So you know you want more customers, but have you ever asked yourself what kind of customers you want and what kind of customers want what you have to offer? Have you ever taken the time to define your target market and identify who they are, what they’re like, where/how you can most easily market to them, and why they want/need or don’t want/need the products or services you offer? Figuring out who you currently attracting and who you’d like to attract can help you better focus your marketing efforts and figure out creative ways to tailor your message — so it’s definitely worth doing. If you’ve never defined your target market or created buyer personas, here’s a six step guide to get you started.
#1 When figuring out your target market, the first things you want to look at are your current customer base and your customer wish list. Some of the questions you want to ask yourself is:
- What are your customers like? Where do they live? What ages are they? What about their income level and education level? Ethnic background? Gender? Are they married or single? Do they have children?
- Which customers bring the most business? What is that group of customers like?
- How did your best customers come to you? Was it through a word-of-mouth referral, a Google Ad, local search, the newspaper, etc.?
- Which type of customers would you like more of? Who is your dream customer? What are they like?
#2 Next, look to your competitors. What are their customers like? Who are they going after? If you really want to maximize your efforts, don’t go after the target market of your competitors; instead, choose a demographic or niche market that they don’t yet have in their pocket and go after those customers.
#3 Now take some time to look at the services or products you offer — what are the features and benefits? Why would anyone care about the benefits and features? How do they make life easier or better? It helps to look at your existing customers and ask yourself why they have come to you for your services or products. What problems are they trying to solve and how do you solve them?
#4 Once you’ve come up with a list of benefits and features, create a separate list of people who would want those benefits or features. Figure out who would care about the product or service you’re selling. Don’t forget to consider, not just who would benefit from your product or service, but also who would actually buy it. Do the people on your list have the means and motivation to follow through and purchase? This is another reason why it’s important to consider age and income level.
#5 Determine some of the finer details, like what the values, interests, and lifestyles of your existing customers and the customers you’d like to target are. How does your product or service fit with those values, interests, and lifestyles? And where would your target market likely look for what you have to offer? Do they look on Instagram, Facebook, in the newspaper, online, or do they look to their friends and family? Figuring out where your target gets their information will help you determine where your time, effort, and advertising dollars will be best spent.
#6 Now, take all of the information you’ve just gathered and create 1-5 buyer personas. A buyer persona is really just a fictional representation of the target customer you’ve defined. In a lot of ways, it’s a stereotype, but it’s the kind of stereotype that could benefit you. You don’t have to include everything you’ve determined about your target, but definitely include the basics. Here’s an example of a buyer persona:
Once you’ve created your buyer personas, it’s time to get started on targeting and attracting those people so you can reach more of the customers who want and need what you have to offer. Good luck!
It may be a given that, before performing technical skills, your employees need to be adequately trained and experienced so they can do the job right. But education and skills training isn’t only important from a technical point of view — you should also be investing in the growth and development of your employees in other areas — like leadership. Why?
Well, if you’ve hired anyone in the last 10 years, there’s a good chance you have Millennials on your team. And while everyone seems to think that Millennials are unique, surprise, surprise, studies are showing that Millennials want the same things you wanted when you entered the workforce: opportunity, growth, and purpose.
The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that “when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, work/life balance and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles stand out” as most important for Millennials. Think this only relates to the male sex? Think again: When it comes to determining where to work and whether or not to stay with their employer, “Women are as equally likely as men to rate opportunities for career progression and leadership roles as a major factor; the genders are also aligned on the value of professional development support…”
So if leadership opportunities and development are so important to the newest generation of workers, why aren’t today’s leaders responding?
The majority of Millennials surveyed in the aforementioned survey feel that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed,” and of the Millennial workers looking to move on to a new job in the next two years, 71 percent stated that they are “unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed.” So what’s up? Are we just not listening? Or are we assuming that this generation is unlike us and uninterested in leadership development and leadership roles? Either way, we’re really missing the boat.
Here’s the reality: If you want to truly stand out and excel as a leader today, you have to listen and you have to look for opportunities to delegate and invest in the growth of your employees. Give them opportunities to lead; invest in leadership training and development; find out where they’re interested in expanding their skills and knowledge; and ask them what aspects of your business interest them or where they’d like to improve personally and professionally.
Support them in those efforts. Invest in them. You don’t have to break the bank, but investing what money you can into classes, courses, or other training opportunities is an excellent way to show your employees that you’re invested in them and what they want to be. Choose a couple of employees to go with you to the next big trade convention. Some companies even gift employees with a reading and development stipend every month so they can continuously grow and learn.
