Business is about building relationships. If you’ve gleaned anything from the stories we’ve shared, it should be about building trust with your customers and prospects, or successfully negotiating mutual benefits with your partners and suppliers.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ongoing and continuous networking is a crucial activity in the success of your business.
I often hear: “It’s easy for you, Ken, you do it all the time. But I’m not much of a schmoozer. I’m not good at networking.”
Part of the reason many people believe they aren’t good networkers may be ingrained in what they think networking is: selling. While there’s a certain degree of selling yourself in networking, it is not about creating a façade or persona. While there may be a feeling of “being on” or performing, the key to successful networking is grounded in authenticity.
In my last blog we looked at the need to understand consumer behaviour, the social science that incorporates psychology, sociology and behavioural economics. It’s based on understanding behavioural habits related to an individual’s buying and use of products and service.
This week I want to focus on customer demographics, and how demographics are different from – but affect – consumer behaviour. Demographics segment your customers based on age, ethnicity, gender, income, schooling, occupation and marital status, and are an integral part of understanding them and their perceived needs. To grow your business, it’s important to have knowledge of both your customer demographics and consumer behaviour in your toolkit.
Understanding both the demographic and behavioural wants and needs of your customers is paramount to your future success. There are no easy answers. You simply have to take the time to better understand your customers and study the data around them.
Let’s take a quick look at the impact of just one demographic: age.
We are all — regardless of sector — in the business of bringing to market goods or services to meet our customers’ needs. But how can you do that if you don’t know how and why your customers buy?
That’s why understanding consumer behaviour, the dynamics of how and why your customers make buying decisions, is essential to the success of all businesses. At its most basic, it is understanding how consumers buy goods and services, use them and, ultimately, dispose of them. (The latter can be important since, some goods may be gifted or resold.)
Having emerged in the 40s and 50s as a subset of marketing, this cross-disciplinary science looks at the stages of purchasing decisions from the recognition by your customer they have a problem, search for information and evaluation of options to the final purchase decisions and post-purchase evaluation. Countless research has been done over the past seven to eight decades, and we could fill a library of books covering the topic. But today, paying attention to your time, I want to discuss why it’s crucial you learn more about consumer behaviour and incorporate its study into your business. In future blogs we’ll drill down even further to look at some tips and considerations you should be making.
As shorter days mark the conclusion of another year, one can’t help but take stock of the many events, accomplishments and lessons 2018 had to share.
All in all, it was a good year. An excellent year for businesses, many markets and the community. Hopefully, a remarkable one for each of you.
In North America, we experienced what’s been reported to be the longest bull market in modern financial history. The Dow hit a record high in October, and corporations have recorded profits.
Sectors of our economy are operating at full speed. We experienced record low unemployment in Canada. In fact, throughout most of the year, unemployment in Canada was steady at 5.8% — and we began the year at the lowest unemployment rate since data first become available in 1976. Labour scarcity is now an everyday challenge in many industry segments.
In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, we are all battling for an advantage over our competition. Yet, too often we miss one of the most significant competitive opportunities for growth that’s staring us right in the face: having a strong supplier relationship.
As businesses, each of us is dependent on our suppliers. Developing strong supplier relationships can be as important as your relationships with consumers or contractors. While there are instances when being forceful and direct with a supplier are necessary, taking a professional and respectful approach to your communications will yield greater long-term results.
While it’s true that suppliers want your business and need you to buy their goods and services, in many ways we need them just as much. Good and reliable suppliers can be hard to find, especially in an economy like the one we are currently experiencing. Building a strong relationship can be a lynchpin to your future success.
At the heart of this relationship must be balance and fairness, and finding the “win-win.”
Where do you expect your business to be in five or ten years? While it’s important to have a tactical plan, it’s equally important to think big, have dreams and a vision for the future. Blue-skying may be perceived by some as a business cliché. Yet, failure to think big robs you of the opportunity to visualize your future potential.
Let me define my definition of blue-skying and how it’s been invaluable in helping us create our future. For many, blue-skying suggests dreaming about the unattainable. But, how do you know it’s unattainable? It’s important when creating your vision that you don’t limit yourself by what you believe is feasible today.
Everything changes: business climates, partners, technology and even yourself. Stretch your thinking. Aim high, and you just might surprise yourself!
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is more relevant in today’s business world than ever before. The survival of the fittest mirrors our cutthroat economic landscape. This is particularly true for small and mid-sized businesses as they continually strive to reinvent themselves to grow and remain competitive.
As entrepreneurs and business people, we are profit-driven. We don’t have the luxury of deficit financing, racking up losses year after year. In fact, today’s business climate demands our decisions be even more insightful and data-driven than ever before. There is no margin for error, because errors can be terminal.
Governments, on the other hand, don’t appear to be held to the same strict survival standard or natural laws of selection. The concept of “we want it now, but we’ll pay for it later” seems to be a guiding principle for today’s politicians.
In our last blog, I presented how crucial it is to the customer experience that you build trust, and how trust is built through creating a more personal experience. Trust and the customer experience are intrinsically tied to your brand.
If you are like many small business owners, you don’t spend much time thinking about your brand image. That’s a terrible mistake. Many retailers convince themselves that their customers know who they are and what they do. What else do customers need to know?
Here’s what I believe. What makes your business unique and more successful than your competition is your brand. Branding is about the total experience. If that sounds familiar, it should. Brand is the result of a consistent customer experience; it’s about how you engage your customers so they clearly understand that you deliver more than simply products and services.
I’m back! Sorry for the extended absence. I’ve been on the fast-track for the last couple of months, and I’m now looking forward to getting back to Insights.
Let’s get started with asking you this: when was the last time you shared a positive shopping experience with a friend? How about a negative one? How many friends or colleagues did you share your story with?
When thinking about your last great shopping experience, was it a familiar store, or was it a new retailer that you tried for the first time? What made the experience stand out? More important, will you go back?
Recently, I wrote about how legislation being proposed by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau under the auspices of tax fairness was destined to suck the life out of small businesses.
I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Across the country, small business owners and advocates — from doctors and lawyers, to retail owners and farmers, and even Premiers and Liberal backbenchers — spoke out and pushed back. Following the short 75-day consultation period, Morneau tweaked the proposed legislation around the three most troubling areas.
To me, this is a striking example of the power small business owners when they stand up against bad legislation.
It bears repeating; if small businesses in Canada were to close shop, our economy would collapse. Small businesses contribute nearly one-third of the country’s GDP.