Many business owners, particularly those who are new to entrepreneurship, take a numbers-only approach when it comes to profitability analysis. Yet no matter what field or industry you operate in, looking at the cold, hard numbers may not be the best way forward. This is especially true of small businesses, where you have a lot of face-to-face contact with your customers.
They say that connections are everything in the business world. That same principle holds true when you’re talking about owner-customer relationships.
Strive to Make Personal Connections with Everyone
Here’s a secret that all successful entrepreneurs know: customers are more likely to return if they feel a personal connection to your business. While it may not be possible to get to know each and every person who visits your business, you should be a visible, accessible and approachable presence, and take a hands-on approach whenever possible. This makes customers feel as though they’re an integral part of your enterprise, and that, in turn, keeps them coming back.
This same lesson applies to employees, partners and everyone else that has a stake in your business. Strong personal connections create loyalty, and that’s a great foundation on which to build a business.
Express Your Gratitude and Be Sincere
A key part of forging strong personal connections is making sure that your customers, employees and stakeholders feel appreciated. If your customers feel as though you’re more interested in their money than you are in their needs, it’s likely that they’ll take their business elsewhere next time. Similarly, if your employees feel replaceable, disposable and unappreciated, they won’t be invested in doing a good job, and customer service will suffer for it.
Sincerity is something that’s a little more elusive, yet every bit as important. Consider the following example:
A customer comes into your store looking for a highly specific product. You have something similar in stock, but it isn’t exactly what the customer wants and you know it. You also know that one of your competitors has exactly what the customer is looking for. Do you try to sell the customer on the product you have in stock, or do you send them to your competitor?
Instinctively, you might opt to sell them on the product you have in stock, but in the long run, you’d be better off to send them to your competitor.
The customer will appreciate your honesty and sincerity, and business analysts note that those two values are becoming increasingly important in our highly connected age. Word spreads quickly nowadays, and if you’re conscientious about building a reputation based on sincerity and honesty, it will pay dividends down the road.
Maintain Your Focus
As your business starts to pick up momentum, it’s easy to get overly excited, or even overwhelmed, by the seemingly endless growth possibilities. Yet, everyone can think of a beloved local business that changed too much after it grew too fast; in many cases, such businesses end up becoming shadows of their former selves.
This tends to happen because rapid growth can cause a business to lose sight of what brought success in the first place. The customer’s overall experience changes, often for the worse. It might seem counter-intuitive, but rapid growth can actually be a dangerous thing.
During periods of growth, you’ll have to work harder to provide your customers with a predictably pleasurable experience. Make sure that business volume isn’t diluting service quality and you’ll be poised for a healthy and prosperous future.
Keep Costs in Check
If you’re going to look at numbers, start by focusing on costs, since they tend to be easier to control than sales. Perform a thorough analysis to see if there are places you can cut back without impacting the fundamental aspects of your business; if you’ve been successful thus far, you don’t want to jeopardize the things that brought you this far. Look for ways to reduce costs that won’t have a direct impact on the customer’s end experience.
When it comes to costs, small savings can have a major impact. This is because cost savings inflate profit margins. Find the right mix early on and you’ll see your profits grow enormously as your business picks up momentum and continues to draw in more and more customers.