No, I am not asking if your business offers a delivery service. I am talking about your business meeting the expectations that your business plan, mission statement, vision statement, marketing plan, strategic plan and any other plan that you have created describes for your organization. We often think of our business in an idealized way and fail to think of how these plans translate into reality. A lot things sound good on paper but when you take a step back and look at your business, you have to assess whether your business is delivering on all of the things that you said it would. There are five areas that I believe your business must capitalize on to be competitive and achieve success:
- Service – Many business owners neglect this primary area. They think that if they have a great product or service offering at the lowest price, people will buy from them. However, there are some instances where people will purchase something inferior because they are treated better by the competition. People giving you money want to know that you care about them and not just their resources. To find out if your business delivers on service, you should consider have a secret shopper visit your establishment or conduct a client survey.
- Expertise – I know of a businessperson who wants to price his products based on a competitor’s pricing, however the competitor has a great deal of expertise versus this person’s limited experience. If you are new to an industry or don’t have as much experience as your competitors, you should consider hiring someone to join your staff who has experience that will complement what you are already bringing to the table. Your other option would be to use your limited experience to your advantage and create a pricing strategy that is lower than your experienced competitor and focus on businesses that will grow with you.
- Quality – For a long time I never purchased items that were not name brand because I assumed that they would be inferior to the products with the fancy labels. In recent years, I have begun to purchase more and more Great Value (Wal-Mart’s generic brand) products. Although they don’t have the fancy packaging, the quality of many of their products is comparable with the major brands. In today’s economy, people are looking for quality products at an affordable price. Your product can be priced less than someone else but it has to be a comparable quality or the consumer may spend more to get the quality that they seek. I feel this way about my facial products. There are generic brands which may be priced less and contain the same ingredients but I am afraid to take a chance on my skin so I just pay more because I am familiar with the quality of Neutrogena products.
- Time – It seems as though our to do lists are getting longer and longer but we still only have the same 24 hours in each day. Therefore, if your business says that will deliver in a certain timeframe, people will expect you to live up that promise. You should also evaluate your business hours to determine if your business hours are convenient to your customers. It amazes me how many small business owners want to be open from 8 or 9 am until 4 or 5 pm and then complain that Wal-Mart or other big box retailers are taking their customers. The blame cannot be laid squarely on the shoulders of the competitor because these small business owners are not open when most people are available to take advantage of their services. I am even more amazed at the number of small business owners that are closed on Saturday. Sure, you want to enjoy your weekend but if your mission is to make money, you need to sacrifice a little of your time now or hire someone to work the business during these hours. Your customers will not wait for you to become available; they will shop where it is convenient.
- Image – You only get one chance to make a first impression. Yes, painting a sign for your storefront will save you some money. Yes, printing your business cards on your home computer will save you some money. Yes, taking your profile pictures with your camera phone is more convenient. I will even concede that not having your office professionally cleaned is cheaper. However, all of the money that you are saving is also causing you to lose potential revenue. When someone sees your storefront, your business cards, your profile picture and even when they walk into your office, they make an immediate assessment about the quality of your product/service. You will never be able to charge a premium for your offerings until you step your game up and create a professional image for your business.
I hope these tips help. Take a little time to compare the plans you have created for your business and the reality of what you are delivering to your customers.