What does it mean to take your business to the next level?

The office phone rang and I answered. The person on the other end said, “Hi, I’m Phil, and I’d like your help to take my business to the next level.” After a few basic questions, I asked Phil what he wanted to accomplish with his business. He could not answer that question. So, I asked him, “What does the the ‘next level’ look like to you? Still he was not able to respond. Finally, he said, “Can you help me figure it out”?

The mysterious business elevator

Over the years, I’ve had lots of calls from executives and business owners who want to take that mysterious business elevator “to the next level.” Just the other day I read the following in a press release about the hiring of a new CEO for a breakfast restaurant franchise,
“Having a leader of [Name redacted] caliber and experience will allow us to take the brand to the next level. His particular expertise in helping founder-led, franchised restaurants realize their next stage of growth will be of tremendous value as we leverage the increasing popularity of breakfast-based concepts and attract new franchise partners to our family.”
Even in this press release there was no specificity behind the desire to elevate the brand and grow to the next stage. How can potential franchisees reading this comprehend where the business is headed? If after a few years in business, you want to surge forward, increasing your business footprint or adding a new line of services, or increasing capital investments, but unless you’re specific, “taking my business to the next level” doesn’t mean anything to a marketing consultant.

How can you help your marketing consultant understand the next level?

In the marketing world, we work with quantifiable audiences and goals. We quantify who we want to receive our messages, where they will find or consume our messages and how frequently we expect they will engage with our messages. So we need to be precise. You, too, should be precise when consulting us. We rejoice to hear goals such as, “I want to increase my Facebook page engagement 20%,” or “I’d like to gain 10 new customers per month for my warranty service.” This laser-focuses us on your business development goals and allows us to begin honing an audience segment. But to get that focused, you need customer insights.

Customer insights — what are they and where to get them

It’s not simple to arrive as these numbers. You need to track your sales trends by customer, period, service, and product. This implies you have the type of data system to allow you to retrieve this insight from either a CRM system or at least a POS system. Some industries use loyalty programs to help them get data on a segment of their customers who have opted-in to a loyalty / rewards system. Grocery stores love loyalty programs for this very reason. They provide incentives to customers which cause them to use loyalty / rewards cards and the company then has a meta understanding of their purchasing/shopping behaviour. In my career I’ve established loyalty programs that allowed us to identify our best customers and get more insights on their frequency, recency and preferences. We could identify those who dined infrequently and incent them to dine more. Restaurants are generally able to pull up metrics such as how frequently particular entrees are sold and cross reference that with daypart/time. This type of insight can help spot the dogs on a menu or the upward trends in taste preferences. This alone can help identify market segments for a restaurant. If your company does not have a CRM system or way to extract the data, what do you have? Sales associates. They are a real gold mine when it comes to customer insights. They know about issues and customer satisfaction. And they often have insights into new segments or uses for your product. Sometimes growth can simply be stopping or reducing the customer churn. Everyone loses customers. It happens. But if you’re not staying level, then you’re declining. Your sales associates and customer service staff ought to be able to help identify the reasons for customer churn. Ultimately, the best way to grow customers is to provide simply amazing service, so that no one wants to leave you. High customer satisfaction comes at a cost. It implies that you have high quality products and services and are constantly refining or improving every aspect of what you do and why you do it. So next time you want to take the magic business elevator to the top, stop and determine what all the floors are between you and the penthouse. Still need help to determine what the next level is? Here’s a template you can use to be more specific regarding next level growth when you’re going to talk about your marketing with a consultant.

Quantifying the Next Level – A strategic approach to identifying what you’re going to accomplish.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive planning document. This is an outline to comprehend where you want to go and what is required to get there. Obviously greater planning of every component must be undertaken. What would you add to this? Leave your comments below. Step 1: Identify the Goal Over the next _____ (months/years) our company will grow. Specifically we will:  
  • Add ____ (number of ) customers for ______________________________ (service/daypart/segment) and we will expect these customers to spend $00.00 per person per ____________ (week/month/quarter/year).
  • Increase our top line sales by ________ percent
  • We will open ____ (new storefronts/add new sales outlets/distributors)  in ________ (locations).
  • We will increase customer satisfaction after the sale by ___________ percent. We will measure this using our customer survey.
  • We will increase customer retention from __________ (months/years) to ___________ (months/years).

