Posts Tagged ‘Growth’

Mondays with Mike: 7 Secrets to Stellar Speeches

Whether it’s a Cub Scout awards ceremony or an address to the Chamber of Commerce, every one of us is called on to speak in public from time to time.  While the notion of giving a speech makes some people anxious and others invigorated, the truth is we can all improve our public speaking skills with just a few simple strategies.  Here are my secrets for memorable speeches.

  1. Use the power of eye contact.  Right from the beginning, you should make an effort to connect with every single member of your audience, and the single most efficient way to do it is to look everyone in the eye.  Bill Clinton was the master of this technique, and his audience left his speeches feeling like they’d had a personal connection with him. 
  2. Stand up straight.  It may sound simple, but this is the one single tip that every public speaker must remember.  Your posture affects your demeanor, your confidence, and your audience’s impression of you.  Back straight, shoulders back.  That must be your mantra before you even say a word.  If you don’t appear to be confident, your audience won’t be convinced by your message.  Whether you’re nervous or not, good posture make you appear calm and confident.
  3. Give a performance, not a speech.  Shifting your focus from just the words you say to the entire experience helps you deliver your message memorably.  When you broaden your preparation to encompass movement, gestures, and methods of engaging your audience, you’re amplifying your power.  Speeches are so much more than just saying the words.  Think of yourself as an actor in a one-person play, responsible for delivering a message and entertaining at the same time.
  4. Change up your speech patterns.  No matter how compelling your stories and facial expressions may be, any speech can be boring if the speaker doesn’t play with the pace and delivery.  If you know you’re a fast talker, build in some spacers that let your words sink in.  “Now think about that for a second” can not only give your audience a brain break, but it also breaks up the predictable rhythm of your speech in a way that keeps your audience engaged.  Make sure you’re not burying your brilliance in a dull monotone.
  5. Focus on topics that matter to you.  If you couldn’t care less about the topic of your speech, I guarantee your audience won’t care either.  When you’re genuinely invested in an issue, that passion translates into enthusiasm – a highly contagious state.  Even when you have to transmit information that’s not inherently riveting, taking the time to relate the subject to your greater purpose – what really matters – gives you a chance to make the topic matter.
  6. Use the power of storytelling.  Nothing creates a closer, more meaningful connection between you and your audience than a powerful, shared narrative.  Weaving a compelling story into the fabric of your message makes your speech both more memorable and more likely to spur your audience to act.
  7. Don’t use the lectern as a crutch.  Just because there’s a podium or a lectern in front of the room doesn’t mean you’re confined to one spot.  In fact, many of the least interesting speeches are delivered by terrified speakers who cling to the podium for support and who don’t realize that moving around gets blood flowing and keeps an audience engaged.  Don’t let a hunk of wood come between you and your audience.  Get out there and make a connection!

Some of us are always more naturally composed, while others wake up in a cold sweat, terrified of our upcoming presentation.  Here’s the good news, though:  You can measurably improve your public speaking skills, and you can – with a little practice – be a powerful speaker, even if it’s not your favorite way to communicate.  If you’re passionate and determined, you can get your message across. 

Are You Pickier Than Your Pickiest Customer? (You Should Be)

12-31 Picky Eater smallIt’s time for you to stop cutting your business a break, to stop letting things slide. If you want to improve as a business, learn to out-picky your pickiest customer. Try putting on your pickiest view of the world, and force-fit this filter onto your employees’ eyes as well.

Let’s try out this pickier-than-the-pickiest-customer view of the world with a look at the very simple, often ambiguous behavior that one of your employees might exhibit. For example, you could be watching, through your new grump-tinted glasses, one of your clerks coming out from behind the checkout counter chewing on her last bite of a ham and cheese sandwich.

 Your employee makes her way to the register, swallows the last bite of her sandwich, and says, “May I help you?” to the customer waiting at the counter.  Not an uncommon behavior and something most of us have seen at some time or other in our life as customers (people gotta eat, right?)

