Albert Einstein is often accredited for defining insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” So, let me ask you: When was the last time you took a really good look at your business? Is it status quo? Same old thing, each and every day? If so, now’s the time to shake things up!
It sounds odd, but businesses are a lot like relationships — without hard work, they’re equally prone to complacency. Even if you have a great product and offer excellent customer service, the key to thriving rather than simply surviving is to constantly keep it fresh. Building your brand (as opposed to “just selling”) requires both an open mind and a willingness to think outside the box.
Your Business 101
Let’s start by taking a look at the services you offered over the past 12 months, and how much income they generated. Ask yourself: “Do I want to duplicate the exact same results next year?” Well, you will — unless you do something different.
I’m not referring to a significant departure from your current business model, but rather kicking things up a notch. For example, last year every facial was a facial. A really good facial, but nothing more. Next year, every facial will be a facial plus a hot towel wrap and stone massage so that you develop a reputation as the facialist who always provides extra pampering at no additional charge (even though you may choose to slightly increase your prices — you still offer the extra as a built-in cost).
Changing It Up
If you started your business more than a few years ago, you already know how much has changed in terms of media and consumer shopping habits. Today, nearly everything is available electronically — paper’s out, technology is in. Consumers are making more purchases online and communicating by social media. In keeping with these significant trends, you, too, should shift your marketing approach toward social media, email, apps, Google and online marketing. If technology makes you sweat, hire a high school or college student to help you — but don’t be afraid to learn something new.
As any scientist or good business person knows, you can’t change what you don’t know. So, if you haven’t been tracking either your efforts or results, and instead going by a gut feeling of “more” or “fewer” clients — you have some work to do. Tracking results doesn’t have to involve complicated spreadsheets (although, if they help you and you enjoy them — go for it!); it could be something as simple as ensuring that anyone who answers your phone asks new customers how they found you, and recording that information. Also, perform a monthly review of recorded sales, purchases and expenses. When you’re easily able to pull up this type of data, you’ll instantly know whether to continue your efforts or change them without worrying about unpleasant and often costly surprises months down the road.
What’s Your WOW factor?
Businesses need to stand apart from the competition in order to excel, and one of the ways to do that is with a point of difference — your WOW factor. However, business owners sometimes mistakenly convince themselves that a WOW factor isn’t in their budget, because they associate it with expensive fixtures in the reception area, giant bouquets of fresh flowers delivered weekly and champagne-on-tap for customers. But WOW-ing clients is really all about the memory you leave with them. That little bit of extra time or care that you share so that they race off to praise you on Facebook, telling 150 of their friends about you — that’s a WOW factor. It doesn’t really matter what the gesture is, as long as it’s worthy of a mention on Facebook or other social media.
Leveraging Online Reviews
Millions of today’s consumers depend on Yelp, Google+, Facebook, or other social media sites to assist with their buying decisions — which means they’re looking at your online reviews, too. How are your reviews? How many do you have? You need more than one or two! If a client showers you with compliments in person, ask them to post about you on social media. Most people are happy to do so, especially when they’ve had an outstanding experience. However, if they seem reluctant, offer a small incentive like a discount on a future service.
Inevitably, there will be some negative posts, too. Some people complain no matter what. Don’t let it get you down — but deal with it ASAP. Respond swiftly and professionally so that the public sees that you care. A failure to respond to negative reviews can be far more damaging than the negative reviews. Reach out personally to the grumbler, and do what you can do to make it right (within reason). Once they’re happy, ask them to kindly update their review, and then thank them online.
Be a PR Star
You don’t have to hire a public relations agency at $150-$200 an hour to get the word out about your business. Find someone just out of college who can send story ideas to local media outlets. You can do it yourself too, but you have to have an angle. For example, you could pitch a story about couples getting Botox together for Valentine’s Day, or one about acne treatments for teenagers — just in time for prom season. Timing is important, but just one or two bites can lead to hundreds of pitches that may be picked up and distributed on a much grander scale.
When I think of a hugely successful company, few would argue that Coca-Cola has done well. But even a company as profitable as Coke has reinvented itself — many times — over its lifetime. Remember I talked about the WOW factor? Coke pulls it off by regularly introducing new products that meet consumer demand — vanilla Coke, lime Coke, zero calorie Coke, zero carb Coke — these are just a few examples of how the company is always trying to WOW customers with a new and exciting twist. Clearly, Coke is obsessed with not always doing the same thing.
You can easily do this, too. With a little thinking outside the box and a good, hard look at your business each and every year, you’ll build a brand that will leave your clients saying, WOW.