Tight on funds? Start a work library and fill it with a few books here and there as you can afford it. Don’t just invest in books directly related to your work — ask employees for their reading wish list and get a few of those. Create an environment that encourages employees to read, learn, and better themselves and that lets them know they’re supported in their efforts. And what you’ll find is that your team performs better and is able to take on more tasks that you would otherwise have on your plate. A better, well-rounded, more fulfilled, more productive team and more time for you? It’s a win-win.
Are You Investing In & Supporting Your Team?
So before you think disloyal employees and problem employees are simply a generational thing, ask yourself whether or not you’ve investing in the development and growth of your team. A bored and unchallenged employee is sure to be underperforming, problematic, and disloyal — no matter what age he or she is. But an employee who feels invested in will have no problem investing in you, because they’ll know they’ve found a place where they’re free to grow, expand, and shift.
SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures are defined by Merriam-Webster as:
Established or prescribed methods to be followed routinely for the performance of designed operations or in designated situations.
Doesn’t sound too exciting, but SOPs are definitely something to get excited about — especially once you have them in place.
Here’s why: They’re designed and adopted to make your life and the life of your employees easier, to give your customers more consistent service and results, and to give you more freedom and time. With SOPs in place, you can delegate and know that your team is capable and empowered to do the job just as you’d have done it yourself, without you having to do it yourself.
But you should never think of your SOPs as finished, think of them as living documents. They’ll play such an important role in the daily workings of your business that you’ll want to revisit them regularly to make sure they’re still as good and as useful as they can be.
Wherever you are in the SOP development stage, whether you’re just starting out or you’re revisiting, updating, or evaluating already established SOPs, inviting your employees to get involved is always a good call. And unfortunately, it’s also something many business owners forget or don’t think to do. Here are five reasons why you should involve your employees in the creation, development, and evaluation of your SOPs:
- #1 Your employees bring insight to the process. Some business owners choose to stay out in the field while others work more on operations, but no matter which category you fall into, involving your employees in the development or evaluation of your SOPs can give you valuable insight into the way things are done or could be done better. Your employees know some of the processes and procedures you’re writing SOPs for well because they perform them every day — make use of their knowledge!
- #2 It ensures clarity. Going through your SOPs and developing them with your employees helps ensure that the SOPs are clear to all on your team, not just to you. It’s amazing what we can sometimes take for granted as a given when we’ve done something for so many years, but by involving your employees in the process, you’ll know if you missed something or if some particular step needs more clarity or explanation.
- #3 Your employees may know a better way. When you’ve done something one way for so long, it can become a thoughtless procedure that you do almost on autopilot. You’re not likely to try new ways of doing things, but the people on your team who may be newer to the job might. They may see ways that the system or procedure can be improved — but if you don’t ask them, you’ll never know.
- #4 Your employees may see areas of waste that you missed. Just as your employees may see a different way of doing things, someone with a different perspective or who’s been in the business for longer or shorter may see ways that you could cut down on waste or save time on the job. Ask your team how they do things, why they do thing the way they do them, and where they think time and effort could be shaved off the process.
- #5 Your employees will have more buy in. Sometimes SOPs can feel like a set of rules handed down by Moses on the mountain. But if you involve your employees every step of the way, as the SOPs are developed and updated, you’ll lessen the possibility that it will feel this way to your employees. Think about it: when you’re involved in the development of something and your opinion is valued and heard throughout the process, you’re more invested in the end result and more likely to adopt, right? It’s the same for your employees.
Wait, I Don’t Have Any Employees — Are SOPs Really Still Necessary?
Here’s the thing about SOPs, even if you don’t have any employees, you should still have SOPs. Why? Well, who knows, you may end up hiring down the line, and with SOPs in place, you’ll have one less thing to worry about during the on-boarding process.
Having SOPs in place will also make your business more valuable should you choose to sell, because you’ll be selling your systems and the way you do things, rather than handing over something that’s worthless without you there to make the wheels turn.
So employees or no employees, make SOPs a priority for your business!
BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that people are becoming less likely to visit businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (down 17% from 2016), which some took as a sign that websites are becoming less vital to business success. But is that true? While consumers trust reviews and they may simply call after seeing positive reviews rather than visit your website, does this really mean having a website is suddenly less important? No.
While there has been a decline, visiting a business’s website is still the most common next step after reading positive reviews, so discounting the need for a website based on a 17% decrease isn’t smart. Here are five other reasons why businesses of all sizes (even small) still need a website.
