7 ways to dramatically accelerate your business in 2016

1. Improve your customer value proposition

Back in the dark ages, we had unique selling propositions (USPs) and points of difference (PODs). Now we have CVPs. What’s the difference? Well, we’ve all realised that it doesn’t matter how unique or different your product, service or business is if your prospects don’t care. So a CVP is a proposition that matters to your customers and that they are prepared to pay for. What’s your CVP? Does it set you apart from your competitors? Does it make a real difference to your customers? Does it engage your primary target market?

A couple of things to remember.

First, many business people forget that a key element of the CVP is your customers’ emotional response. This is true even of B2B customers. What emotional triggers do you pull?

Second, contrary to what many believe, a CVP doesn’t have to be wildly different and innovative to be effective. What sets Coke apart from Pepsi? Some would say taste, but blind testings have shown time and time again that even Coke addicts can’t tell the difference. No, Coke’s key CVP advantage hasn’t been its product, but its marketing.

As a strategy and marketing consultant, I work with clients to improve their CVPs. I use a powerful tool called the Customer Value Canvas. Sometimes the improvements seem minor — free offers using the latest technology to increase lead generation, new approaches to clients’ websites to maximise conversion, vertical integration to capture greater sales value. But the objective behind all the improvements is the same — to enhance the way customers value my clients’ products or services in a way that optimises the value for my clients in providing those products or services.

2. Get a mentor

None of us is an expert on everything in business — but most entrepreneurs seem to believe they are. The first time I went into business for myself, this realisation took a long time to hit me. When it finally did, I initially looked to people with knowledge in the areas where my knowledge was lacking. They helped by allowing me to focus on my strengths rather than trying to overcome my weaknesses.

But I realised I needed more. I needed someone with experience and a strategic brain to look at my business with fresh eyes and tell me, openly and frankly, what they thought. The someone I found gave me both barrels, right between the eyes. Like many business people, I had been guilty of working in the business, not on the business. But suddenly, with the help of my mentor, I could see the big picture. I could see clearly what I needed to do to, and my business never looked back.

These days, I am a mentor myself, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than helping my clients to grow — not only their businesses, but their own capabilities. But I haven’t stopped learning, and for this I still depend on my business partners and the network of other consultants, experts and creatives who work with me and to whom I turn for advice and guidance.

3. Recharge your batteries

It’s summer in New Zealand, the time of year when virtually the whole country closed down for the holidays. But all that has changed. Many business people aren’t taking holidays, taking advantage of this time to get things done and plan for the financial year ahead. So much for the freedom that owning your own business supposedly brings. It’s so easy to become so completely wrapped up in the day-to-day issues and activities of your business that you put off holidays altogether — and the small ‘breaks’ you take as a token gesture to loved ones are spent checking emails and making calls. The trouble with that is that without time-out it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees. You lose the big picture, the ability to stand apart from your business and look at it objectively, strategically. Not only that but you become less productive and less creative.

The secret, I’ve found, is to schedule R’n’R into your annual business plan, thinking ahead to make sure you don’t get caught up in a last-minute rush before you leave and delegating to avoid a mountain of paperwork on your desk on your return. Smart businesspeople also build R’n’R into their daily lives. They take time for the important things — family, friends, exercise, reading, thinking and sleeping. Even in wartime, Winston Churchill took short naps during his workday, long before they became popularly known as power naps.

4. Fire up (don’t fire) your team

The other day I saw an article recommending that you fire your sales team every eighteen months. I didn’t even bother to read past the headline. There are plenty of these types of articles around, all written, I’m sure, by people who’ve never managed a sales team. The fact is, it takes any new team eighteen months to learn your business, develop their contact base and build some real traction. If you want to fire them at that stage, go ahead. But getting in new blood is no substitute for effective leadership, motivation and development.

5. Improve your onboarding process

When did induction become onboarding? I’m not sure, but the concept seems to imply a far more comprehensive approach than the first day in my first job. I was told to sit at a desk that was awash with papers and already occupied by someone who clearly resented the intrusion. There were no welcomes, no introductions, no orientation. I was simply told to get on with it. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. Spotting an opportunity, the desk’s other occupant, a pimply teen not much older than me, but far wiser, quickly showed me what he was doing. Then he left me to it and I never saw him for the rest of the morning.

These days, onboarding is seen not as a time-waster, but as a critical investment in new employees. It’s not just about getting them up and running as quickly as possible, but about fitting into the team and developing the company culture. In fact, it’s part of the “secret sauce” behind the success of Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Franchises of 2016, according to a survey of the executives from the Top 100 companies.

“Real growth — growth that’s not only quick, but sustainable — comes from a focus on people,” says the magazine. “Not just the franchisees, but the employees they hire, the customers they serve, and the corporate staff who support them. In short: Take care of people and the numbers take care of themselves.”

“Take care of people and the numbers take care of themselves.”

6. Improve your quality control

So the small fortune you’ve invested in marketing seems to be working and your sales are up — but at the same time, you’re receiving complaints about product quality and a flood of returns. You may as well have thrown all that money in the toilet. In fact, it would have been better if you had, because of the damage you’ve done to your brand. In too many companies, rising sales leads to an inversely proportionate decrease in product quality. By the time the damage is done, it’s generally too late to apply a quality management band-aid. The solution is to invest in a quality management system before you invest in marketing.

7. Tune up your sales engine

Sales is the revenue-generating engine of pretty much every business. People buy from people. So no matter how good your products or services are, how powerful your marketing is, or how cutting-edge your technology is, your business isn’t going to go anywhere unless you have an effective sales machine in place. If that’s you, when was the last time you read a sales book or attended a sales training course? What sales techniques and tools do you use? How are you measuring your results? If you have others selling for you, how are you managing them? Your sales engine is only going to be able to perform at its best with constant monitoring and tune-ups.

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps you decide where your focus needs to be in 2016. I am a business, marketing and franchise consultant and would appreciate your feedback and examples from your own experience.

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