Now that you’ve watched this scene unfold, take your employee aside and ask her to describe what the customer at the register thought of the interaction, including the not-quite-finished sandwich with which it started.  Your employee will usually ascribe the mindset of someone like her own sweet grandmother to the customer; she’ll hear in her mind’s eye the customer thinking “Oh, that poor dear. She missed her dinner and had to eat standing up. She rushed right back to work after taking only five minutes of her lunch break. She’s so dedicated.”

This, my friend, is one of those big ole teachable moments: If you take this opportunity to ask your staff member to look at her own behavior as your pickiest customer would see it, you help her understand how her behavior actually appears to some customers. Because your pickiest customer would interpret the sales clerk who comes out to the register chewing the last bite of her sandwich more like the following: (with dripping sarcasm): “Oh, how nice! You have time to sit back there and have a leisurely lunch while I’m standing in the line for 20 minutes waiting for you to get off your backside and come help me. I’m soooo sorry to have bothered you – no – you go back and finish up while I stand here, at your leisure, just waiting to give you my money. Don’t worry about me or anyone else dying here in line…”

Needless to say, this is a very different interpretation – but it’s the one that will help you grow as service providers and as a business entity.

If you teach yourself, and your staff, to view their service behaviors as would a customer who’s a hypersensitive, hypercritical crank, your staff and you will begin to see flaws in the customer experience and any number of inanities that you’d otherwise miss. Let’s say you manage a restaurant and catch a busser in the following behavior:  He sees a half-empty glass of ice water and says to the guest, “Would you care for some more water?” It’s a pretty innocuous service gesture, and intended to be helpful. However, viewed through the eyes of your pickiest customer, the response might be something like, “No, don’t bother – let me die of thirst” or “what do you need, an engraved invitation – it’s just ice water” or “Excuse me, I was talking!”

Viewed through this lens, you can help your employee reevaluate whether or not he should continue to interrogate guests on their refill needs, rather than just pouring it without a word and moving away from the table.  

Nextiva in 2015: A Year of Growth & Innovation

As 2015 comes to a close (where did the year go?!), we want to reflect back on the amazing year we’ve had. This year has been full of growth and new opportunities at Nextiva, from product launches to our first Partner Summit to numerous awards and team growth, our team rocked it! We asked some team members to reflect back on the major milestones and events of this year and to share their thoughts on the new era Nextiva embarked on in 2015. Here’s what they had to say:

NextOS 3.0 Launch


Tomas Gorny (CEO): NextOS 3.0 is designed to enhance the user experience and make it easier for the 100,000+ businesses we serve to manage their phone systems. NextOS 3.0 represents the first initiative in a series of innovations to come for our customers.  

Josh Kay (Manager, Product Development): NextOS 3.0 is the first step towards bringing Nextiva into the world of elite product innovation companies. This project is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s next for Nextiva.

Lindsay Berman (Creative Director, Product Development): NextOS 3.0 marked our first step toward truly putting the 'Simplifying' in 'Simplifying Business Communication' (our company tagline). We have always delivered the most powerful technology – now we're making that technology easy to use so that businesses can get the most value out of our products.

Jen Fritz (VP of Government & Enterprise Solutions): This new interface is a breakthrough in offering a simple approach to managing complex requirements without restricting access to valuable features. This is obviously a huge leap forward for Nextiva, and it’s just the beginning.

Claudio Goralczuk (Director of Development Resources): NextOS 3.0 was created using the agile development process. This led to quicker progress, higher visibility, and the ability to adjust course if a new direction was chosen.

Nextiva Partner Summit


Ira F.: Our first annual Nextiva Partner Summit was an amazing success! We had over 300 partners from across the U.S. come to Scottsdale for 3 days of sales education, product training, and to learn from their peers across a variety of partner types. I cannot wait until 2016!

Tracy Conrad (President): Everything we do is to help our partners grow their business, and partner revenue has increased every month since the summit. It was a huge success, and it will be even bigger in 2016.

