If your business is going to survive and grow, you need to move with the times. It's essential to stay in touch with what your customers want and adapt to meet the needs of the market. Follow our tips to freshen up your offer
- Review and research. Start by evaluating your existing products or services. Do all your lines perform as well as they once did? Try to pinpoint areas where sales have dropped, then carry out research to establish what the market wants: gather feedback from customers, for example, study relevant sector reports and assess what your competitors are doing.
- Pick up on trends. Make use of the internet to find out what trend-spotters are predicting. For example, if you are a retailer and there is demand for local produce, start stocking and promoting local products; if your customers are wanting to save money, offer budget versions of your line.
- Adopt a new look. If your packaging, logo, uniform, signage, literature or website is looking a little dated, smarten it up. A clean, modern image for your business can make your product or service considerably more enticing to new as well as existing customers.
- Build on what you have. Diversification is generally most successful when you offer something related to your existing offering. For example, a hairdressing business might add a manicure service, while a local garage might start offering car valeting.
- Review your pricing. Would offering a discount or special promotion bring you more business? For example, you could try three for two deals or introduce a loyalty card scheme.
- Team up with firms that complement your offer. Joint ventures and partnerships can prove mutually beneficial. For example, if you run a dress shop, you could team up with a local alterations service.
- Find new customers for your existing products or services. This could be by targeting an untapped customer base. For example, if you run a domestic cleaning business you might start selling your services to commercial customers. Alternatively, you might find new customers simply by using a new sales channel - such as by moving into mail order.
- Be prepared. Ensure you have the resources to cope with any increased business your changes bring. Remember, staff may need extra training. Check your IT systems and other business processes can handle added demand.
- Consider your funding needs. Work out the costs of any change in strategy and calculate whether the anticipated profits will make the investment worthwhile. You may find funding from business reserves, family and friends, the banks or equity finance. Write a detailed cash flow forecast and ensure you won't be endangering your core activities.
- Minimise the risks. You need to minimise the risks of any new strategy. For example, don't devote all your resources to new activities, but test market new products and services before fully launching them and where possible try to secure customer commitments up front.
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