Step 2: Outline Your Strategy

Our strategy for accomplishing these goals will be: Enumerate and outline exactly what will be required to accomplish this growth. Include all necessary components and their expected cost.
  • Personnel
  • Bricks and mortar
  • Technology
  • Capital
  • Training
  • Raw Materials
Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Opportunities for Charleston Entrepreneurs and Start-ups

TheHarborLogoColorWeb        FundingChasLogo

Two new opportunities for Charleston entrepreneurs

According to Under30CEO Charleston ranks third as a top city for young entrepreneurs in the small cities category (Small Cities: Population 100,000 – 250,000.) You have a great idea for a new business and you recognize you can benefit from both mentoring and funding. How do you find the resources to help you achieve your goal? Two new Charleston area options are available to both entrepreneurs and start-ups.

The Harbor – Charleston’s Business Accelerator

My colleague Patrick Bryant, who is an entrepreneur many times over – who is one of the partners in Go To Team and other enterprises – is working with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Mount Pleasant to support the emergence of new enterprise in the Lowcountry. Patrick wrote this week about his new concept
Do you know anyone thinking about starting a business? The Harbor – Charleston’s Business Accelerator is looking for 8 great start-up companies! The start-ups are going to get free work space, internet, power, daily access to me and John Osborne, entrepreneur mentorship, 90 minutes of curriculum each week, and when they graduate a pitch event to investors.  It will be a 14 week commitment with each start-up working 40 hours (or more) per week starting Jan. 2ending at the pitch event April 10th. Here is the link to learn more: http://theharboraccelerator.com/.
Because Patrick is passionate about entrepreneurialism and Charleston and he’s got the chops to prove it, this opportunity is one which I’d highly recommend. Patrick recently told me that The Harbor came together quickly to fill a need which he and others identified. If you have a serious business concept which you want to work diligently to start, and want mentorship from truly experienced business people, as well as an environment where you will be nurtured and guided, check out The Harbor Accelerator.

Funding opportunities

Funding start-ups can be difficult. Local banks which have always been a good source of funding, are very careful and evaluate new business plans with a far more critical eye than prior to the economic downturn. Just because your concept has potential, shows a demonstrated demand and can identify a good target market doesn’t mean you’ll get funding. Enter the local crowdfunding opportunity CrowdfundingCHS which seeks emerging businesses and provides them an opportunity to raise funds. Other crowdfunding platforms exist such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. (Check out this list of crowdfunders from Forbes.com.) However, what is unique is that FundingCharleston is a local platform for Charleston entrepreneurs. FundingCHS is offering a workshop aimed at helping businesses achieve crowdfunding success.

CrowdfundingCHS Presents:

An Open Forum on How to increase your Campaign Success Monday, October 21, 2013 from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Presented by fundingcharleston.com Who is it for? –Anyone running a campaign or thinking of running a campaign Why come? –Learn from those who have run or are currently running campaigns Key takeaways? –Social media tools, Branding concepts, and Inside Scoop on Crowdfunding Space is limited – RSVP Today! (via EventBrite) Hosted by fundingcharleston at Biz Inc. off Houston Northcutt Blvd across from Village Pointe Shopping Center 100 Ann Edwards Lane Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

SCORE classes

Another longstanding opportunity for locals wanting mentorship and advice is SCORE (Senior Corps of Retired Executives.) We support SCORE in many ways – including hosting their website as our donation to entrepreneurship – and by presenting at SCORE workshops from time to time. SCORE workshops aide new business owners and developers gain the business skills they need and write business plans.

Make it happen

With so many great opportunities, and the business positive environment in the Charleston area, you can succeed. All it takes is a really good concept, funding, vision, hard work and you will be off and running. Need assistance with public relations and marketing for your new business? Check out our package of services for start-ups. Tell us, what was most helpful to you when you started your new business?