The first thing you might be wondering is why I've used a picture of meerkats for this particular blog post? And that would be a valid question, after all it's not particularly often you see that kind of picture when it comes to articles about business success, digital marketing or consulting.
Well, the answer is that I wanted to use an image of something that illustrated that state of constantly being on the lookout for something, whether it's danger (in the case of meerkats) or the latest and greatest shiny product or service that has come along in the world (business or otherwise).
And hey, meerkats are kinda cute too, so there's an added bonus of an eye catching image that is also (somewhat) relevant to the topic I'm writing about today… so let's get on with the show.
What's the purpose of this article?
Honestly, this article is for my benefit as much as yours.
I love getting my hands dirty with developing WordPress sites, figuring out how to optimise things so that they are running at their best and also ensuring that the hosting is in tip-top shape. But with that enjoyment comes the tendency to get distracted by new ideas, alternative options for hosting and a range of “new” stuff that gets my attention.
Recently I've been looking at moving my hosting (again) to a higher powered server or service so that I could play with some different technologies, and while this is something that I should probably do in the future, right now it isn't going to make a difference to my business in any material way (but it will cost me money).
It certainly isn't going to help me generate any new income (as much as I may want to try and convince myself that having a shiny new hosting platform to host customers will be enticing), it doesn't help me to generate content such as this to attract visitors to my website or other platforms… so really what is the point?
Well, unfortunately like many people, I suffer from shiny object syndrome.
That desire to be ensuring that I'm using the latest and greatest technology, or marketing technique and to some extent, to keep myself busy doing stuff that's interesting instead of concentrating on the fundamentals of growing my business and providing an awesome service to my customers.
So, my goal here is to quickly remind myself (and others) that unless the fundamentals are in place, then no matter how many new and exciting things I involve myself in, I'm unlikely to build a successful, long term business that will thrive and grow into the future.
What are the fundamentals I'm referring to?
In today's world, many of the things that are going to help you be successful have been a part of business for many years, while others are as a result of the changing landscape influenced by technology and how people are engaging with businesses through new platforms and methods.
Let's look at a few things that I think are fundamental for any business looking to be successful.
Knowing your customer
If you don't know who your target audience is and how to speak their language, it doesn't matter how good your product or service is, it's not going to resonate with them and in turn, it's not going to meet their needs. It's imperative that you understand your market, know what the benefits of your product/service are and how to communicate that with your prospects.
Take the time to research who your customer is and develop personas. This will help you to define the correct marketing approach for different audiences, which can be especially useful if your product has a wide appeal, because let's face it the one-size fits all approach of marketing doesn't work particularly well.
When a prospect is considering your product or service, they want to know that it is going to meet their needs, and while it may achieve this and much more, if you spend too much time telling them about all the things your product or service does that they don't care about, they're likely to miss the fact that it does what they need.
This is an extension of knowing who you your customer is and what they are looking to get from your product or service, but considers the principles of good marketing. Marketing has been around for (practically) ever and it may surprise you to know that even in our world of social media and short attention spans, many of the fundamentals remain just as true today as they have ever been.
Dale Carnegie is considered one of the best sales people and marketers of all time, and he book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” was first published in 1936, over 80 years ago. How is it that so much of what he practised “back in the day” is still relevant in world of social media, Fortnite and other modern elements?
Well, that's probably down to the fact that part of his approach was to value people and focus on building great interpersonal relationships, something which will always be a crucial part of building a sustainable business. Couple that with other techniques pioneered by the likes of David Olgivy (A/B testing) and you have the foundation for many modern marketing practices.
Even someone like Seth Godin (author of many marketing books, including The Dip, This Marketing and Permission Marketing) was born in 1960 and has spent over 30 years writing about and coaching people on how to market effectively. So it's clear that “being down with the kids” or mastering “text speak” is the key to being successful in the modern age.
Optimising business processes
Now this, and the next, area of business fundamentals is definitely something that technology can have an influence on, however it's not the be all and end all of ensuring that you're doing things effectively and not wasting effort. Systems and processes have also been around for many years, technology allows things to be further streamlined and improved.
