Archive for July, 2012

Developing staff and team profiling – How can it help your business?

Why do some people get your thinking while others don’t seem to get it at all?

In business, we generally avoid the second group but research suggests they may be the very people we need to solve our problems.

Homogenous teams are more compatible, yet diverse teams are more effective at solving problems and also have a proven track record of stimulating innovation. But businesses need to ensure they value these differences in their workforce and create an inclusive culture to promote career growth and productivity.

Many businesses are using behavioural profiling to help them manage their teams to get the best out of their staff and also to provide them with a stronger sense of certainty in their recruitment decisions. It can also be used as part of a staff retention strategy as gaining a greater understanding of your employees improves communication skills, reduces conflict and helps unlock potential.

Profiling gets to the heart of team issues identifying where things are going wrong, personality clashes and challenges that need to be overcome. It enables people to understand what makes their colleagues tick.

The process can also be used to repair dysfunctional teams and train individually talented employees to work well with each other and to improve commitment as well as fix communication breakdowns.

However, there are some pitfalls. Do some people get unnecessarily labelled through the process or are some talented employees lost because they come down on the wrong side of the profile test? If the results of profiling are not interpreted correctly, they can actually steer you away from hiring someone who would have been an exceptional candidate.

Whether you opt for psychometric testing or more traditional methods of staff improvement, investing in training and career development is still regarded as one of the most effective ways of retaining a skilled and specialised workforce.

In times of financial uncertainty, it is vital you have staff in place who are as motivated to making the business a success as the senior management team. Staff development should never be abandoned, even when the budget is tight or non-existent.
There are a number of low-cost or even free sources of training on offer including internal knowledge sharingwhere businesses seize on the experience and knowledge which already exists within their company to train and motivate other members of staff. There is also a wealth of online courses which staff can complete from their own desktop at a time which suits them.

According to Michael Gerber of “E-myth” fame, 80% of all businesses fail in the first 5 years, and of the rest only 4% are successful within another 5 years. So if that’s true, then developing and harnessing the talent of our staff is fundamental to success.

This article came from a discussion event at the Business Exposure Group.

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Elements of a successful business website

As more and more customers use the internet to access products and services, building a good website has never been more important. Businesses should never underestimate the value of good website design and user-friendly navigation when it comes to building their reputation.

Gone are the days when customers solely relied upon recommendations via word of mouth. In today’s marketplace, many of your customers may never have heard of you until they enter search terms for the service they require into the internet and are led to your website.
As a result, your website is often now the first contact they will make with your company and it needs to be as helpful, striking and informative as possible.

As a business, your website must act as a sales funnel if it is to bring you increased custom and profit. A successful website is a gold mine of information containing powerful, relevant and useful facts which are of benefit to your customers.
It should offer more than a visitor can absorb in one visit and act as a continuing source of advice and guidance. You need great free content – which can spread virally.

Good content attracts larger audiences and creates credibility. This the new marketing expense. Do you know why customers would be interested in your site? Identify the unique benefits you offer and base your written content around these core issues.

Many businesses fall into the trap of using their website as a free promotional tool, advertising themselves and their services to potential customers. The best websites, however, deliver what the visitor wants to read and provides free, genuine advice which makes their lives easier.

A good business website will keep visitors signed in. Many websites have links that take visitors away.

Visibility is key to developing a successful website. Businesses should register with lots of search engines to maximise the chances of being ‘seen’ and fully utilise social media.

How important is SEO in the creation of a website?  

While there are still people who search for a tradesman in local directories, most customers nowadays turn to a search engine to provide them with a list of options. Businesses which want to maximise opportunities and attract more customers should aim to enhance their position in a Google search using keywords.

Once you have identified the keywords which are applicable to your industry, use them liberally on your site and preferably in headings. Competition can be very strong when it comes to keywords, especially if your business offers a common product or service, so it is better to find something more specific to your business which will give you a better shot at reaching higher rankings.

Web design – Simplicity is the key

Web design works best when pictures and text state the obvious. Remember, websites are used by your customers and should be constructed in a way that makes their life easier. So that it gives them a good visitor experience.

Good website design provides web-users with instant information. Web users are notoriously impatient and will lose interest with too much text and busy pages.

Businesses should respond to queries quickly and utilise the unique information available for future marketing purposes by gathering visitor data and feedback. This can be sourced through online surveys or newsletter subscriptions.

