Making good use of the first few days back at work can set you up for a strong start to the year and in this blog I have pulled together some practical tips you can use today to get the most out of 2013 whether you’re a manager in a multinational business or you run your own company. Give them a try..
What I learned in 2012..
I work as a management consultant providing advice and practical support to help managers run their businesses through my own company and also with Fair Play Consulting an international business development group. In the last year I have been involved with more than a dozen individual projects covering automotive, insurance, luxury goods, media, retail and technology sectors and three themes have emerged which you will no doubt recognise:
1. Longer buying cycles – People who need your product or service will not make the decision to buy as quickly as they did previously. They want more reassurance before committing. It’s nothing to do with the performance of your product it’s simply caution about spending. Customers will use multiple routes to check and validate your offer to be certain they are getting the best price and the internet lets them do this immediately. If they have any doubts, they will pause and will think again before buying.
2. Added value needed – In tough economic times customers expect lots more to be included in the standard price. ‘Extra’ is the name of the game and in 2012 we all had to go well beyond the extra mile for the same fees or price point. If the customer can see the added value immediately it will shorten the buying cycle, so don’t be shy in telling them how much extra they’re getting from you.
3. Increased Loyalty – When you’ve closed the sale and delivered on your commitment customers will stand by you, providing you take the time to make them feel special. Once they have made their choice and you’ve proved your worth they’ll stick with you, and they’re often happy to tell their friends and peers about the quality of product or service they have received, just take a look at the feedback and reviews online.
These three observations apply whether you’re selling products or services; whether your customer is an end user in a store or dealership, a reader of a publication or consumer of media, the person buying your professional services or your boss in the next office and they apply equally to the UK and overseas.
Your 4-point checklist for the New Year..
You can make good use of this learning right now, today as you get back into your stride for the New Year. Take each of the following four points and see how you are tackling them with your own plans.
1. Understand your customer – It sounds obvious, but do you really know what they need NOW? I am sure that you have made changes personally to the way you buy things both at home and work and you had better believe that the customers you had in 2012 will have made similar changes. Do you really understand their issues and needs? You should be able to write at least three bullet points explaining why they still need YOU and what they will need over the next year.
TIP 1 – if you can’t answer it straight away get the whiteboard out with a friend or colleague and work through it together. It’s really important, as you could be wasting valuable time trying to serve this year’s customers with things they stopped needing in 2012
2. Understand your world – The world is online and affecting your business, whether you think its relevant to you or not! Maybe you have it covered with a website and a tailored marketing plan, but let’s be really honest here – do you know what people are saying about YOU and your sector online? Are you confident that you could get up right now and tell your colleagues or customers exactly what’s happening out there today and be sure that your plans are still relevant and meeting their needs?
TIP 2 – if you’re not sure, search for the competitor you most respect (or fear..) on Google and also look at them on social media (use their brand name on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube), then see how you stack up. In 2013 that’s what your customers are doing, so you need to know how you’re doing
3. Review your plans – Do the business plans you have for 2013 still stack up against Points 1. and 2.? (do you have a business plan for 2013?) Do you have the skills individually and/or as a team to meet these objectives or did you leave that column blank when you were putting the plans together? Be honest, it’s only you and me reading this. Great if the answer is yes, but it you need help, get started today to find people who can help.
TIP 3 – asking your colleagues (or a trusted friend if you run your own business) to look through your plans will have many benefits. It makes sure you write things in a structured way before sharing them and also provides reassurance of a second pair of eyes checking for gaps
4. Create an action list – It can be a spreadsheet, post-it note or even the back of an envelope and whatever works for you is just fine, but you do need to write everything down. It doesn’t matter how long the list is as long as it is comprehensive and honest. Then add deadlines and names against each action. And complete one action every day this week, and for the next two weeks.
TIP 4 – why not use your smartphone or PC calendar to add one task per day from your list for the next two weeks just as a reminder to keep things going and cross things off as you achieve them? Getting things done every day is a great feeling at the start of the year
Making it all work..
It will take you a few minutes to run through the checklist, but I would urge you to make the time and do it today and you’ll get off to a fast start in 2013. You’ll probably have at least 70-80% of it covered already and you can probably close the gap yourself or with the team around you. But as you face the New Year it is always best to have a structure to get things moving effectively and avoid wasting time and losing traction.
If you need help, then talk first to your colleagues and you’ll probably find they’re facing the same challenges at their desks and may welcome a shared approach. And for the problems that go beyond your reach, then it’s time to access your network of contacts to find the trusted partners to help address the issues you need some extra support to fix.
If you want a chat to talk through any of the ideas and issues I’ve raised here then feel free to get in touch, you can find me online and on the phone. As a consultant I provide this level of support to people just like you, every day, and with a network of partners and suppliers you can have the support you need when you need it.
If you need a business plan, then admit it now and start putting one together. Don’t leave it to tomorrow or next month, the year will run away with you.
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And finally why not share this link with friends and colleagues and may I wish you a successful and structured New Year for 2013!
About Al Clarke – I am a marketing and communications specialist who has worked in the motor industry at board level since 1997. I have held senior positions in global brands such as Ferrari and the BBC including a decade working as a journalist.I am a member of the Institute of Directors, the Public Relations Consultants Association, an expert member of the digital community Smart Insights and Life President of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association.I speak regularly in the field of marketing communications to businesses and the media with particular reference to digital media. Find me on Twitter @alclarkeltd and LinkedIn.