For many businesses, particularly in the early stages, strategy can be tricky to establish, explains business expert Carl Reader from d&t chartered accountants. Should they place greater emphasis on chasing new business, or focus on keeping existing customers?

Whether you’ve been in business 6 months or 60 years, it makes no difference. Business is actually very simple. At its essence, business is all about getting customers and keeping customers. If you can get that sorted, you’re well on the way to a successful business.

But how do you achieve this?

With two key foundations in your business. These are the essentials – the bread and butter. And then we can talk about everything else.
  • Customer fulfilment. I cannot emphasise enough how important this is. You need to ensure you deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, and you need to deliver it well. Your product works and your service is effective.
  • Customer conversion. Map out the process a client takes from first level of awareness of you right the way through to when they pay you, and know it like the back of your hand. Make sure it works. Once that journey is solid and working, that’s when you start the next stage.
Only once these foundations are in place should you start thinking about the next stage – promotion. I see so many newer businesses who have focused solely on the promotion and marketing of the business, without having the fundamentals in place. It never works.

The pitfall they all face is the time and financial outlay of promoting hard to fill the top of the funnel, only to realise that the conversion isn’t there. People aren’t signing up, and the numbers aren’t stacking up. So the business focuses on fixing that, and then their service falls apart, because they haven’t even thought about how they are actually going to deliver what they promised.

The solution to this is very simple: Step one - service delivery - is the real key. Then look at the conversion. Then look at the funnel and how to get the leads in.

Once you’ve got that mindset, it will become very clear that you need to strike a balance. Promotion, of course, is vital. After all, if you stop putting meat in the sausage machine, eventually no sausages are going to come out. But you have to make sure your machine is able to cope. The focus should be on maintaining a steady stream of lead generation, whilst making sure that you juggle the customer fulfilment, your services and operations. It is a case of spinning plates: keep the business running while you keep filling the funnel up.

You may reach step changes where you hit capacity issues with staffing or location, for example. These kinds of issues are always bound to happen, but to succeed in business you just have to deal with them, keep pushing through and keep spinning those plates consistently. To hear more from Carl follow him on Twitter @carlreader or join “The Startup Coach” group on Facebook