Carl Katz (Director of Channel Sales – East Region): Our first Partner Summit was an overwhelming success! Partners who came to the event left with more knowledge and were more excited than ever to sell Nextiva!

Andrea Obert (Marketing Programs & Event Manager): With the exponential growth we’ve experienced in our partner program, we wanted to take the opportunity to get as many partners as we could in one place at one time to keep everyone informed.

Lane Chereskin (Director of Customer Service): It allowed our team to meet our partners in person. We interact with them every day so it was great to create a stronger relationship.

Nextiva’s 7th Anniversary & Spirit Day


Yaniv Masjedi (VP of Marketing): I have never seen so much company spirit. It was nice to see our entire team getting involved in this fun event. Our Porting team was extremely creative and went above and beyond.

Lane C.: Our 7th Anniversary and Spirit day was a great opportunity to show our Nextiva pride. The event created a stronger sense of community in our department.

Paul Kida (Sales Engineer): On Spirit Day, the team I was a `part of took it upon themselves to get together and go all out decorating the entire office in blue and yellow. I cannot wait to see how we continue to amp up our celebrations for years to come.

Kristen Bradley (Culture Lead): I was inspired to see how proud people were to show their “Nextiva colors." To me this day was a testament to the incredible internal culture and community we have created at Nextiva.

Tony Calvis (Video Producer): Nextiva’s 7th anniversary was an incredible demonstration of the care and camaraderie employees have between each other within the company. ‘Prideful' doesn’t even begin to describe the energy amongst my co-workers.

Team Growth


Amanda Dziuk (Talent Acquisition): We are always looking to improve ourselves, and because of this, our potential for growth seems limitless. My favorite part of recruiting is seeing those that I spoke with excel and move up at Nextiva.

James Murphy  (VP of Inside Sales): Our sales teams continue to grow exponentially and are driving results like never before. We have the best people in the industry working tirelessly to ensure that our customers are always taken care of. I can’t wait for everyone to see what we have in store for 2016! 

Jamie Brown (Technical Support Manager): This year the operations department has grown tremendously. It has been a great team effort in order to make sure that Nextiva keeps providing Amazing Service.  

Kim Lamont (Executive Assistant to CEO): It’s exciting to be part of this wave of growth and keep up with the challenges and opportunities that come with it, as well as welcome all the new and talented people to our team. 

Company & Team Events


Jonny Basha (Sales Operations Manager): In 2015, we began our Town Hall meeting series. These monthly get–togethers were a great way for the Inside Sales, Account Management and Marketing teams to meet with Tomas and other members of leadership to discuss company updates and best practices. 

James M.: From our first ever partner summit, to an epic company picnic, town hall meetings and of course all the special days celebrated in the office, it has been an epic year.

Yoel Lustgarten (Culture Lead): Company events are what bring our teams together. It boosts internal relations and, as a whole, company culture.  

Max Anderson (Video Producer): It makes a huge impact on the morale of the company when we have events and team builders.

Company Culture Awards


Kathleen Klein (Talent Acquisition): My two favorite awards we’ve received this year are the Phoenix Business Journal’s “Most Admired Companies” and “Best Places to Work.” These awards in particular are special to me because they demonstrate the engaging, collaborative, and rewarding experience we create for our employees. 

David Clewell (Sales Operations Manager): The award from this year that stands out to me the most is the Phoenix Business Journal’s "Best Places to Work" award. We consistently win awards for our products and customer service, but it's very special that we’re winning them for our company culture too. This was our 5th year in a row winning the Phoenix Business Journal’s "Best Places to Work" award.

Customer Service Awards

Customer Service Awards

Tomas G.: We have an amazing team that truly believes in our mission and genuinely wants to help the businesses we serve succeed and grow.

Lane C.: We talk about Amazing Service at Nextiva a lot, and it’s at the heart of everything we do. It’s an honor to be recognized by Frost & Sullivan and the Stevie’s for our dedication to our customers.

