By Stuart Ayling
It’s usually early in the year that you see an abundance of “new year resolution” suggestions, tips, advice and counseling offers.
But enough of that! Rather than encourage more introspection and navel-gazing, I suggest you take a moment or two to reflect upon what has changed for your customers. What are the influences they will be reacting to over the coming year?
You see, in terms of improving our marketing and gaining more sales we must always strive to understand the situation our customers face. And it’s a fact of life these days that situations change more rapidly than ever.
The good news is that change brings fresh opportunities. Maybe you have more chances to attract new customers now than you did before. Maybe new market sectors are looking for your products or services. Maybe there are new services you can offer to your existing clients, solving a problem you could not fix before.
Do you know what your customers are facing, what has changed for them? If not, it’s time to get started.
Get on the phone. Speak with a handful of your best clients and ask them what is happening. Are they still using your products the same way they used to? Have their processes changed?
Speak with those prospects that didn’t buy from you previously. Get out those proposals that were knocked back and ask the prospect what has happened? Don’t dwell on what they said before. Is there an opportunity for you to speak with them now about their current issues?
Speak with your staff. Are there any customer or sales issues that keep cropping up? If you have a sales team, get them to ask selected customers some specific questions. Hopefully you have also done this as part of your annual sales forecasting process. If you have, then you can compare results.
Look more broadly. Check out the “new for the coming year”-type lists for any trends or opportunities for you or your clients. See what I mean here http://www.entrepreneur.com/hotcenter for a variety of hot topics for 2003, and here for some Australian IT trends for this year http://www.zdnet.com.au/newstech/hr/story/0,2000024989,20270923,00.htm.
When looking at these prophecies try and think about the flow-on effect. For example, if many small businesses are going to be investing in new wireless hardware, what does this mean for their expenditure in other areas? What impact will it have on their capacity to manage their business?
Make sure you keep in touch with relevant news via your local industry association. And if you are a member of your local Chamber of Commerce (or similar business group) you can speak with fellow members about what the changes they foresee. Competitors should also be used as a source of information whenever possible. Read their newsletters, web site and advertising material – keep abreast of what they are doing.
And importantly… don’t forget the past. Many New Year plans ignore what has happened before. What have you done well? Which areas of your business need more attention? What have your competitors done? Learn from your past to accelerate your future.
So before you rush to implement any New Year resolutions for your business, stop and think. What has changed for your customers? What do they really want you to do for them?
Stuart Ayling – founder of Marketing Nous – is a seasoned marketing professional, with over 19 years of sales and marketing management experience across a variety of businesses and industries. Mr. Ayling has also taught sales and marketing at the internationally recognised UQ Business School, University of Queensland.