Using a website optimiser will enable you to ascertain which content on your site users respond to best, to improve your conversion rates. Businesses also have the option of testing different landing pages via pay per click campaigns for the same purpose but in different styles, to see which message works best.

At the end of the day. Stop simply advertising yourself and deliver what your visitors want to read.

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What is the point of a business strategy when the business world changes monthly?

Strategizing can seem like a pointless task when you’re dealing with a constantly changing economic environment. Naturally, many entrepreneurs feel too much time is spent assessing and analysing information rather than actually getting on with the job in hand and making things happen. In this world where things happen overnight, strategy is seemingly dead.

The reality is, however, recessionary or economic pressure makes the business of strategizing even more important than normal, not less. Businesses need to make sure they are well-positioned for recovery and not simply relying on rules of thumb and past experiences.

In times of downturn, businesses need to open up their thinking, not shut it down. Even if you were riding high going into the recession, time needs to be spent working out a robust plan of survival which will help you adapt to the changing environment.

What makes good strategizing?

Strategy should start with what you are good at and then look at how this can be aligned with market opportunities rather than starting with market opportunities and trying to force the business into one that can be exploited.

Businesses should focus on what makes them money. Do you really understand what’s happening in your business?

Strategizing is often the sole responsibility of the MD of a business or the senior management team who have more influence over the shape and direction of the business. But in reality, a strategy works more effectively when all employees are involved in the process and not only understand how their day-to-day actions can enhance the success of the company but also feel they have a voice in its future.

Businesses should ask employees what makes their company different and communicate strategies with the people who can help deliver them more effectively. People work harder when they are attached to the goals and aspirations of a business and employees should be provided with a mechanism to identify and voice their views on issues affecting the long-term health and direction of the business.

The key to establishing a high performance business is having a structure within the organisation so that ordinary people can regularly accomplish outstanding things. You can’t wait for extra ordinary people to come along and help your business.

Should your strategy in 2012 be any different? Economic pressures will affect decision-making in the short-term and businesses must adequately prepare for the changing economic landscape.

Common themes in 2012 strategies include:

  • Preserving cash
  • Protecting your database
  • Poaching customers from less prepared and less focused competitors
  • Connectivity – impact of social media

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Strategic planning is just as critical!

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Commoditisation – Should we avoid or embrace it?

Most businesses are now in industries that are close to being commoditised, even if they don’t want to admit it. While this is great news for the customer, it represents a significant problem for businesses.

To explain;
A commodity is a good or service for which there is demand, but which is supplied without differentiation.

Commoditisation happens when a product or service becomes so common that customers no longer differentiate between brands – and they usually buy the cheapest product on offer.

The insurance industry is commoditised. Even social media is close to being commoditised. But if everything is commoditised, then how can a company bring value to a potential client?

What is the value you bring to your potential clients? Have you considered this?

In order to survive commoditisation, businesses must have a workable strategy in place. Once you have worked out the value you bring, the next step is delivery. Without this step, you will lose your client and your reputation and your business will fade.

Creating value for clients is what every business must do to survive. By targeting customers that value the unique offering, you move from a broad commoditised market to a narrow one that values your services.

Businesses should:

  • Be authentic
  • Build relationships
  • Create energy – your customers expect you to add an opportunity, not be a source of frustration

How easily can you quantify the differences between your products and those of your competitor? How can you continuously differentiate? Simply providing a better service is not enough to differentiate your business to your competitors.

New forces have propelled the evolution of sales. Buyers are now able to get more information on their own. Consequently, the value provided has decreased and buyers have begun controlling the sales process.

One of the most meaningful ways a salesperson can add value is in helping the customer to identify and understand problems they either didn’t know they had or didn’t fully understand.

Businesses must stop being solution specialists and become problem specialists.

Selling specialist products requires a sales force that has a deep understanding of its customers needs and knows how the company’s products can provide superior solutions.

Commoditisation is the biggest challenge facing businesses for long-term profitability. Despite the fact that your customers are highly satisfied with your services, they are constantly putting pressure on you to reduce prices which d puts you into the commoditisation trap. The key to staying out of the commoditisation trap is to create significant value for your customers so that they don’t consider looking elsewhere.

People don’t buy features, they buy benefits. Companies can develop a package of complementary products and services around commoditised products to provide long-term value.

What’s your inside advantage that people don’t know about? Generate a list of customer benefits and then look for the benefit that is different from your competitors and use it at every opportunity.

This article was taken from a discussion at a Business Exposure Group meeting.

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