In our work, helping business owners market their businesses, we have found one common thread – business owners and managers tend to focus on symptoms instead of problems. When one focuses their attention on the symptom, the problem becomes obscure and it becomes difficult to find a solution and revert the situation. So that we are on the same page, lets look at the meanings of the words symptom and problem:
Symptom – “a sign or indication of something”.
Problem – “a situation, person or thing that needs attention and needs to be dealt with or solved.”
What is a symptom? See if this sounds familiar . . .
- I have no cash.
- I have no time.
- My sales are off.
- Business is slow.
- Did I mention I have no cash?
- My customers are not buying like they used to.
Each of the above statements are symptoms and a business owner or manager can spend their whole life focused on the symptom and never do anything to handle the real PROBLEM. The rest of this article deals with how to use the symptoms to uncover the real problems that are holding you back. Once found, these problems can be handled and solved. Use this information to soar your business to new levels.
To someone not connected with the business, the solution is more evident. No sales? What are you doing on promotion? No money for promotion? What are you doing to promote, even if you are just calling all of your customers – that is a form of promotion. Customers are not buying–when was the last time you talked to them to find out what they need or want? (Also a symptom of no promotion or incorrect promotion.)
The main reason business managers and owners get into this box of focusing on symptoms is, they are too close to the situation to see (or believe) the true issue. It is a case of not being able to see the forest for all the trees.
For example, it’s hard to see that you have too many workers when half of them are family and are not producing. It’s hard to see why your sales are slow because you are not promoting. It’s almost impossible to see why your advertising is not working when you spend 15 minutes a week thinking about marketing. Because you have never surveyed your customers to find out what they need and want from you, it is impossible to create marketing that is effective.
At Wilson Printing USA our job is to help pull you out of the forest when it comes to your marketing. We are pretty good at it.
If you focus your attention on symptoms, you will put yourself in a box. You should look at a symptom as a string that is attached to a problem. Often simply stepping back from the symptom and looking at the situation will help you find the problem. A solution is easier to work out when you have the actual problem in view.
Once the problem is identified, you can ask what is the solution or how can I fix it. Below are a few of the symptoms common in business:
Symptom vs. Actual Problem
- Poor cash handling, typically working with no financial plan.
- Overhead too high in relation to income.
- Can be caused by low or no promotion.
- Not enough sales volume to compensate for too low a selling price of product. (Research has shown that price is usually listed as number 3 or 4 as reasons of importance as to why some one buys a product or service.)
NO OR LOW SALES
- No promotion. You cut promotion when things got slow. Now they are still slow or are creeping along.
- No promotional plan. Just winging it man! Let’s try it and see if it works! We call this the “Spray & Pray” method of marketing. Seldom works and wastes a lot of money.
- Ineffective promotion. Promotion was not surveyed. Ads designed with no idea why customer wants product.
- Sporadic promotion, no consistency, has been jumping from one thing to the next looking for magic solution. (See Spray and Pray above)
- Poor service or product is running customers off faster than you can bring in new ones. Quality control section of company is missing or not functioning. Also caused by poorly trained employees.
- Ineffective or untrained employees causing overwork for manager. If this is happening, your day will consist of putting out fires and handling problems.
- Not delegating, trying to do everything oneself. The old “if you want something done you have to do it yourself” syndrome. You end up doing everything yourself and you are working ’till midnight.
- Key employee missing. You need to replace a person or add a position to handle workload as your business grows.
- You need a system to help you manage time.
Just remember, when you feel like there is no solution to a situation, you are probably looking at the symptom not the problem (from the above list). When you identify the “problem” a solution usually comes into view.
Increasing sales can ultimately solve most problems a business has, which generally falls into the area of marketing and promotion. The solution is usually coming up with a targeted marketing and promotion plan.
There are five elements that need to be addressed with any marketing program and they are:
- Who the best prospects are for your product or service?
- Why would they want to buy it?
- Why would they want to buy it from you?
- How often are you going to ask them for their business?
- What is a new customer worth to your business?
To answer point one, you have to look at who is buying from you now, where do they live, how much money do they make. Point two is a question of determining the benefits of your product or service. Point three is a case of simply looking at who your competitors are and what they do and then develop a way to be different. Point four simply means you HAVE to promote regularly and often if you are going to make any headway at all.
If you buy a direct mail mailing list and mail to it once, your business is not even a fleeting thought in the mind of the prospect. Get in front of that same prospect 3,4 or 5 times and then they are calling you for help and you have a new customer. This rule applies to any form of advertising, direct mail, newspaper, radio, etc.
We can help you step out of the box and grow your business to a new level. We are here to help you and if we can do a little business together, then all the better.
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