#1 No website = no chance of ranking organically or locally
Service businesses and small businesses typically serve their local communities, which means they need those in their local communities to be able to find them in search results. The problem is, businesses that rank high organically are more likely to show up in the Google local pack and map results, and without a website, your business can’t rank organically. If your business doesn’t show up when customers search for your services, how will they know you can help?
#2 Your website builds credibility
One of the biggest hurdles service businesses and small businesses face is trust. Unlike larger, more established brands or businesses that don’t send people into the homes of their customers, you have to work to earn the trust of your potential customers and establish brand authority. How does a website help you do this? 34% of consumers believe that a ‘clear & smart’ website gives a business more credibility. More credibility means more trust, and more trust means more customers.
But your website doesn’t just build credibility with customers, your website is also the citation that Google trusts most for confirming your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). The more sure Google is of your NAP, the more confident they are showing you in search results.
#3 Your website is permanent and more controllable than your social media profiles
We all know social media platforms (especially Facebook) change more frequently than a teenage girl before her first date, and the reach and control you have with your social media profiles is impermanent to say the least. Your website, on the other hand, is the one place online where you have total control over the customer experience and the story you tell.
Some business owners believe that simply having a Facebook page for their business is enough, but what happens if the giant is ever slain? All those ‘likes’ are already mostly useless, but when you lose your only means of communicating with your customers and your only real platform for telling customers about you and your services, well, that’s no good. Don’t leave such an important thing in the hands of an external party whose sole purpose is to make themselves more money (Sorry Facebook, but let’s be real).
#4 Your website acts as a main hub that potential customers can access 24/7
Sure, some consumers are only looking at reviews and doing less research on a business before making the call, but it’s still important that you provide all the extra information those customers who are researching want to know. Listing sites and social media profiles don’t give you the space or control to really say everything you may feel you need to say about your business and your services, while your website provides you somewhat limitless space and a somewhat limitless platform for introducing yourself and informing potential customers. Having all of the information and answers your customers might want in one place makes it easy for them to get a good idea of how you can help them and why they should consider choosing you over a competitor.
And since your website is up and running 24/7, your customers can get answers to their questions and research your business when it’s convenient for them, not just during the hours you’re open and answering phones.
#5 Your competitors have websites
Last but not least, the majority of your competitors will have websites, which means if you don’t have one, they have a major advantage. They have a chance of showing up in search results, answering the questions your potential customers have, and getting the call from customers you could be serving. Business is tough as is — don’t give your competition such a massive advantage.
Being in the service industry is hard. You’re not allowed to have bad days; you have to be on all the time and hold a smile when asked not-so-smart questions; and many days pass without so much as a thank you. When you’ve been in the industry for a long time, it’s even easier to forget why you started doing it in the first place, what you love about your job, and just how big of an impact your daily work really has. It’s easy to get burn out and to lose perspective.
If you’re starting each day with a pessimistic, “why bother?” attitude, here are some tips to help you recharge and refresh.
Stop & Reflect.
First things first, when you’re burnt out and you’ve lost perspective, it’s easy to forget the good times — the moments when you felt truly satisfied in your work. STOP. Take a few moments, or maybe even an afternoon, to reflect on your time of service and remember the moments when you were thanked, when you felt fulfilled, and when you saw just how much your work mattered to your community. Reflecting on these moments can help recharge your service battery and keep you focused on the positive aspects of your job. In fact, to prevent future burn out, we highly recommend making reflection a regular thing. Make it a priority and put it on your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.
Many people in the service industry don’t think much of the little things they do or little ways they go above and beyond, which is why it can be beneficial to ask others. Your friends, family, employees, coworkers, and customers may be able to shed some light on the ways your heart for service really made a difference and you went above and beyond what you were called to do. Plus, hearing others say positive things about you is always good for the spirit.
Perhaps the most fulfilling part of life is the relationships we form. Are you taking the time to connect with your customers and form a bond? On each and every service call, make it a point to find some way to relate to your customer. Empathize with them. Care about them. It will make all the difference in the way your customer perceives you and in the way you perceive the customer and the service you bring. This may be easier to do with some customers than others, but even if it’s a stretch, find a way to do it with each and every one.
Recognize Your Value.
You have a heart for service, and not everyone does. But if you want to take care of others, you have to also take care of yourself. When you’re burnt out, take the time to refuel and reflect, even if you only have a few minutes in the truck on the way to the next job. Remind yourself of your worth and the value you bring to those you serve. Although it’s nice, what matters is not that each and every customer acknowledges the worth and value you bring — what matters is that you do.