Thomasina Cady (Customer Service Manager): I am really proud that we earned the Frost & Sullivan Customer Service Leadership Award. It shows that as we grow, we don’t lose sight of our dedication to our customers. I am looking forward to watching Nextiva grow and continue to earn more awards for Amazing Service.

Lukas Gorny (VP of Operations): I am extremely proud of our Frost & Sullivan and Stevie awards. The number one thing our employees want to do is help the businesses we serve, and they do everything in their power to do so. It is so nice to be recognized for the effort our entire team puts in on a daily basis.

Chris Lopez (Enterprise Operations): It's a great accomplishment to be recognized by Frost & Sullivan for our amazing customer service. Nextiva is changing the industry simply by listening to our customers and acting with their best interest in mind. 

Product & Software Integrations


Josh L.: More and more customers are looking for their Nextiva service to integrate with the other contact management and software solutions they use. Because of this, we have developed a number of integrations and have more on the way. Also, because of this, other SaaS companies are taking notice of Nextiva.

Eric Boller (Salesforce Developer): We have made multiple advances and improvements with Salesforce and other platforms. CRM integration leads to data congruency between different platforms, which is important to today’s businesses.

Alex Todorovic (Software Engineer): I got to work on our Salesforce integration. Pretty soon, any customer that is using Salesforce will be able to easily integrate their CRM with Nextiva.

Alfred Fox (Front End Software Engineer): The integrations have been both challenging and rewarding. Our customers that use Zendesk for their CRM now have a more standardized process that decreases data errors and increases their efficiency.

Partner Program Growth


Tracy C.: We have the best partner program in the industry and everyone is taking notice. From product launches to rapid team growth and fun events, this was a huge year for us. I can’t wait for next year—2016 is going to be even bigger and better.

Ira F.: This has been a key year of growth for our Amazing Partner Program.  We were able to triple the number of partners we have, double our sales revenues, and sign several strategic partnerships that will take us into 2016 big time. 

Cara Plowman (Channel Operations Manager): The undeniable growth of our partner program can be measured in countless ways, but the most notable is people know us now – the ultimate indicator of growth. We’re running with the bulls now, and Nextiva’s Channel team is a force to be reckoned with.

How to be a Successful Mompreneur

12-30 Working Moms smallBeing a mother is a full-time job. Once you have a little person, the most important thing in your life is the health and wellbeing of your child, and then there’s your marriage. Then when you add business owner to the mix, it’s like having three full-time jobs.  To say that striking a balance between home and your business is a challenge is a vast understatement. Mompreneurs who successfully balance motherhood and business make it look so easy, but there are a few key things to know that will help you not feel so overwhelmed. Here are a few secrets of successful mompreneurs.

1. Start Early

The rise-and-grind mentality is one that many business moms embrace, but I suggest you start the day by slowing down and thinking about how you want the day to unfold. I start my days in prayer because I want to take a minute to focus before chaos ensues. It’s helpful to mentally prepare myself for the day. I also take the time to have breakfast with my son and see him off to school before I jump into a productive day of work.

2. Limit Your To-Do List

Itemizing your priorities can be a useful tool so that you don’t overwhelm yourself! To maintain balance in your life, cut your to-do lists down to five things that you will get done during the day. Try to get those tasks done by 11am each day. Consider everything else you achieve to be a bonus. This will require some prioritizing the day before, but it will stop you from feeling like you never get anything done.

3. Keep Your Schedule

It’s incredibly important to budget your time if you want to be a successful mompreneur. This means that whether your hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., they need to stay consistent to keep your schedule. You might be tempted to become a workaholic, but resist the urge. You family needs you as much as your business does. Give 100 percent and be productive during your workday. Don’t be distracted by social media or your cell phone, get your work done!

4. Use One Calendar

As a mompreneur, your have a work calendar and your family has multiple calendars. Use one calendar to manage the master family schedule. Using a single calendar for all of your commitments will make sure you don’t drop any balls. In doing this, you’ll never absent-mindedly forget about the school play or schedule a business meeting that conflicts with that dance recital.

