Archive for the 'Business Consulting' Category

Thriving In The New Frugality

A new survey by Booz & Company confirms that a “new frugality,” characterized by a strong preference for value has become the dominant mind-set among consumers and businesses in the United States.  Born out of a prolonged recession that has left an unemployment rate north of 10% and an “under-employed” rate approaching twice that number, this trend is not likely to change no matter what the pace of economic recovery.

In short, the Great Recession has forced consumers – and businesses – to shift their behaviors, and there is surprisingly little difference in the expenditure reductions across demographic segments.  So if business spending is destined to remain soft during a prolonged recovery, and consumer behavior has changed in perhaps permanent ways, waiting for a return to a pre-recession mind-set is not a productive strategy. Instead, we need to adapt to the new realities of frugal behavior and spending.

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Posted by John Harden  April 1st, 2010

Getting From No To Yes

Over the years we have used this first newsletter of the year to reflect on subjects that have been on the top of our client’s list of things they want to solve.

Regardless of why and where we are engaged, it is clear that clients are looking to invest in projects that accomplish one thing – generate more revenue and gain market share.  Everything else is just details that support those goals.

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Posted by John Harden  January 20th, 2010

How Much Is Enough?

“How much should we budget for marketing and sales?” is a question we are often asked. The answer is, well…it depends.

Marketing Budget

First of all, it is important to establish a preliminary marketing budget based on the type and maturity of your business. If you’re a high-margin business, you can make a case that you want to continue to spend until you begin to see diminishing returns on your investment. Along that line, another important point to consider is the lifetime value of a customer. Establishing appropriate metrics is the first step in knowing when enough is enough.

As a rule of thumb, a new business trying to establish itself, needs to think 5 to 10% of projected gross sales (remember – gross sales will most likely not be that high a number compared to where you would like it to be in 3-5 years). Because of this, we recommend spending at the level of your projected sales – not last year’s actual.

On average, if you’ve been around awhile, we’d recommend lowering this figure to 3 to 5%. If you are an established business, operating for some time now without much marketing, count your blessings…and set aside perhaps 2 to 3% of projected gross sales. While it’s nearly impossible to give you a rule of thumb for marketing due to so many variables, allow me to make a few comments about what is ultimately needed.

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Posted by John Harden  July 31st, 2009

Focus On These Three Areas For Growth

Find out what is most important to the people who buy your product or service

You have heard this before in our newsletters. First is the need to make sure you really understand what is important to those who buy your product or service. Now this may sound obvious, but it determines what you need to say, and how you need to say it; so that prospects will hear what they need to hear in order to feel comfortable buying from you.

It is very easy to assemble a group of internal people around a table for a couple of hours and let the group talk itself into just about anything. Throw in a little office politics, and a race horse turns into the proverbial camel. But the only thing that really matters is what the people who write the checks think, your customers, so that makes it critical that we look at our business through the eyes of our customers and prospects.

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Posted by John Harden  May 8th, 2009

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Thriving beyond the current recession means knowing where you want your company to go when the recovery begins. In fact, throughout history those companies that used down markets to refocus and take advantage of opportunities that are always present have outperformed those who focus entirely on the short-term. 

Start by understanding how your company and your products fit into a changed world. Understand the position of your company and products and the realities of the categories that they are competing in. Revisit your core strategies and positioning in the changing market, but don’t let the recession cause you to doubt or pull back on a major initiative you believe is still spot-on. Look at Apple. It opened its first retail stores in the recession of 2001. That same year it introduced the iPod, which transformed the music industry.

Posted by Barbara Hoganson  April 7th, 2009

Win Loyalty Through Great Customer Service

Hopefully the current economic downturn will begin to work itself out this year but, regardless, the strength of the relationships you build with your customers now will not only help you outlast the short-term challenges, but help position you for the better days to come.

Here are ten ways companies can win consumers’ hearts and minds during challenging times, most of which are based on the simple, common sense premise of providing great customer service:

1. Use cost savings to boost marketing

Focus on cost savings in addition to revenue generation when implementing a customer initiative, and then use those savings to fund a more aggressive effort to grow market share while others are cutting their efforts…and dropping off your prospects’ radar.

2. Don’t stop customer initiatives

Don’t discontinue all existing customer initiatives in an uncertain economy. If possible, look for ways to perhaps reduce the scope, or postpone certain less critical enhancements or improvements for the time being. Most important, keep the ball rolling on important initiatives in order to not lose momentum, or the equity you have already built toward capturing important relationships and markets.

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Posted by John Harden  March 27th, 2009

The View From Where We Sit

We typically are approached by companies with a need in one of three areas – they want to take their business to the next level; they have an underperforming business unit or brand; or they want to take advantage of a new opportunity.
In all cases, our client either doesn’t have the necessary skill sets on their current team, or they simply don’t have someone available who has the time.  Or sometimes it’s both.

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Posted by John Harden  March 4th, 2009

Putting Communication Front And Center

Don’t let technology get in the way of your message.  To avoid doing so, you need to take control of your internet strategy!

Why?  To ensure that new technologies enhance customer experiences – not distract. 

Key to that is making certain the focal point of executing strategy is the customer.  Somewhere in the digital world that vision has become blurred, and while addressing the customer’s needs, wants, attitudes and motivations should be the primary objective, too many companies have become mesmerized by the siren of the latest technological wizardry, and the perceived need to match the competition’s online activity for fear of being left behind. 

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Posted by Barbara Hoganson  March 2nd, 2009

There’s No Substitute For Good Service

“Comcast and all other enslavement brands like them had better take note. Your days are numbered.  We are fed up with the lies, the betrayal and the avoidance.”
That’s one of many comments on Ad Age’s website in response to the perception of Comcast’s “abysmal service and callous treatment of its customers.”  “I will not be satisfied until Comcast is on its knees, weeping,” wrote Bob Garfield.  “In fact, I won’t be satisfied until it is heaving with sobs, squealing and hyperventilating with snot dripping from its nose.”

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Posted by John Harden  February 27th, 2009

Want To Light A Fire Under Your Sales Team?

We recently wrote in Minnesota Business about how to increase sales without increasing your sales staff.  We mentioned that, when it comes to selling, many of us have operated under the old rule of thumb that it takes three contacts to get on our prospect’s radar screen, and at least seven before he or she is ready to consider us as an option.  We have all heard stories that up to 90 percent of leads are never even followed up on and that most sales people, under the pressure of delivering results NOW, don’t ever reach the third contact let alone the seventh where all the action is supposed to happen.
Today, in a world of challenging economic conditions and complex sales cycles, the new rule of thumb is more like 10-12 contacts to be recognized, and 16-18 to be invited to the party.  At the same time the pressure for immediate results has not gone away.  In many cases, the direction from sales managers is simply to work harder and make more calls, which is not a long-term solution to the challenge facing us.
Clearly we cannot continue to operate the way we have in the past and expect, or hope, for better results.  And the answer is not in adding staff to recognize the additional number of contacts required to make a sale – – let alone continue to support and expand the relationship with a new customer so they won’t bolt at the first hint of a better deal.  So what is the answer?

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Posted by Barbara Hoganson  February 26th, 2009