While I was thinking about what drives business success, I had a few thoughts about the opposite. Business owners and entrepreneurs often believe that they can take shortcuts to the land of wealth and plenty; but there are many pitfalls.
The hard sell
Real, lasting success is not driven by the hard sell.
Sure, pushy salesmanship such as telemarketing, cold calls, and in-your-face showroom floor tactics may sometimes drive sales spikes in the short term. But these types of tactics also result in low customer satisfaction, high customer churn, and a lot of product returns and service cancellations. In short, pushy salesmanship damages your brand in the long term. It should never be necessary. If you’re offering the right product to the right people, they will come to you!
The key to increasing your sales is not the shiniest new Internet trend. Utilizing the latest technologies could be an effective tool, depending on your demographic; but it can also be a huge drain on your time and resources with very little Return On Investment (ROI) to show for it. Unless you are a full-time technology firm, you’ll probably find it difficult to keep up with every emerging trend; and spotting the winners in their early stages is a notorious gamble. If you’re not interested in making an ongoing investment, you may end up looking outdated and behind the times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of technology: but I like mine proven.
A popularity contest
I’m looking at you, social media! To be sure, visibility drives sales. Getting Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers will probably improve your sales, especially if you sell on a direct-to-consumer model. Of course, actual active engagement with your followers is probably more important than the number: maintaining some level of interaction, with feedback and responses.
This is true for search engine rankings as well. Most of us have come to trust the mighty Google machine, and it’s well known that the first three results for any given search term are the results that will get clicked the most. However, I’m going to have to say that, based on extensive competitor research, the results that come up at the top of a given search result are not necessarily the most successful companies in that field. In my case, I was writing a business plan for a web design company. I searched for web design companies in a specific area, and then I looked up my findings in the MintGlobal business database. Repeatedly, in different geographical areas, I found that the top-ranked results on Google were not the companies that had the highest revenue. One or two of the top results would be a company that did pretty well; and then there was often a long list of Google-famous but otherwise anonymous listings, interspersed with one or two local celebrities. Sometimes the companies that actually did the best in terms of their financial results would be halfway down the page, or even on page two.
What? The top-ranked businesses don’t make the most money? But how do they get customers? How did they do it? How could this be? What does it mean? To my mind, it demonstrates the power of branding. These companies were so successful in making an impact with their prospects as individuals that when those people went online to look for web design services, they didn’t search for something generic like “web design seattle wa” and try to wade through the millions of results. No, when those prospects thought they might be in the market for web design services, they went straight to the website of the company that they already knew they were going to do business with.
And that’s what it’s really all about. You want your customers to know instinctively that they will buy your product, before they even decide that they need your product.