5. Self-Care is Key

Mompreneurs fire on all cylinders, so self-care is key. You move from home to work to school, and if you are really organized, you’re able to hit the gym too. If you want to be a success mompreneur, you’ve got to take care of yourself. This means eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. If you’re sick, take the day off. Your business and your family need you to be healthy. I also try to get regular massages to reduce stress. You can’t be productive at work or attentive at home if you aren’t healthy.

6. Hire help

As soon as you can afford it, hire help. You can get a college student, retired person, or another mom in your community to help with your children. Drop off and pick up can be quite time consuming, and you want to focus your time on high revenue activities, so that you can afford to do special things with your children.           

7. Unplug

I firmly believe that everyone who works should take the time to completely shut off. This means that you are not checking emails at the dinner table, you’re not taking calls in the middle of bedtime stories and you are not looking at your computer in bed. Once your workday is over, go home and enjoy your children, at least until bedtime. You are never going to get this time back with your family. Do not sleep with your cellphone in the bedroom.

Being a busy Mompreneur can be a challenge. Your work never ends, but if you can set reasonable limits for yourself and follow the tips outlined above, you’ll see that you really can have it all.

Mondays with Mike: 4 Ways to Make Better Decisions in 2016

12-28 2016 business decisions smallEven though I can hardly believe it, it’s that time of year again – when we resolve to do better than we have before.  While I’m not a big fan of grandiose resolutions that are built for breaking, I am a proponent of stepping back, looking at your year, and making thoughtful, deliberate changes for the better.  While some of your 2016 will depend on factors beyond your control, you will be making decisions.  Here are four concrete strategies to make them good ones.

  1. Employ a 10-10-10 strategy.  Suze Orman deserves the credit for this strategy that guides your choices for the short, medium, and long-term.  Ask yourself about the effects of your decisions in ten hours, ten months, and ten years.  What you’ll inevitably discover is that often short-term discomfort from having to make a hard choice is mitigated by the long-term benefits of that decision.  Don’t short-change your company’s future simply because you don’t want to deliver bad news or disappoint a colleague. 
  2. Try to make your plan fail.  Okay, I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me.  Once you’ve made up your mind, start thinking about all the things that can go wrong with your decision.  Then, on a very small scale, see if you can hunt for weaknesses, find pitfalls you might not have anticipated.  Though it sounds counterintuitive, finding ways to make your plan fail actually prepares you for success.  When you’ve explored all the possible negative outcomes, then you’re ready to launch full-scale.  You’ve refined your plan so its odds of success are dramatically improved.
  3. Implement a stop loss.  Everyone wants to succeed, but the truth of the matter is not every decision you make is a good one.  It’s critical that you establish – ahead of time – how you’ll measure your decision’s success, and at what point you’ll abandon your new idea.  Part of making better decisions is being willing to admit when one has flopped.  Cut your losses and move on when it becomes clear your plan isn’t working out the way you’d hoped.
  4. Avoid an either/or perspective.  Real innovators see beyond the obvious binary options and realize the best ideas often require thinking outside the box.  When you’re planning your next move, push yourself to look for solutions that didn’t immediately occur to you.  Brainstorm for inspiration and push yourself to find the best – rather than just the easy – options.  Don’t forget about your staff; you’ve hired great people, and it’s possible one of them sees a solution that didn’t occur to you.  Cast your net wide when you’re evaluating your options.

Though ruminating on your failures (and we all have ‘em) isn’t the most productive way to move forward, it can be helpful to look back at your year and assess what worked and what didn’t.  Priming yourself for success in 2016 can be as simple as resolving not to repeat behaviors that didn’t yield desired results.  Get yourself ready for a bright new year by improving your decision-making skills. 

What Pace is Right for Your Business?

"If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough." This quotation comes from notorious race car driver, Mario Andretti. Just as maximum speed was essential to gain him an impressive 111 career wins, it is just as important for businesses that want to get a leg up on the competition. The real gift, however, is in knowing what "fast enough" really is versus what "too fast" looks like. Here are some tips on how to make sure that your business moves as quickly as possible — without crashing into too many walls.

