For many years your business coasted along with growth on growth each year. Then, one year your turnover flattens. “That’s OK,” you say, “It’s the economy.”
The next year you experience your first ever decline … then another the following year, until you start to experience a downward spiral over the next few years.
“What’s happening? It must be more than the economy if your decline lasts more than a few years. What’s changed?”
“Nothing!” you reply. “We’ve had a very successful business for over a decade, which we’ve run the same way.”
And there could lay the problem – nothing has changed in your business whilst the people’s lifestyles, spending habits, fashion, sales channels, technology and competition have all changed around us.
It works, until it doesn’t.
Sticking to a replicable and winning formula for business is great, and it works … until it doesn’t. We must always keep our eyes open to what’s happening around us and evolve our business with the trends within your market.
Here are six contributing factors that may have occurred around you which may have gone inadvertently unnoticed:
- Competition – have similar businesses moved into your area or similar products emerged on the market? Has the increased popularity of internet shopping created competition that wasn’t evident when you started your business?
- Relevance – does your product or services still have the relevance in today’s market that it used to? Is there still a need for what you are offering? Have other products or technology superseded what you offer? Have you expanded your products or services to keep relevant to the needs of your community?
- Changing demographics in your area – has the average age of your area changed? Well established suburbs change as kids grow up and eventually leave home; parents grow older, downsize, move or heaven forbid, die. When the demographics of areas change, so can their need for certain products and services. How can what you offer evolve with the changing demographics of your area?
- Technology – have you embraced technology to keep your customer service and administration processes efficient and user friendly? Look how easy it is now to make a medical appointment online, rather than waiting for the receptionist to be free to answer the phone. Even checking in when you arrive can be done via an iPad. Fast and efficient!
- Static sales channel – If you’re a retailer, is visiting your shop the only way people can purchase from you? Do you have an online presence that would cater for full-time workers who can’t get to you during normal trading hours? What delivery options do you offer for full-time workers? Do you open after-hours? More people are working, either full or part-time, than they were 10-20 years ago. Is accessibility your biggest challenge that you need to address?
- Are you looking tired? – Well not you personally, but your business premises? Does it look like a vibrant, successful business of 2019 or a relic from the 1990’s? Does your image match the expectations of the (changing) demographics of the area? A fresh coat of paint, new signage, window dressings or furniture could revamp your business’s appearance, image and energy.
You need to evolve with the trends as they happen to stay relevant and competitive. Invest in industry magazines, journals or read relevant articles online to keep abreast of changes in your field of business.
Keep an eye on how your customers are changing - the types of people, nationalities and ages moving into your area. There could be many business opportunities to cater specifically for them.
Offer greater flexibility with trading hours, delivery options and ways customers can access your goods and services. This could include a website with online shopping cart, offers via social media, extended hours, home delivery or in-home service/visits, or ‘click-and-collect’ like many retailers are now doing.
Embrace technology to enhance the overall customer experience and expectation. After all, you don’t want to become a Kodak and be superseded by the digital age and technology.
Keep your business premises looking fresh, vibrant, successful and in-vogue - a place that is inviting to visit and comfortable to stay. Change your displays frequently to create newness on every visit. Think of how you can create an ‘experience’ to customers and make your premise a destination.
And lastly, keep yourself looking fresh, vibrant, successful and in-vogue as YOU are the defining difference that can eclipse all of your competition.
It is YOUR personality, YOUR attitude and the extra customer service that YOU provide as a small business owner that is the defining difference that will keep customers returning for more of YOU!