Monthly Archives: September 2011

Coach Roger’s 9 Question Business Checkup

Just like your body, your business needs to undergo regular checkups to ensure peak performance.  Whether your business is large or small, you must review the overall health of your business at least once every year.

Here are 9 questions you should answer for your “Business Checkup”

  • How do your year-to-date sales compare to those from the last couple of years?  Don’t be satisfied if you managed to match prior years’ sales; because, if sales have stayed the same, then you’ve achieved zero growth.   Given the impact of inflation, this flat growth line is a warning sign for more trouble down the road.
  • What  percentage of your business is from repeat customers? This is important to know because the estimated cost of getting a new customer versus retaining an existing one can be as much as five to one.
  • How long has it been since you offered a new product or service?  Loyal customers like to see you changing and progressing with the times.  If
    you’re stuck for an idea, ask your customers what they need.
  • Have you evaluated your marketing and advertising expenses?  How you look at the money spent in these areas affects your willingness to spend money at all.  Would you look at prescriptions as a waste of money?  Marketing is really about investing in you, your vision, and your company.  The old adage that you must spend money  to make money is true; but you must spend it wisely.  Spend it on ads that are pulling responses and orders; and, if they’re not, maybe you need to change tactics.
  • Do you  know what PR is and how to use it to positively position your business in  the media?  I’ll bet that at least one of your competitors does.
    Nearly every mention of a company or business in the newspapers and magazines is a direct result of publicity efforts.  Being quoted or featured in an article speaks volumes to your clients and readers; who are your potential prospects.  A good PR consultant can do that for you, and show you ways to extend the shelf life of that publicity beyond its publication.
  • Do you do anything special for your regular customers?  You should.  If your customers don’t feel special when coming to you for products of services, why should they remain loyal to you?  Have a customer appreciation day or a special invitation only sale for your regulars.  Create a mailing list of your regulars.  Send occasional post cards or greeting cards for special events or just to keep in touch.  Learn to recognize them on sight and greet them by name when they visit you.
  • How long has it been since you really talked to one of your customers?  Just as you appreciate when your Doctor takes time to talk to you, your customers will appreciate you if you take an interest in their needs.  If you have a service business; have lunch or coffee periodically with some regulars – even if they only contact you once or twice a year.  The personal touch in an impersonal world will be remembered.
  • How is your business doing compared to your competition?  Every company, no matter what the size, has competition – even home-based businesses.  Is their business growing or downsizing? Is their pricing or service better than yours?  If so, what can you tell potential customers about the price difference?  Think about how you can improve your service to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations.
  • Are your employees happy?  Don’t ask them directly; but observe them throughout the day.  Watch, listen and learn.  Employees who like their jobs don’t
    watch the clock for quitting time, aren’t habitually late, don’t have poor body language, don’t spend time on personal phone calls, and don’t look like they never smiled.  Observe how they interact with customers.  Be aware that not everyone is a match for direct contact with the public; so make sure you don’t have an employee who is driving business away.

In the end, you must give your business “regular checkups” to make sure it lives a long, healthy life!

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5 Ways to Free up at least 5 hours/week

Lack of Time is probably one of the top excuses reasons people give for why their business is not where they want it to be.  However, I have ALWAYS been able to find at least 5-10 hours that the business owner could re-deploy to build their businesses.

So what are 5 things you can do to get more time:

1.  Make decisions more quickly.    The faster you make decisions; the more action you will be able to take.  I am not saying to make “rash” decisions.  However, the longer you take to make decisions;  the more you are distracted by uncertainty.  And, like any distraction, that will increase the amount of time you take to do other tasks.

2. Stop trying to get everything “Perfect.”  Realize that you will not ever make the PERFECT decision.  So the extra hour (or two, or five) you spend getting everything “just right” often has minimal impact.  Very often, especially in business, the “Perfect” are trumped by the “Quick.”

3.  Let your Calendar be your friend.  If you have something to do, don’t say you need to do it by “end of day tomorrow.”  Instead, schedule it on your calendar as an appointment at 3-4pm tomorrow.  At the beginning of the week; as well as every night; plan your week/day.  By setting appointments with yourself; you actually will find yourself becoming more efficient with your time (instead of saying, “hey, I have all day to do this”).