But let's consider “non-technological” systems and processes. Probably one of the best examples of this is the franchise model and McDonalds in particular, where the whole way of running a successful business has been systemised to the point that just about anyone could open a McDonalds (in the right location) and succeed.
Technology may change how aspects of the business work, however most of the success of the model is about how the business is “run”. There are systems and processes in place that mean you can follow a script for practically everything, from making the burgers to serving the customer and keeping the restaurant clean.
These systems become habit and second nature, and as everyone within the business is working to achieve the same outcome, it is an effective way to make sure the customer receives the same experience every time. Whether it's at the same location, or in a completely different country, the systems and processes ensure that when you go to a McDonalds, you know what you're going to get.
The internet and social media
This is definitely something that is different for the modern business owner, having a website or being present on social media was not an issue that businesses had 20+ years ago. And while there are certainly aspects of “being online” that you can pick and choose from, the fact is your business needs to have a presence one way or another to ensure that when people are looking, they can find you.
In my opinion, every business should have a website which should tell visitors about who the key people are, what the business offers and also answer common questions or queries. It doesn't need to be complex, but it should allow users to reach out if needed and ideally you should also be using it to capture leads.
Additionally, your website must be accessible on a range of different types of devices (the days of desktop only experiences should be long gone by now). Some households don't have a desktop computer or laptop, preferring to use tablets and when customers are out and about they want to use their mobile phone to find information.
When it comes to social media, by knowing your customers (see my earlier point) you can decide what platform(s) are appropriate for your business. It's probably not necessary to be on every platform, especially if your customers tend to use one or another (Twitter v Facebook for example), so decide which one and then make sure to actually use it.
No, you don't need to be posting every time minutes and sharing inane memes with everyone who has decided to like your page or follow you, but on the flip side you can't just set up a page or profile and then it with no action whatsoever. Recency and relevancy is important on social media, so get into the habit of posting and you'll notice your audience will build, providing another avenue for outreach.
Deciding when to do something new
While the point of this article is to ensure you are concentrating on the fundamentals of your business, the reality is that there will be new products or services that you will be able to use to improve your business. The world keeps moving and things change, so refusing to evolve is just as bad as doing too much too soon.
For me however, if you don't have your ducks in a row, adding something new (and possibly complicated) into the mix is likely to cause plenty of problems. You'll find yourself losing focus on the basics and chasing your tail implementing something new, and if the fundamentals aren't in place other aspects of your business will fail.
If you are in a position to expand and try something new, then take your time to evaluate your options. There's little point in jumping on the latest technological solution if you don't understand it or the benefits it can provide. At the end of the day, you're adding something for a reason, to improve your business and get a positive ROI and ideally provide further value to customers.
Be clear on how your business and customers will benefit from your investment; will it provide you with extra time to concentrate on another area of the business, will customers now have a new way of getting support or communicating with you, or are you replacing technology that's past it's use by date?
Furthermore, don't dabble in a ton of different things at once, not only will it be distracting for you and your customers, it'll be difficult to track what change has what impact in the long run. Pick an approach and take your time to implement and test, ensuring that you're seeing the promised benefits (but don't dismiss something if it hasn't revolutionised your business in a month either).
Use your network to find solutions or methods that are working for others and don't be afraid to ask for outside help in deciding what is the next best step for you. Not only will you get good advice, you're likely to be able to avoid some of the common issues that people have overcome when trying something new, saving you time and money.
Your business needs to evolve and grow as times change, however don't take this to mean that you have to implement every new (and potentially untested) solution or marketing technique that comes to the market. Yes, some of these will prove themselves to be vital as the world changes, however just as many are likely to end up as fads that have no long term benefit.
Get the fundamentals of your business in order (and optimised) and then look at ways to leverage technology and new ideas to grow or adapt to new market conditions. If you're not doing the basics right then there is every chance that adding another layer of complexity will make life worse rather than better, make sure you are building on a strong foundation.
And of course, if you'd like to consult with someone to discuss what areas of your business could do with improvement, then feel free to get in touch or schedule a no obligation call with me. We'll take a look at your goals and vision, how your business is doing today and devise a plan for moving into the future as effectively as possible.
Until next time.