I was speaking with an entrepreneur local to me earlier today who is struggling with her business. She has created a series of different products but isn’t having a lot of success with sales. Her goal for 2016 is to create a successful marketing campaign that drives sales. She has already invested a lot of money in coaching, mentoring and marketing courses and yet things still aren’t moving forward as positively as she would like. This is the position any entrepreneur or business owner dreads. Stuck in the doldrums with dwindling resources, dissolving confidence and depleted inspiration. What can you do when your new business is failing like this?
The first and most important thing is simply to take action. You have to take a systematic approach to assessing your enterprise to find where things are going wrong. It could be one aspect of your business or a combination of several factors but unless you start to test and analyse, you won’t find the pivotal issue.
What do you look at when your business is failing?
So where do you start? There are really only a handful of key areas that could account for a failure so you should first look at your Market Research, Business Model, Distribution, Product, Pricing, and each distinct aspect of promotion. Here are some questions to consider; it’s not an exhaustive list but it will help you make a start. I’ve made market research the biggest section because experience tells me that this is where it usually goes astray.
Is the business model right?
Is my business model the right one for the market? This is a big question, and you may need further help from a business strategist here. But the sort of things to thing about is whether a retail model needs to transition to combination of retail/digital. Or whether you could combine manufacturing with services to extend the model. Or whether you could change to a franchise model? How you create value is at the heart of a business model. Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas is one of the most commonly used tools in startups today and worth using to do a quick audit on your business.
Did I get the Market Research wrong?
Somewhere, somehow during your business and product development, your market intelligence has failed to provide you with the right insights and information. Or alternatively you haven’t been detailed and diligent enough with your research. Ask yourself these questions:
Did I thoroughly analyse any potential competition, understanding the threats, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses of the competition and my business in relation to the competition?
Did I develop a clear, differentiating brand position that was compelling for the target market I identified? Did I test that brand position with my target audience to be sure?
Did I clearly identify the needs, wants and desires of my target audience in relation to the products and services I was creating? Did they clearly indicate that they wanted and needed my services either through direct research or though evidence that they were already purchasing same or similar services elsewhere? Do I have a clear customer profile and am I sure I know where to find them (media), what engages their attention (interests & culture), am I using the appropriate language that they identify with and understand, am I providing enough engaging content in the right place at the right time? Do I know what their worries, fears, concerns, dreams, wants are? Do I have a clear picture of the issues that confront them in their lives in relation to my products and services?
Did I make a thorough check of the pricing options in the market and near competitive market? Is my pricing competitive?
Do I understand clearly and accurately what the drivers in my market are and therefore know the key messages I need to communicate?
Do I clearly understand the zeitgeist operating in my market, and know any key trends which may influence my success either indirectly or directly?
Do I clearly understand the purchasing process for my market?
Have I got Reach & Distribution right?
Am I successfully reaching the people who want and need my products and services? Is my product found in the right place? Is my distribution strategy accurate?
Do I need to create additional collaborations with other businesses whose clients might also need my services and products?
Do I have enough Visibility & a strong enough Reputation?
Is my reputation strong enough to help me close sales? Am I trusted by my audience as a source of reliable knowledge in my chosen specialism?
Am I embodying and conveying the values and beliefs my audience shares with openness and integrity?
Am I providing enough thought leadership in the right places so that they can find and connect with me?
Is my Business and my Brand Aligned?
Is my business fully aligned with my brand, marketing materials, messages, customer experience? Are there any gaps where I do not fulfil the brand promise I am making and therefore allow my customers to disconnect from the purchase process?
Does my Service deliver? Do I personally connect?
Finally there’s the question of service. Do you genuinely want to serve your customers or are you more preoccupied with your own ambition? I’m not making a judgement, because ambition isn’t wrong. But frequently customers are put off by overt ambition as naturally, they are concerned about the service you will provide to their business first and foremost.
You will need to create a clear plan to investigate each area to understand what is going wrong and where, and a way of looking at combinations of factors. If you feel you need expert help to analyse what is going wrong with your business strategy, I’ve got oodles of experience helping companies large and small get out of the stuck doldrums and finding out where they can and should make changes.
You can book a free exploratory call with me through Calendly (click link). I keep Thursday afternoon’s free for discussion with new clients, so don’t hesitate to give me a call.