Look to the competition for clues.

When deciding exactly how quickly your business needs to run, keep in mind that you're not looking to break any speed records. You only need to be a bit faster than the competition to establish the pace that your business needs to achieve. When other similar businesses seem to be passing you by, try to find out what they're doing and how they're doing it.

Do rival stores move customer lines faster simply because more employees are at the counter or do they possibly use a more efficient checkout process with less paperwork than your store requires? Does your service business need to turn away clients during peak seasons, while other companies make liberal use of trusted contractors during these times? You may not be able to do everything that they're doing — particularly if their operations are significantly larger than yours. But, every idea that works for you will be golden.

Business volume requires speed.

Your overall goal is to maintain maximum business volume at all times, so look at your work force and other resources to figure out how many products or services you can realistically turn out for maximum sales.

The good news is that increasing speed does not always require a large cash outlay, so start by examining areas where you can increase efficiency. If your business sells its own products, inspect the product assembly process. The chances are good that you will find activities that you can combine to avoid duplication of efforts or change the process order to avoid bottlenecks. Similarly, have you looked at the sales force process? Can you spread out sales districts or otherwise rearrange the force to increase sales by covering a larger or more prolific geographic area?

Of course, at some point, you have to spend money to make money. You may need to increase head count to turn out more products and sales. But, don't forget that an investment in automation might be a viable alternative. Whether you use machines to count and pack widgets, or you look into computer software to automate tedious administrative processes, every minute saved can become a boon to business outcomes.

Too much haste can make waste.

The key to Mario Andretti's racing success may have been speed, but he probably wouldn't be alive today if he didn't know where to draw the line between top speed and too much speed. Luckily, bodily injuries are likely not a major concern within your business. Still, your entire business will need life support if you choose speed over quality.

Strike the right balance between the tortoise and the hare. You might increase production by eliminating excessive quality checks, but too few quality controls actually increase production of returned products. Or, your tax accounting business won't increase profits if you spend too much time attending IRS audits due to significant tax return preparation errors. As you increase the pace of your business, always monitor closely to make sure that quality remains stellar.

When you think you're moving quickly, try to add a notch.

Any business will reach its peak pace at some point, but never become complacent. When you think your hamburger restaurant can keep pace with no more than 100 take-out customers during each hour of the lunchtime rush, maybe a change in advance prep can accommodate 3 more customers per hour.

Doing the math conservatively based on a $5.00 burger and a two-hour business lunch period, that change will bring you an additional $60 per day. If the change doesn't create additional cost, that pace increase can earn your restaurant $15,600 per year. It's not huge, but it's not chopped liver, either.

Err on the side of cautious adventure.

Mario Andretti saw his share of crashes and rollovers, but he's still considered one of the most successful American race car drivers — and he's still alive to brag about it. At age 75, he's no longer a race car driver, of course, but he boasts many new successes, including a winery and a petroleum business. He has approached every aspect of his life with a sense of adventure. Like Andretti, your small business needs to take some calculated risks to speed to the finish line and beyond.

5 Ways to Add More Value to Your Customers

12-23 Product Value smallThere are no new ideas under the sun, really? So what can you do to help your small business stand out in the marketplace.  I have often said that it is a losing proposition for small businesses to compete on price, since large competitors with higher volume can always undercut you. So if there are plenty of other businesses that offer what you sell, how can you compete effectively? How are you different? What makes your customers choose you? So you have a secret sauce or specialized system for doing business? This is what’s called your value proposition. 

If you don’t have a specific value proposition, it will be extremely hard to get or keep customers. Every business offers slightly different value over the others. Here are seven ways to increase yours:

Specialize: No one wants to hire a “me too” business. You must be known for something that you specialize in. If everyone can use your product or service chances are no one will. Trying to be all things to all people never works. How can you keep your customers keep coming back? Let’s say you own a spa. You may think customers come there every two weeks for your service technicians, when in reality they come for price 50 minutes for $50 bucks. In this highly stressful out world, an affordable massage is a real treat for a busy working mom. It’s all about understanding the value you offer customers, and then owning it. You should highly this in your marketing materials.