4.  Set your priorities, and align your activities around them.   Knowing your priorities will make sure that you are not spending a lot of time with unproductive (read as “time-wasting”) activities.  For example, if you are in business, ask yourself if the activities you are doing are geared towards building your business.

5.  Understand when you are creative; vs. when you are task oriented.  This one is really powerful.  Think of when you get your most creative ideas.  If it is in the morning, for example, and you try to do “creative” work in the evening; it will take you twice as long.  That is because you will be working against your tendencies.

If you integrate these 5 tips into your life, I can almost GUARANTEE that you will free up at least 5 hours of your time every week.   I would love for you to comment below and let me know how you do at employing these time-adding tactics!

Why you should stop trying to be better at Customer Service

You need to stop trying to be better than everyone else at “Customer Service.”

Is THAT a bold statement?  Yes!

Do I mean it?  Well…partially.

My point is that too many business owners talk about providing great “customer service,”  but fall into one or both of the following traps:

  1. They look at their “customer service” as some generic thing that happens because the owner “cares deeply” about their customers. However, EVERYONE says they offer the best customer service; and how they care more about their customers than anyone else.  But THAT, my blog-reading friends, is a mathematically impossibility.
  2. They set up a customer service differentiator around something that is EXPECTED.  For example,
    1. A mechanic who guarantees that your car is fixed right the first time.
    2. A restauranteur who promises that your fried chicken is hot & fresh.

Both of these are basic expectations, and NOT differentiators.

So what SHOULD you do?

Create a differentiator around your customer service that is:

  1. Specific
  2. More than expected

What are some examples of specific and more than expected customer service?

    1. The auto mechanic who doubles the manufacturer’s warranty.
    2. The restauranteur who guarantees that you will enjoy your meal (even if you are ordering something new).

So, it is not that you should not try to have great Customer Service; rather, you just need to make sure that you can clearly define how your customer service is better with something more than your prospects would expect.

Why You Should Give Your Product Away For FREE

That’s right, I am telling every business owner that their product should be FREE.

HOWEVER (were you hoping I had one of these?), you need to charge for what you do FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS.

How many of you have heard this; but still sell your product and not the benefits?

5 Signs you might still be selling your PRODUCT, and not BENEFITS.

  1. Your price is:  Product Cost multiplied by some number.   This “cost-plus” strategy is clearly product-focussed;
  2. Your customer “flinches,” and you immediately offer a discount.  If you are selling on benefits; then you can be much stronger standing up to this often-used tactic;
  3. Your “Unique Selling Proposition” is your “service” (more on THAT in future BLOGS, so you might want to subscribe);
  4. Your price is what your competitors are charging.  Of course, if you are providing exactly the same benefit as your competitors, then this could be true.  But, if that IS the case, you should change that;
  5. You do not know how you could raise your prices in “this economy.”  When you sell on benefits, raising your prices is a matter of increasing the benefits you provide.

If more than one of these applies; it may be time for you to review exactly what value you provide; and then re-evaluate your pricing strategy.  In future posts, we will talk more about specific ways you can improve your pricing power.

5 Reasons you may not always like your Coach

As a Business Coach who has worked with a lot of clients, I have to make a confession:  sometimes, my clients are NOT happy with me.  In fact, a few times a client has asked to quit before their initial agreement period is up.

But I do not let them.

In fact, these are most often my biggest fans when we are done.

WHY will you not like a good coach ALL the time?

Well, why do football players sometimes get upset with their coaches?  Or out of shape people get aggravated with their trainers?

1.  A good coach will ask you to work ON your business, and not IN your business.   Your coach will ask you to set aside specific times during the week to work on the long-term growth of the business.

2.  A good coach will give you assignments that are not “easy” – you should not be answering calls, ringing up customers, washing dishes, etc while doing your coaching assignments. And you should not be waiting until the night before to do a half-baked job on something that is so important to your future.

3.  A good coach will truly hold you accountable for doing what you agree you must do for your own good.  During your coaching session, you should be setting goals about what you will accomplish between sessions.   If you do not follow through, and your coach does not hold you accountable, then your coach is not helping you.

4.  A good coach will push you so that you MUST think differently.   Maybe this means you must improve your time management and prioritization; perhaps you need to get someone else to do work for you so you can go on vacation or even have dinner with your family; or it may be that you have to hire someone to do things for you, so you can focus on improving your business.

