Wednesday, December 02 2009
American industrialist and inventor Henry Ford is credited with saying, "Before everything else, getting ready
is the secret of success."
So how do we prepare for our most successful year yet? How do we "get ready" for the success we long for?
The best way I know to make something happen is to plan for it, prepare for it, and create a structure that supports it. If you want to make the next 12 months your best year yet, perhaps it is time to finally put in place the structures reflect your planning and preparation.
I find that structures free my mind to focus on the fun stuff, instead of keeping a huge amount of information about my business in my short-term memory, which no doubt slows down my thinking, and keeps valuable data away from the people who want and need it (like my prospects and clients), thus getting in the way of my success. So yeah, I'd rather put a structure in place that prepares me for the success I want. How 'bout you?
Here are my top 11 key structures
to put in place to make this next year your best yet (yes, in my priority order):
- Your marketing plan. You've probably heard the old saying "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" dozens if not hundreds of times. It's true. Of course, you've probably also heard a few self-made internet millionaires boast that they never bothered with something as mundane as a marketing plan, but they are exceptions, not the rule. Lottery winners are lucky, not necessarily smart. Yes, you can make some great decisions and be in the right place at the right time, but leaving your success up to chance is not only foolish but irresponsible. Get started here or here.
- Yearly promotional calendar. This is an important document that can help guide you through the times when you don't know what to do, so do yourself a favor and put your calendar together now. It can be a very simple document, even a one-pager, that lists your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly activities. Check out an example at the bottom of the page here.
- Support system(s). Having a group of people PLUS a coach who is familiar with and supportive of your goals, and who offer regular support, ideas, and feedback helps keep your energy and momentum up, as well as provides you with the strength you might need when the going gets tough. That group of people can be a board of directors, a mastermind, or even a support group. That one person who is willing to talk to you about your interests, your business, your plans and your challenges will probably either be a business partner or a business coach. Please note that while your spouse or life partner and best friends may offer great support, they might get very tired of you talking about yourself and your business all the time, so make sure you have someone to talk to who is just as interested in your success as you are.
- Sales processes from lead generation to close to retention. Your marketing plan will ideally include this information, but if for some reason it doesn't, this is a way to get really clear about how your sales work. Most small business owners think their sales process is simple: Prospect sees our ad (or email, flyer, business card, or website), then contacts (clicks, calls or emails) us to buy, end of process. It ain't always that simple, because there are distinct phases that buyers go through to make purchase decisions. Yes, there are ways to make it all happen faster, but if you don't understand those phases of the process, you are destined to make errors that cost you clients.
- Filing/organizational systems (both electronic and hard copy) are essential for maximum efficiency, and minimal confusion. Searching for "lost" or misplaced data costs you time, credibility, and very often, your confidence, so make getting organized a priority. Work with a professional if you have to, but just imagine how great it would be (for you AND your clients) to be able to instantly access the tools, data, plans or files you want right when you want them.
- Tracking processes or mechanisms. There are a variety of numbers in your business that you can monitor, and that will give you fantastic insights into your business. Even if you are not a "numbers person," understanding certain numbers can help you focus your efforts in ways that will bring you more success. Some numbers to track include frequency of purchase; average purchase amount; average number of purchases; sales figures by month, year, category; and so on. Increases or decreases in those numbers give you feedback about what you clients want, and alert you to opportunities as well as impending crises.
- Standard operating procedures and processes. How do you prepare a new client file, update your website, post your events on LinkedIn, respond to an inquiry, process product returns, confirm appointments, and handle the hundreds of other great and small processes that come up in your business? Leaving it up to chance or the inspiration of the moment wastes time, and presents an inconsistent experience for your clients, and makes it difficult for you to use or train administrative help. My advice: Figure how you want to handle these things, and document the processes, or hire someone to do it for you.
- Written responses to client FAQs. And not just the standard FAQs about hours, etc., but the questions your prospects and clients really want to know, such as what's new, why now, and why you.
- Verbal scripts that answer questions or facilitate conversations, such as your elevator speech, follow up speech, how you answer the phone, how you ask for the sale, and so on. If you're not prepared, you lose not only opportunities but credibility. Don't make your prospects work to pull information out of you; have it ready for them.
- Policies documentation, which is for you as much as for your clients. What are your policies on refunds, no-shows, product returns, dissatisfaction, and free samples? Do you charge for last-minute changes, appointment reschedules, program customization, or mileage? Under what conditions are you willing to make pricing adjustments? How does your guarantee work, and what exactly are the steps your clients need to follow to have that guarantee honored?
- Client contact mechanism. How will you stay in touch with your clients? An email here and there is great, but consistent contact is far better. What tool you use depends on your style, budget, and needs, but there is no excuse for not having a mechanism in place because you can get them for free.