Talk to your customers: Don’t even assume you know what your customer is thinking, you need to ask people why they buy from you. It is easiest to get customers to give feedback if you offer them something in exchange like a discount, or buy one get one offer. You could gain valuable insight that may change your business focus or delivery of your service.

Leverage Your Experience: If you’ve helped 318,356 entrepreneurs start a business, say so. It sounds better than “we’ve helped lots of people start a business.”  Think about how impressive it is to say, ”We’ve helped over 300,000 businesses get started.” As best you can, quantify your value proposition. If you can fix a customer’s hair with a cut and curl in 60 minutes, during her lunch hour, use your speediness in your marketing material.

Strong Sales Copy: Your sales copy needs to speak to a specific expertise and target customer. Anyone who visits your website, landing pages or social media profiles should be able to quickly understand how you can serve them and who is your target customer. If you are a spa owner targeting those tired working moms, they should know you are talking to them with your sales copy of the home page of your website. Your value proposition should come across clearly in all your messaging so that customers know what to expect from your brand.

Highlight Your Benefits: Outline the benefits of your product or services to potential customers. There is a big difference between benefits and features. Focus on one of these three things: Better, Cheaper or Faster? Remember it’s all about solving your customer’s pain. These are all triggers that cause people to buy, so use them. 

Your unique value proposition is ultimately what you are selling. It is what drives traffic to your website and to your retail store. Be clear about the benefits you provide over the competition, and keep it consistent across all your marketing.

Adding Revenue without Adding Costs (The Value of Past & Current Customers)

12-18 Value of Current Customers smallChances are, your company spends a significant amount of money to acquire new customers. The significant costs associated with acquiring new customers are a necessity because the revenue generated by these new customers allow your company to grow and succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.

The good news is, there is a way to increase your revenue that is less expensive than new-customer acquisition. The answer is actually quite simple. As long as you are improving and adding to your product line, your company should be selling to both current and past customers.

Compared to acquiring a new customer, marketing to current customers is up to 10 times less expensive. The reason for the significant drop in marketing and selling costs is that you eliminate the capital spent on lead generation. You are selling to a customer who is already interested in your product line. You have an established relationship with past and current customers and, by leveraging your history, you can grow your revenue stream without investing a large amount of money.

Let’s explore three practices that will reignite sales from past customers and maximize your profitability:

Maintain a Communication Avenue

Maintaining communication with your customers is essential to building a strong relationship and will help you gauge interest of additional product offerings. The more you can communicate with your customers (e.g., via phone and email), the better your relationship will be. Customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as Salesforce, store customer’s information for later use, so you can identify upselling opportunities.

CRM software can also provide reminders to contact current customers once they reach certain milestones such as completing the onboarding process, using your service for a year, etc.  In some cases, while not as personable, you can automate the process with emails requesting feedback, sharing news of a new product, or thanking them for their continued support of your business. Also, it is important to check in with your customers to measure product satisfaction. Your customers are your best source of feedback for product and service improvement. The feedback will you help acquire more customers in the future. You can also use the feedback to see if there is interest in additional products/services from your company.

Sell Additional Value

Selling, without providing additional value, can have the opposite effect of what you wanted. Asking your customers to spend money on products that do not benefit them can leave a bad taste in their mouth and can cause you to lose that customer’s business forever.

Instead, you should sell products that will benefit your user. Whether its an additional product, a service that can work in conjunction with your current offering, or a new feature of your current offering, you need to demonstrate the value of your product and show how it will benefit the customer.

Leveraging your past relationship with a customer will grant you access to key decision makers who have the ability to purchase your product. If your customer is satisfied with your past products/services, they will be more inclined to listen to how your product can save them time, make them more money, or make them more competitive in the marketplace.

