Three intersecting circles with a single spot where they all overlap. The sweet spot. That ideal place where the magic happens!
For our business, it’s a place we may not often reach, but we aim for it. And sometimes we hit it. When we don’t, we’re like surfers always looking for that perfect wave.
It’s the trifecta of business building. Those 3 things we all need, working in tandem, to give us the most efficient and profitable business possible.
Getting New Customers
This is the first because until we have customers…we don’t have a business. Some companies raise millions of dollars before ever getting a customer. Some companies aren’t able to get enough new customers to even warrant staying alive.
Customer or client acquisition is a hurdle that can stymie the best of us. We quantify it by attaching a cost to it. How much does it cost us to acquire a single customer? It’s important to calculate, but more importantly, we have to be able to land clients. Some companies find out the hard way that they’re unable to land a customer…at any cost! According to CB Insights, 42% of startups fail because there is no market need. Quite simply, nobody wants what they’re selling. It’s the number reason for startup failure, pointing to why I’ve always listed “getting new customers” as number 1 of the trifecta.
Every seasoned business owner or leaders knows that what may have attracted customers in the past…eventually stops working. Or it stops working as well. Yet we all get stuck in the actions we take to acquire new customers. For example, according to Magna, the research arm of media buying firm IPG Mediabrands, just last year (2017) digital advertising exceeded TV advertising on a worldwide basis. In 2017 digital advertising accounted for 41% of the market at $209B with TV accounting for 35% at $178B. The stunning reality is that you can look at your own media consumption and quickly figure out that there is a disproportionate number of people avoiding TV advertising (fast forwarding their DVR, etc.) than ever before. Yet, marketers are stuck with doing what once worked. To the tune of almost $180 billion annually. Can there be any doubt that TV advertising isn’t nearly as effective as it was a decade ago? Then why are we still spending insane amounts of money there. Because it used to work. So marketers continue to hope it’ll still work.
I’m not picking on advertising. It’s just an easy way to see how very smart business people can behave foolishly by failing to understand the present reality. And it illustrates the need we all have to get new customers! Mostly, it should generate a curiosity and creativity so we find new, better ways to attract the customers we need.
The ocean is no longer blue in some areas. It’s red with blood. We have to make sure it’s not ours.
Serving Existing Customers Better
I’ve been fanatical about this my entire career. Mostly because I’m practical. I know how hard it is to get a customer. And how foolish it is to lose one due to our own neglect.
Yes, things happen. Customers move away. They die. Their circumstances change to take them out of the market. There are many reasons why we may lose a customer through no fault of our own.
The exodus of customers caused by our stupidity, neglect and lack of concern is staggering. Every company gives it lip service. I don’t know any of us incapable of talking a big game. We do the same thing about our employees. We brag about how much we care about our people and our customers, when in reality not nearly enough of us truly do. Care. We want to convince ourselves that we really do. But when the spreadsheets open up we quickly trade them both away. Especially when we look out at the next 30-90 days. Our nearsightedness is killing our company.
How we think determines how we behave. And it determines the choices we make. All our decisions are fueled by what we think. And how.
Years ago while attending a rather informal small gathering assembling to meet and greet GE Chairman Jack Welch, I heard him tell us about the bullet train in Japan. He was showing us the difference in thinking.
Here’s the problem: how do you build a train that will go 200mph?
Welch correctly pointed out how American engineers would immediately to go to work on how to make the train go 200mph. They’d be thinking about the type of locomotive necessary for the chore.
But in Japan the mindset is different. Perhaps sparked in large part by their history and realization about quality, thanks in large part to Dr. Deming in post-War World II sent to help them rebuild their infrastructure. Welch said the Japanese engineers would think about the bed upon which the track would rest. Not the track itself, but the bed under it. What kind of bed would be required to support a track that could sustain a train, safely, at 200mph?
Quite a different viewpoint, right?
The difference in thinking long-term…and seeing what really matters.
Too many business owners don’t seem to fully understand how important existing customers are to their longer-term success. They’re transactional. Make today’s sales number. Nothing else matters. It’s often too much focus on top of the funnel activity. Focused on getting new customers to the exclusion of considering the value of the people who have already said, “Yes.”
Disregard for existing customers is the fast path to erode the customer base that supports all business. Like the bed under the track of the Japanese bullet train, it’s important. All our success hinges on taking care of existing customers.
It’s not entirely about serving customers after our initial service either. It’s largely about doing what we say we’ll do and dazzling customers after they agree to buy from us. With social media reviews rampant today, so many businesses are busy either gaming the system or ignoring the feedback. Or trying to figure out ways to suppress negative comments/reviews. How about we just figure out ways to deliver remarkable service and make people happy? How about we just make up our mind that we’re going to walk the talk!
Not Going Crazy In The Process
Business leaders are people, too. 😉
We can lose our temper and sometimes our minds, too. The pressures of keeping it all together can overwhelm us. Then there’s always that “out of the blue” problem that hits us. Like one of our main leaders resigned suddenly, leaving us to ponder how we’ll possibly fill this gap before they walk out the door. Stuff happens, right?
This isn’t something any MBA class is going to talk about, but you and me – we know how real it is. It’s the pain of business. The dark side nobody wants to discuss or think about.
Do you have any business problem that is best handled by ignoring it? Then why do we so often ignore this one.
Instead, we may go home and want to kick the dog. Or take it out on our family. Or some employee, or a rep who books a meeting with us.
The pressures of leadership can cause us to react to people (even situations) that have nothing to do with our frustrations. And it’s not just emotions and feelings.
It’s sometimes the challenge of trying to figure out how to best handle a dilemma or an opportunity. When we think our plate is full, somebody or something happens to dump another gob of hot mess on our plate. And we think, “Today I just can’t get a break.”
Besides, what good is it to get new customers by the boatloads and to serve existing customers great if we’re growing increasingly frustrated and anxious?
BIG QUESTION: Do you think it’s even possible to hit the trifecta – that sweetest of spots – where we can get all three of these working in tandem?
That’s where it starts. Too regularly I encounter business owners who doubt it, or just outright don’t believe it. And the weird thing is they don’t think the first two are impossible, but they often think the first two come at the expense of the third. Whenever I’m called in and allowed to take a closer look in order to help them, I nearly always find that the first two aren’t quite happening as well as they thought – or would like!
What we believe limits or enables our possibilities. You know this because you believed in going into business. Something gave you the confidence (the belief) that you could succeed. And you did.
This is no different. You’ve just become stuck. We all do. Which is why we have to be jolted to think differently. To expand our possibilities. It’s not easy. Doable, but not easy. We can dig in and devote ourselves to trying to figure it out for ourselves. Or, we can surround ourselves with some folks who can help us. No matter how, we have to do it because the trifecta is worth fighting for and figuring out. I want to be at least one person urging you on in the task. You can do this. You can hit the trifecta of business building success.
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