Many SMEs have a great story to tell. Maybe that’s true for you? Think back… Perhaps you had a vision that you couldn’t stop sharing with anyone who would listen. The idea grew into a pitch. Then you got funding, a product launch followed, you achieved traction in the marketplace and business began to soar. But it’s time you cross new frontiers.
Rocket fuel runs low
A few years have passed since lift-off. Today, you’re ticking over OK but you realise revenues are flat – that has to change. In music parlance, this is the ‘difficult second album’. In football, this is ‘second season syndrome’ for clubs which make it to the top flight but then run out of steam. So how do you fire up the thrusters again and reach for the stars? And which stars should you aim for exactly?
A galaxy of choices opens up in front of you. So should you:
• Offer the same product to similar customers in new territories?
• Offer the same product to different verticals?
• Offer an enhanced product to existing customers?
• Offer services alongside your product to existing customers?
• Offer a completely different product to existing customers?
• Open up new online/offline sales channels or use third-party channels?
You can’t pursue them all. Each requires time and money, which is in short supply. If the answer eludes you, that’s possibly because one of key the abilities allowing you to cross new frontiers has slipped from your grasp.
Your existing customer base holds the answers
Tech-driven SMEs often have a particular problem. An excessive focus on the technology, combined with the pressure to grow over several years, can leave behind the most important asset required for future growth: customer insight.
Ask yourself, how much do you really know about your customers? Is the data limited to just enough information to deliver your service and not much more? Perhaps even the individuals associated with these accounts left years ago! It’s easy to fall into this scenario. But you’re missing a massive opportunity. These customers could potentially hold a wealth of information, allowing you to cross new frontiers. For example, a common thread may run across your customer base, such as:
• Your customers are of a particular size, industry or geography;
• Your products fulfil a specific need you hadn’t realised;
• Your products are purchased by people with particular job titles;
• Particular businesses are tailing off, others are ordering more.
Suddenly you start to realise which approaches succeeded from all your previous sales and marketing campaigns. These insights can influence the organisations you target, the employees you reach out to and the message you give them.
Every company needs a CRM
Collating and managing this kind of information isn’t practical using spreadsheets. But a customer relationship management (CRM) system doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. There are plenty around that are ideal for SMEs, depending on your preferences for personalisation, social media plug-ins, the import/export of data and analytics. No matter how small you are, you’ll find one that’s the right size.
Managing a CRM needs the commitment of your CEO and your senior management team. It’ll require some time and money to get up and running. It’ll deliver a huge payback though. Use it wisely and you’ll generate a well-informed commercial strategy with genuine star quality – rather than a series of misguided ventures that will bring you back to Earth with a bump.
Stefano Maifreni is founder and director of Eggcelerate.
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