Most marketing articles focus on how to cure the problem of having not enough work. But here in Grande Prairie, business owners have a unique problem: They have too much going on. To the point of it being unhealthy for their business.
It seems crazy that a small northern city would have this problem. But although our population is approximately 60,000, our service area includes about 280,000+ people in the surrounding communities, making us a regional hub for tourism and business in the north. We’ve been declared Canada’s Most Entrepreneurial City in 2010, 2011, and 2012 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Trust me, we don’t mess around.
In the midst of all this entrepreneurial frenzy, businesses are actually scared to do any more sales and marketing. They can’t keep up to their current clients, let alone any new ones. Everything feels out of control.
Yet, they still need to grow to achieve their goals. How do you grow if you can’t keep up with the work? This article will teach you a simple process to do just that.
Managing Growth When Growth is Unmanageable
Having more opportunities than you can handle gives you the most powerful asset in business growth: Choice.
Choice is the key to getting control of your business and managing your growth. It’s the key to increasing your profits, enjoying your work more, and having more time for your family. It’s the difference between having a say in how, when and where your business grows, vs. slaving away endlessly without anything to show for it.
How Do You Get The Power of Choice?
You’ll need two things:
- Options to choose from
- Knowing which options to choose
Creating Options to Choose From
Imagine if you could look at a menu of potential jobs and customers. From this, you can choose the jobs which interest you, fit your services and expertise, and turn a decent profit. Wouldn’t that be cool?
The good news is menus like this exist. You can create one yourself by stepping up your marketing to attract more leads to your business—even when you’re at full capacity.
It seems like reverse logic to add more clients to an already full workday, but remember, we’re not attracting more clients, we’re attracting more options. Those options give you the power of choice.
Choosing the Right Options
Growing your menu is only part of the solution. Having a large menu is useless if you don’t have a way of deciding which items to order. That’s the next, and most important, skill you need to learn.
There are an amazing number of businesses out there that chug along without taking the time to identify what their ideal services, clients and projects are. Without this knowledge, one can only assume that all business is good business. But that simply isn’t true, and you probably know this instinctively to some degree or another. Some of your jobs and customers are going to be profitable and enjoyable, some of them are not.
The most successful businesses are the ones who separate the good from the bad, and use this information to ensure they’re only pursuing the best opportunities. This is the key to knowing which items to choose from the menu.
Set aside some time this week to identify your ideal customers, projects, and services. Here’s a simple process you can use to do it:
- Gather a list of your clients, projects, and financials. Get into a quiet space where you can think.
- Start by picking out your favorite customers. The ones you love working for, make a decent profit from, and do your best work for. What do they have in common? It helps to look at it from several angles—company traits like size, age, revenues, and culture, to the demographic & personal traits of the people in the business you deal with.
- Then, do the same with your projects. Which jobs went the smoothest? Showed the best use of your abilities? Improved your position in the marketplace? That you enjoyed? Look at every aspect of these jobs. How big were the jobs? What kind of work did you do? Which client did you do them for? Which team members worked on them? What problem did you solve?
- Now do the same thing with your least favorite projects and customers—the ones you grind your teeth about. Compile a list of traits about each one and see if any patterns emerge.
- Then, go one step further and measure the profitability of each client and project. You might be surprised at the results. Sometimes your biggest client turns out to be your least profitable. In other cases, you may find that the majority of your profits are being eaten up by a small group of customers who take up all of your time. Compare your most profitable clients to your most enjoyable clients. Do they line up?
Soon enough, patterns will emerge that you can use as criteria to identify your ideal customer and project. This criteria holds clues in how to grow your business without necessarily taking on any more work.
Putting the Plan Into Action
Once you know who your ideal customer is, it’s time to grow your menu. This means marketing your business actively and attracting as many qualified leads to it as possible. The goal is to have way more leads than you can possibly handle.
It seems silly to spend money to attract customers you can’t serve, but it’s not about attracting more customers. It’s about attracting more options. You know that out of every 100 leads you attract, only a small handful will truly be a perfect fit for your company. The majority will be a satisfactory fit, and some percentage will be ones to avoid.
The point of attracting them to you is so you can have the first pick of the litter—before your competition does. This is how you gain control of your growth and shape the direction of your business: by choosing the best clients and jobs to take on.
What About The Customers That Don’t Fit?
This is my favorite part. Ready? Send them to your competitors!
Again, this doesn’t mean you’re investing money to bring your competitors more business. You’re investing money to shape your competitors future. If you are the one who holds the menu and decides what your competitors eat, then you have influence over their future as well.
You’ll get to do the most profitable and enjoyable work while bogging down your competitor with the least profitable and enjoyable stuff.
And the silver lining? You’re still providing good service to the customer who will appreciate the referral. It’s a pure win-win situation.
That’s Fine and Dandy, But How Do I Take On More Clients When I’m at Full Capacity?
By letting go of some of your least ideal ones.
What I’m introducing you to is what I call ladder growth. Ladder growth is a way of growing your business without expanding outwards, such as adding more employees, equipment, and buildings.
Instead of growing outwards, you maintain your current size, but instead climb the ladder to work with better clients and on more profitable jobs.
In the diagram on the right, the rungs above you on the ladder represent your ideal clients. The rungs dropping off the bottom of the ladder are the clients you’ve outgrown. To climb the ladder, you must let go of your least ideal clients to make room for the best ones.
You can do this by referring them to your competitors or somebody more suitable to cater to their needs. Of course, this step must be handled with care, as you never want to burn any bridges. But to grow, your client roster should not be the same this year as it was last year.
Marketing Is The Key to Controlling Your Future
After you go through this process, you’ll truly understand why you can never market too much. This is because it gives you the power of choice. Choice that puts you in control of exactly how busy you are, for what client, and for what reason. And as a bonus, you might become more profitable, have more time on your hands, and do work you really love. Who can say no to that?