5.  A good coach will not let you quit, even when you give them all kinds of reasons they should “understand.”    The coach knows cash flow is tight, that you are busy, and that no one else seems to want to help; but that will not change unless you make a change, right?

When I first started coaching, I DID let some clients quit early.  And now, I realize what a disservice I did for them.  If you have ever watched the show “The Biggest Loser,” Bob and Jillian are trainers who really get on to the contestants.  And, there are times when the contestants are truly upset with the trainers; who are pushing them beyond what seems reasonable.  But, after the contestants have lost the weight, stopped taking half of a medicine cabinet every day, and have added years to their lives; these students are incredibly grateful.

The reason you work with a coach like me in the first place is to get results; not to like me ALL the time.   And, after you have gotten more time for your life, have built a more motivated team, and have significantly increased your revenues and profits; you will have that same amazing level of gratitude.

PS.  If you are one of those who I let quit, expect a call from Coach Roger’s office very soon…

Why You Should Use Affiliate Programs

For many business owners, creating multiple streams of income online or offline is one way of securing themselves as well as their businesses for the future.  Primarily, this is one way to minimize the impact of potential cycles that exist if you only receive revenue from one business.

Being involved in affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to develop multiple sources of income.   In the simplest affiliate program, all you have to do is to promote and resell the products and services of your affiliate on your site; and pass on potential customers to the merchant’s site.

In affiliate marketing, it is best to promote a large number of merchants on your site so that:

  1. Your visitors will have variety of destinations to choose from;
  2. You won’t experience crisis if one of your web merchants closes his/her program.

That said, you should choose only those affiliate programs that interest you; so that you can effectively advertise and promote them.  Don’t ever be tempted into signing up for numerous affiliate programs in the hope that one of them will bring income. Select wisely, and don’t try to sell products you know nothing about. Go with the stuff that creates enthusiasm for YOU; so your passion can capture your client by the nose and guide him/her to your affiliate link.

In the end, it goes without saying that the more streams of income you possess; the deeper and wider will be your money lake.  And THAT is one lake most people love to swim in!

Your Pricing Strategy (or lack therof) Could be Costing You Money

One of the biggest challenges of many business owners I work with is knowing how to properly price their products.   Too many owners believe that the indicator of a good pricing strategy is revenue; however, additional indicators are profit and cash flow.

I have done a LOT of work on both complex and simple pricing strategies.  The more you understand pricing, the better you will be able to actually MAKE MONEY from the products/services you offer.

To help you, here are some quick terms that you should understand; that many businesses owners do not:

  •  Reference Price – This is the price that your customer THINKS your product is worth.  If you are not careful, YOU could set this price incorrectly. For example, if you are advertising consistently with $10 off, 10% off, or some coupon; you could be setting up in your prospect’s mind that your product is only something they should purchase when there is a “deal.”

Or, if you do not know how to differentiate your product from your competitors; you may be stuck with the price THEY set.   For a long time, for example, a 2-Liter of Coke or Pepsi was 99 cents, because of the reference price these players set.

Caution:  once your Reference Price is too low, it takes a lot of education and marketing to convince your market that your product is worth more than that price.

  •  Cannibalization – For those of you that sell more than one item, your pricing for one item could “cannibalize” the sales of another.  If you charge too much for an entree, you may cut out sales of desserts.  If your cost for the shirts are too low, people may buy more shirts to get a “deal”; but buy fewer full-price and higher-margin pants (so you get sales, but your cash flow is low).  This is especially a danger for companies that run coupons and “specials,” as you may create cannibalization impacts that could hurt sales AND cash flow.
  • Stick – One of the easiest ways to get a quick sales boost is to raise your prices. However, because people make choices; not all of your price rise will flow through to the bottom line, as some people will decide not to buy.

 What you must understand with “Stick” is that: some people will immediately decide not to buy based on the price change; others will buy now, but do not come back; and still others will buy, but buy less or move to a cheaper item.  In these cases, your long-term “Stick” could be low, or negative.   Watch out for this especially when doing across the board price increases.  In the end, what is important is how much of your price change “sticks” over the long term.

The fact is:  price your products poorly, and you will find a huge disconnect between your marketing, your sales, your cash flow, and your long-term business success!

Next Post, I will give you a few more tips to help you improve your pricing strategy.  So, please pass this BLOG on, and encourage people to subscribe and learn this valuable information.