February 15th, 2013

According to those who know their business numbers, of the 4.5 million small businesses in the UK, around 50% will fail to make it past year 1, while 90% will cease trading within the next few years.  Many of these will be good little businesses with a niche market, excellent early sales, and a small but committed team ready and willing to work ever harder for success.

So what goes wrong?

What happens within these 4 million-plus boutique businesses that strangles their growth, when 450,000 others successfully avoid the pitfalls to become growing and profitable enterprises?

Well, natural disasters do happen, investors do pull out, and margin’s can certainly dwindle…but more often than not it is the usual suspect – self sabotage which is the cause of business demise.

Like the 7 deadly sins, so many of us just seem unable to avoid it, and are sadly oblivious to the harm it is doing to our business…until it’s way too late.

One of the best ways to sabotage your own business is to spend no time at all getting to know who your customers really are and understanding what makes them tick…what motivates them.

The most successful businesses big and small know their customers intimately, and have them at the centre of every decision, every service change, every new product. Companies like Virgin, Disney, Apple and more recently Metro Bank, were all founded on the belief that the customer’s experience is everything, and they do what they need to do, to make that experience, not only the best it can be…but special.

In a small business it’s too easy to get so tied up in the day to day of business survival, that you focus only on your side of the equation:

What do we want to sell to our customers?
How are we going to tell them what we have?
Where will we sell our products?
How do we want them to pay us? …and so on.

We really need to turn this right on its head and ask what our customers want from us…

What need are we satisfying?
What problem are we solving?
Are we selling the right products and services to meet their need?
Are we where they need us to be…on the internet…on the high street?
How can we make it easy for them to do business with us?
If we plot their ‘journey’ through our business, where are the gaps?
What blocks have we put in their way…what silly rules or policies?

We have to step inside their shoes…into their thought process, and design our offer around them. And we can’t just do this once and think that it’s done either! We must review the customer’s position at least annually, if we are to keep up with their changing needs.

Just like pop queen Madonna has done over the decades, we must stay fresh and relevant to our customers to maintain our close relationship.

Top tip: Spend a few hours thinking about your customers, and building a detailed picture of them. Ask yourself questions like…who are they? …what do they look like?…where do they live? …what do they drive? …do they drive?

What do your ideal customers wish they had more of?
What do they wish they had less of?
What are the top 3 problems they have that you are able to help them with?

You will be amazed at the insights you get just from this one brainstorm. Even more if you do this exercise with your team.

For more help in overcoming self sabotage, contact Marianne Page Limited at hello@mariannepage.co.uk


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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