Is business slow? Are you frustrated and wondering what to do to make ends meet, much less become really profitable again?
I spent the first ten days of October on vacation with my wife in a small town in northern Vermont, where I followed two very different business stories in the weekly paper.
Picking up the paper on our arrival, I read an irrate letter to the editor from Larry, the owner of a bed and breakfast, one of many in the area. He claimed that business in the valley is “dying on the vine”. Then I read an article about The Red Hen Bakery, which has grown from 2 employees to 24 in the last 15 years baking and selling artisan breads.
Different businesses to be sure, but just about every business in this area depends on the tourist trade. Inns and bakeries are no exception. How is it that one small business is struggling and another prospering?
Larry gets good reviews from his guests, and has the reputation for running a top-notch bed and breakfast. But when business slowed down in the current recession, he vented his frustration in the local paper.
In his letter to the editor, he said the local merchants and restaurateurs know nothing about customer service, have no business or marketing know-how, and are actually rude and hostile to visitors.
You can imagine the response to Larry’s criticism. Merchants and residents were insulted personally and professionally, and let Larry know it in their own letters to the paper. They also had a lot of advice for him about promoting customer loyalty and weathering downturns, but I think the harm is done. That is, the harm to his business.
What do I mean by this?
The easiest way to grow any business is to get other people to actively promote you — to grow by referrals and word of mouth. A prospect that comes to you because of a referral has already transferred their trust from the person who made the referral to you. It’s much easier for you to close the sale.
Every business exists in a community. For local merchants the community consists of other shop owners. For doctors its the local and regional medical community, other doctors and health practitioners.
The members of your community can be your best sales people, referring customers to you again and again. They can help you maximize your profits with minimal effort.
My community consists of my coaching clients, my customers, other online marketers and people I do business with. My goal is to get as many of these people as possible to recommend my products and services.
Did Larry miss the fact that the local merchants and other innkeepers are a potential source of customers? Talk about a lack of business know how!
The very people Larry insulted could have been a constant source of referrals. Larry should have been courting them instead of blaming them for his lack of business.
How much of a difference would it make to your profits to get other business owners in your community to refer customers to you?
The Red Hen Bakery worked their community in another way. Their bread is crusty and delicious and they have at least 20 local restaurants serving their bread and sell it directly at over 25 stores and farmer’s markets.
Initially the owners thought they’d be successful if they could make their business support two employees. It now has twenty-four employees and just garnered the Vermont “Small Business of the Year” award.
If your business is dying on the vine, don’t do what Larry did and kill it by blaming other business owners. Enlist their support.
Grow your business by getting business owners in your community to provide referrals or even sell your products and services. You could easily grow your business tenfold, as the Red Hen Bakery did.
Which are you doing? Asking who is to blame or asking who can help you grow your business?
Two very different questions that will get you two very different results.
P.S. Want to discover the fastest way to get more referrals and see your profits grow? You’ll get all the details, when you become a member of the Insiders’ Circle.
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|About Charlie Cook
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