for the next. Then move towards working on the weekly review and planning for the week ahead, and so on. Before long you’ll have exercised your planning ‘muscle’ and will be getting good at annual and then three-yearly planning.
Planning is a tool for achieving your dreams, and the more you work on it, and have fun with it, the more your life and business will bear the fruits. Block out time on your calendar right now when you are going to do this goal setting and planning, then go for it!
For more help, come to my next GrowthClub on June 22nd.
Advertise Online For Free
According to marketing experts, businesses spend somewhere between 2-5% of their gross sales just on advertising. Unfortunately, many small businesses which are still relatively new do not have that kind of revenue to invest in marketing in order to get the sales they want. However, they can benefit from free advertising for small businesses through online marketing.
Start By Creating a Web Presence With Email
The internet can be a lethal tool, especially when it comes to marketing and letting the world know that your business is there to fulfill your customers needs. There are many free outlets which are available online to reach leads for your business that you can convert to customers.
Assuming you have already set up a website available through free domains, and have created a logo for your business. If you don’t have a logo, you can have a basic one made for very low cost. Here is where most small businesses fall short – and I’m surprised nearly daily to see that they don’t have an email address set up for their domain name, but are using gmail or yahoo addresses etc.. By using a generic email domain, you are missing a chance to advertise every single time you send an email message. Not to mention that it just looks unprofessional. If you want customers to take you seriously, get email set up for your business domain.
Using Social Media As A Platform
Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are free online advertising for small businesses. Facebook lets you create a page for your business, manage it, and lets you share it on different platforms to catch the attention from people worldwide.
In order to gain more publicity, you should continuously post updates, host giveaways, and offer special deals which are available only for those Facebook users who visit your website.
Twitter is another free social platform which allows you to advertise online as a small businesses. Twitter allows you to have a direct one-on-one conversation with your customer. You can even customize your profile page according to the nature or theme of your business. Hosting giveaways can be done on this platform as well. You can even give shout-outs to regular customers and offer them giveaways.
Have A Signature
Every email you send, have a small 3-4 line signature which includes the link to your website, your contact number, address, and links to your social media pages. This helps build an online presence for your business. It is another great and effective way to advertise online for free for small businesses.
Not sure how you’re doing with your Social Media efforts? Grab my free ebook titled “6 Mistakes To Avoid Using Social Media”. Just go to 6 Mistakes Social Media ebook to grab it. I know it will help you save time by avoiding some of the common mistakes I’ve seen my clients make in the past.
How to Keep Your Customers Coming Back
So we’re on step 4 this week of reviewing the 5 Steps to Increased Profits framework – focusing on one of the five steps each week. As a review, the five key profit-generating metrics are: Lead Generation, Conversion Rate, Average Dollar Sale, Number of Transactions, and Profit Margins.
I’ve highlighted the five keys in the following equation:
Avg. Dollar Sale
Avg. # Transactions
I talked last post about the importance of ensuring you boost your Average Dollar value of each sale. This week we focus on increasing Number of Transactions by looking at how to keep customers coming back. Many businesses think that once they have a new customer, the work is over, but in fact the work has only just begun!
When a prospect buys from you for the first time, they step on to the first rung of what we call the “ladder of loyalty” and become a shopper. Then when they buy again they take the next step and become a customer, and so on up the ladder, as can be seen in the following diagram. The framework to keep customers coming back and generating Repeat Business, is to increase lifetime value by using the 7 rungs of the Ladder of Loyalty:
On the lower levels of the ladder, there is very little customer loyalty and if a competitor comes along with a better price, customers are more than likely to give them a try, and you may never see that customer again. The art of achieving a high level of customer loyalty is to move them further up the ladder, so that they become loyal clients and eventually raving fans. Once they become a raving fan, not only can you guarantee they will always buy from you, but they will go a stage further and start actively recommending other people to come to you, so helping to fill your sales pipeline.
So how do you turn your customers into raving fans? Well, the first stage is to know who your customers are and categorize them based on how much they spend with you and how much of your time they take up. I use an ABCD system:
A = Awesome
B = Basically sound
C = Could do better
D = Don’t want to deal with
There is little point in spending time and effort with your D clients. These are the ones that haggle over price, take up your time over pointless queries and spend so little with you compared to the effort you put in that if you checked, you’d probably find that they bring you no profit at all. So just pass them on to one of your competitors; you never know, they might become their awesome clients!
C clients are those that have not yet been educated in how you like to do businesses. They have some of D’s habits, but buy sufficiently from you that they are worth trying to upgrade.
B’s are the clients who form the bread and butter of your business. Some you will be able to upgrade but others will need more attention and appreciation to maintain their loyalty
A’s are your advocates and raving fans. These guys make what you do enjoyable. They not only buy from you but they can’t wait to tell others about you.
So what do you do to upgrade and maintain your clients at the appropriate level? Well, the answer is simple. You keep in contact with them and create a loyalty program. There are many ways that you can keep in contact with your customers, and technology has made this far easier than ever before. Through email, blogging and social media, you can remain in contact with your customers as regularly as you like for the minimum of investment.
The more traditional method of keeping in touch with your customers include telephone calls, newsletters, direct mail and entertaining. Whichever method you use, you must bear in mind the appropriateness of the medium and its effectiveness and importantly, make sure that you give value to the customer.
The easiest method to set up and systemized is the quarterly newsletter or email. Some people dislike newsletters because they are full of dull boring information about the company, which is of no benefit to them. So the best way to appeal to people is to be more creative and have some fun with it and provide high value content. People like to be informed of interesting things, learn something new and have fun. With some thought and creativity, you can make receiving your newsletter a highlight of your customers’ quarter.
Loyalty schemes there are some very simple schemes you can use that will have just as much effect as the big airlines programs. All you have to do is monitor the level of business a client does and then reward them when they hit certain targets. You can do this via databases, accounts systems or plain and simple printed cards. Rewards need not be money off; in fact you can get really creative with this – all you have to do is give perceived value.
One great strategy is to find a non competing business in the same sector and offer each other’s clients something from your range, e.g. a photographer and a florist could swap a bouquet for a portrait. Remember that this will have the added advantage of putting a new person onto each other’s loyalty ladder.
Another great way to reward loyalty is to invite clients to a special event, such as an educational seminar, a new season products launch or even arrange a celebrity visit.
Whatever you do to keep your clients coming back and stepping up the ladder, make it interesting, add value to your clients’ lives, have some FUN, but above all, TAKE ACTION.