Referrals = Less Expensive Lead Generation

Word of mouth is the best form of marketing your company has; it is an extremely cost effective way to generate new sales. Compared to advertisements, consumers are more likely to consider purchasing products and services that their friends and colleagues recommend. Focusing on creating a superior customer experience builds trust with your customers. In return, they will be much more likely to recommend your product or service to their network. Offering some form of incentive for referrals, such as a discount on their next purchase, will further the effectiveness of this strategy.

While acquiring new customers is exhilirating, don't forget about those that are already loyal to you. They're your best (and cheapest) way to increase your revenue stream. 

Creating a Responsive Business Model to Combat Demand Fluctuation

12-4 Fluctuating Demand smallImagine this scenario: Your product or service is in high demand. Business is booming and profits are through the roof. Then, after a few months go by, demand for your product/service has started to either decrease or tapper off. Has this happened to you? Demand fluctuation is common and can strain a company’s resources. The good news is you can create a responsive business model to combat demand change.

Now you may be thinking, “But it’s expensive to change right?” Wrong. This is a common misconception that holds many companies back from experiencing their full growth potential. In fact, many of the following suggestions will simultaneously increase your company’s responsiveness for the future, and save you money in the present—a win-win for your business.

Here are four ways to become more responsive to demand fluctuation and gain a competitive advantage:

1) Invest in Scalable/Responsive Technology  

We’ll use a cloud phone system in this example; but keep in mind, there are a variety of scalable technologies that increase responsiveness. Let’s say that your company is experiencing a spike in demand, and in-bound calls are through the roof. With an old-school analog phone system, you would need a technician to come install new phone lines along with having to train more employees to handle the increased call volume. This takes a large amount of time and can be very expensive.

On the other hand, a cloud communications system would be much more efficient in handling fluctuating demand. Adding additional lines to handle in-bound calls can be done in minutes. Also, setup is done virtually meaning there is no need to wait for a technician to come on-site for the installation.  

Additionally, cloud phone systems provide a variety of features that allow businesses to handle fluctuating call volume. These features are configured from a simple, but powerful, web-based client. Features such as call queuing put calls into a queue until an available agent can answer them. Think of this as an advanced version of call waiting where one person, with one phone, has the capability to manage call flow. Since call flow fluctuates, by having the customer briefly wait for service, a company does not risk over investing in hiring additional in-bound sales employees.

2) Use a Lean Business Model (Service Industries Included)

Businesses are putting greater emphasis on becoming lean. For example, just in time manufacturing means that there is less inventory on hand, so your company does not incur high inventory costs. A responsive, lean business must work with their supply chain. Companies should work with their suppliers to have demand fluctuation contingencies. This includes working with your supply chain to standardize as much as possible to increase the speed of a product going from manufacturing to the market.

Service organizations can also adopt a responsive, lean business model. Making your practices more standardized (e.g., integrating systems so they communicate with one another and laying out process maps), prevents mistakes and makes your team more responsive. The more standardized the work, the more your team can accomplish while also reducing the frequency of errors.

3) Understand the Importance of Trend Analysis

Many businesses stress the importance of collecting data, but few actually use it. Analyzing data and forecasting demand can be time-consuming and overwhelming, but it is extremely important if you want to increase the efficiency and productivity of your business. By successfully forecasting demand, you can adjust your product flow and change the size of your team to meet your future needs.

There are many different forecasting methods you can use to help predict demand. For demand that is not affected by seasons, you should use a simple moving average trend analysis. This method will find trends using past time periods.

For demand that is affected by seasonal change (e.g., holiday products), a company can use a weighted moving average to predict demand. This method puts weights on different time periods for a more accurate demand forecast.

4) Invest in Your Team

Lastly, you should invest in employees who thrive on change and are willing to handle a fluctuating workload. Let them know that demand can change at any time, and everyone will need to work together, and a bit more, during these growth stages. If you’re asking your team to work more, it is important to show your appreciation and reward them for their efforts. If demand continues to increase and shows no signs of slowing down (a “problem” every business owner wants), it may be time to grow your team so your business can handle future growth. 

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