Listening for the Need

Surprised child

Photo (CC 2.0) by Jay Ryness, on Flickr

How many times have you asked yourself, “What do our customers want?”

I hope you answered that by saying you consider that question every day. Or maybe once a week. At least I hope it’s once a year as you set up your goals for the year.

Yet I suspect that often our answer revolves around thinking we know what the customer wants. And that can be a big mistake.

So what should be the answer to my question? I would hope we would answer “This is what our customer wants BECAUSE WE ASKED!!!!!”

We may think we know what the customer wants or we may treat a part of the issue but do we get to the cause.

This video, from Stanford eCorner, tells the story of how Intuit realized its product was used as much in the business world as it was for its designed market, taking care of our personal finances.

Watch it and then ask yourself again, “What do your customers want?” I suspect your answer will be, “We better go and find out.”

Savor the Surprise

And don’t think you only ask once. Your market will change

Growing Pains

Change

Photo (CC) by Nana B. Agyel, on Flickr

One of the objectives at Power of Business is to learn from other business owners. Often others have already experienced the path we, as a business owner, are thinking about or already on.

This is a great story examining how growth turned out to be less than a great thing for Copper Pot Carmels.

According to the article, the issues started as the owners started to streamline the process in order to keep up with demand. What surprised them was the customer reaction.  And what was the streamlining? An automated wrapping machine which demanded a new type of wrapper.

Read how they had to step back and refocus and what their future plans are. Also pay attention to their passion for the business in terms of the hours they were working.  Lots of lessons to learn such as talking to your customer before making a big change.  You should also appreciate their attitude that “It’s not the end or an era; it’s the end of a chapter.”

Hopefully a reversed decision does not end your business but instead help you instead decide how to move forward. 

As you read the article, how might you have handled the situation? Lessons learned.

Getting Found: It’s a Must!

Market

Photo (CC 2.0) by Blullana_Miranda, on Flickr

The idea of getting one’s business in front of the target audience remains a crucial step.

Yet getting this done continues to become harder and harder. The number of marketing messages grows on a daily basis. As the number of messages grow, consumers are just tuning out more and more of them. Some estimates suggest that 90% of the messages placed before us don’t even register in our minds.

So business owners face getting noticed among the forest of competing marketing messages.

A couple of year’s ago, I did a blog for Small Business Survival in which I noted the importance of networking. That remains one effective tool.

Another tool is the importance of “you” the owner. Your efforts in networking as well as in establishing the brand, reputation, and identity of your business are crucial.

Third, develop your ambassadors. Today with social media and third-party review sites, this step perhaps is easier than it has even been. Encourage people to rate their experience with your company. Just this last weekend, my wife and I ate a favorite restaurant. As we finished our meal, the staff person at our table brought us a postcard and said if we liked our meal to send the card to a friend. The card offered a discount. What a great way to encourage people to spread the word.

The bottom line is that your customer will typically not find you without a great deal of effort on your part. Marketing is key to a successful business.

 

Following the Regulations

Dept. of Regulations

Photo (CC 2.0) by Jeffrey Beall, on Flickr

As I work with small business owners, I hear sometimes about the laws and regulations that impact the operation of their business. A difficulty they have is staying aware of new regulations that might affect them.

The Maryland Risk Management Education Blog recently wrote about a local business owner and an issue they faced, anti-discrimination statutes, in their agritourism business.

As they noted, their blog is not legal advice but brings up an issue that others may face. In the case of the business discussed, it brought a fine and a civil penalty as well.

As a business owner, you need to:

  1. stay abreast of these issues;
  2. put policies and procedures in place to ensure you comply,
  3. train your staff in compliance; and
  4. get a attorney on your team to offer advice.

Staying on top of such issues can help you avoid such fines. It also can save you dollars spent in handling legal issues. More importantly, it ensures that your business does not suffer from negative publicity.

Learn what laws and regulations affect your business. Watch for changes or new issues that come along. And take the necessary steps to ensure your compliance.