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Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Business Right Away

1. Think cost cutting every day. But cut wisely. As a business coach working with hundreds of businesspeople over the years, I have seen many who have slashed so deeply that it hurts customer service. The last thing you want to do at any time—but especially in tough times—is damage your customer relations. And cutting too deeply can put your business at disadvantage when business turns up and you don’t have the capacity to take on more customers.

2. Shower your customers with love. Tell them you really appreciate their business. Ask them how you can do a better job for them. Everyone knows it costs far more to get new customers than to increase sales to existing ones. But too few businesses make it a daily practice to make it a priority to show their customers how important they are. Learn a bit about their businesses so you can suggest new ways to help them. Find ways to add to the value of the products and/or services you provide each customer.

3. Look for ways to be superior to your competition in things that matter to customers. Work at being the best at what you do. Product and service quality is important. But often the same products and services are available from multiple sources and therefore become comoditylike, which encourages buyers to price shop. A price shopper is unlikely to become a loyal customer. Quality in the delivery of products and services is where you can really stand out. Have the attitude that there is nothing within reason you won’t do to make a customer happy.

4. Ask your best customers for referrals. Word of mouth is a strong driver for new business. An enthusiastic customer recommendation is more believable than anything you can say about yourself. Cater lunch at client offices and go through their contacts with them looking for good referral prospects.

5. Do not compete on price. That’s the fastest way to cut your business to ribbons. Take a page from Apple’s marketing playbook. Their margins are the highest in their product categories. Their strategy is to provide great, groundbreaking products and outstanding service. And they are an example of the importance of customer care. Because they are so profitable they can afford to have probably the best customer service in their business categories—if not all of business. When you call other manufacturers’ help lines, you often get someone in Tibet with only a passing acquaintance with English. Call Apple and they can’t do enough for you. Visit their stores and you get help not a sales pitch.

6. Increase sales by making sure your customers know about all of the products and services you can provide. An example: A full service landscaping company I am business coaching has a number of customers for whom they provide only lawn maintenance. After we implemented several programs to inform existing customers that they could help them with landscape planning, tree work, plant selection and installation and the like, business increased dramatically.

7. Many challenges can be turned into opportunities. This tough economy calls for optimism and perseverance. Pessimism and passivity can kill your business. If you don’t think you can succeed, you won’t. If you don’t put out 100% effort every day, competition may eat your lunch. Tough times can provide opportunities to grow. This economy may have caused your competitors to go into hibernation and you may be able replace them with enthusiasm and superior performance. No one likes a sad sack and everyone likes to work with someone who has a can-do, winning attitude.

8. Don’t just think out of the box. Jump out of it with improvements on products and services you currently offer—or perhaps better yet, entirely new offerings. Do everything you can to make what you do if not unique at least superior to your competition in ways that matter meaningfully to customers.

9. Ask for help. You can’t know everything. And you may be too close to your business to see areas for improvement or of opportunity. Many people will be flattered that you asked their advice and in my experience you can get a fresh perspective and some darn good ideas.

10. Keep things in perspective. For most entrepreneurs, business is tough these days—probably the toughest it has ever been. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, think of the men and women in our military. Many face incredibly hard working and living conditions and the possibility of death or severe injury at any moment. By comparison, leading your business is a walk in the park. Business success requires an unshakable belief in yourself and a never-give-up attitude no matter what. Just remember that even in this economy, millionaires are being created every day. More often than not, it’s attitude and execution that make the difference.

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About the Author

Joshua Slavitt, Next Level Strategies
501 King's Highway East, Suite 108 E-20
Fairfield, CT 06825

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