Business ebbs and flows for all kinds of reasons: seasonal fluctuations, industry shifts, client departures, to name a few.
If you’re currently experiencing a business slow-down, don’t panic. It’s the normal cycle of things. A slow-down can actually be a great opportunity to improve your business and make it stronger and more purposeful moving forward.
Here are some of the actions you can take to leverage the gift of extra time:
Processes & Policies
- Systemize your processes. For each process in your business, map out the details step-by-step. Besides being a great start on that SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) manual you’ve been meaning to get done forever, the act of diagramming your operations and workflow helps ferret out gaps and inefficiencies you can then fix.
- Automate repetitive steps. What actions or steps are always the same in a process or workflow? What questions do you answer over and over? What software or online service can be used to manage and deliver certain functions? The idea is to formalize in writing and consolidate with tools so you aren’t starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel every time. Creating an FAQ (frequently asked questions) that you can email to clients in PDF format or direct them to on your website is an example of automation. Using an autoresponder service to grow your mailing list and deliver scheduled follow-up messages automatically is another example.
- Switch to upfront payments. You don’t do yourself or your clients any favors allowing them to get into debit with you. By moving to advance fees, your cashflow is immediately improved, administration goes down (because you aren’t dealing with payment terms, collection hassles and chasing down monies due), and clients know what to expect and when and can budget accordingly. (Better yet, get them on auto-pay!)
- Stop billing by the hour. You limit your earning potential when you base your fees on time. Focus on value and results instead (how you improve your clients’ circumstances and what they gain from working with you). Update your support around packages of bundled value, not hours. This way, you won’t be cheating yourself out of being paid for the results and expertise you deliver just because it doesn’t take you as long to get things done.
- Clean house by showing bad clients the door. Constant complainers, nit-pickers, late-payers, non-payers, clients who just don’t get it, anyone you dread hearing from or working with… These kinds of clients are unprofitable and cost your business far more than you realize. You have to let go of poor-fitting clients in order to make room and have more time and energy for your ideal, right-fitting ones.
- Get feedback from your clients. Make a point of soliciting feedback from all your clients on their opinions and experiences working with you. Use a tool to collect client feedback (they’re more likely to be candid). Besides being a great way to capture testimonials and case study details, you’ll also glean invaluable insight into what clients value most and where you can adjust and improve. Be sure to incorporate regular feedback into your client relations as an automatic part of your process.
- Get to know your target market better. Invite someone to lunch (you pay) and pick their brain about their field/industry/profession and the business they’re in. Find some folks in your target market to interview over the phone. Put an online survey on your website. The point is to always be learning about your target market, what they want, and what their common interests, goals and challenges are so you can craft your solutions to better fit their needs and speak their language.
- Explore a new target market. If your current target market isn’t floating your boat or is otherwise not turning out to be a profitable path, it’s time to find one more suitable. Just remember that a viable target market must have a need for what you’re in business to do, able to afford you, and be easily found (online and off) so there’s enough of them to find easily (online and off) and work with.
Offerings & Marketing
- Innovate for your best/current clients. It’s been said that catering to existing clients costs 11 times less than it does to drum up new ones. So ask yourself… are your current clients aware of all the skills, support areas and services they could be taking advantage of that you offer? Do you see a consistent need within your current client-base and market that you can create new offerings around? How can you hone your current offerings to create even more value?
- Write at least one awesome freebie white paper/report/guide/tool. Create something that addresses a specific problem or question your target market has and allow it to be disseminated freely around the internet. It’s called viral-marketing and it’s a fabulous way to get the word out and demonstrate your expertise, understanding and know-how.
- Create new and/or passive income streams. You know your target market. What information can you bundle up for them? What simple, stand-alone services can you offer them separately? What DIY instructions or training can you create for those you can’t work with directly or who otherwise aren’t ready to commit to your premium one-on-one retained support?
- Devise a simple marketing plan. Consistency is key. Focus on just two or three activities and then commit to taking action, following up and tracking results.
Invest in Yourself
- Brush up or learn something new. Now is a great time to take that class you’ve been putting off. Increasing your knowledge, updating your skills and learning new ones is always smart business.
- It’s a no brainer — hire your own Administrative Consultant! An Administrative Consultant can take on much of your back-end administrative work and help you implement all of the ideas on this list. You’ll then have more time to do more marketing and networking, strategizing, working with clients and enjoying life.
Any of these ideas get you fired up? Have some to add? Do share!