It’s one thing to get your business off the ground and turning a profit. It’s quite another to pursue growth and maintain a successful position in the market. As one challenge is overcome, more will inevitably take its place. Competition has gone global, customers have more choice, regulations are getting tighter, and technology is advancing faster than ever.

A good idea, a clear gap in the market, and a truly innovative product or service are all fundamental prerequisites for any promising new business – but they don’t guarantee long-term success. No company will be able to stand the test of time without first investing time and money into core business functions.

In many ways, building a business is a bit like baking a cake; without mixing the flour, milk, sugar and eggs together correctly, your recipe will fall short. To achieve long-term success, business leaders must strike the right balance between these four key ingredients:

  1. Product development
Once your business concept has been refined, it can be developed into a product. This product is inextricably linked to the wants and needs of your target customers. As such, it needs to be under constant review to ensure that it’s consistently adding value to your customers’ lives.

You must listen to what your customers tell you about your product and be open to making improvements or adding some new flavour to it in response. The market is your main source for ideas on how to develop – and differentiate – your product successfully. If you don’t take its feedback on board, your fresh business idea will soon turn stale, and you’ll lose customers to your competitors.

  1. Human resources
Your staff are just as important as your customers. Their attitude, work ethic, skills and experience all contribute to the success of your business because they are the business. A key business objective should be to ensure that any potential conflicts are resolved smoothly, personal development goals are supported, KPIs are monitored, and value-adds such as team-building initiatives are encouraged.

Investing in the right workplace technology, such as video conferencing, task management and customer relationship management (CRM) systems can help maximise collaboration and communication within and between teams. Make sure your staff are happy and your business will have a far greater chance at success.

  1. Customer service
Your customers need to be front of mind at all times, across all levels of your business. The best salespeople realise that relying on the product alone is not enough to guarantee a sale or inspire repeat business. You need to provide a consistently incredible customer experience that builds meaningful, positive and, ultimately, long-lasting relationships.

The customer service process begins before the sale, carries the customer through the sale, and then stays with them even after the transaction has been finalised. Do this well and they’ll keep coming back for more cake. Loyal customers are the greatest competitive advantage your business can acquire.

  1. Sales and marketing
With a desirable product or service on the table, committed support staff in the office and satisfied customers in the market, your cake is ready to bake. It’s the perfect environment to drive sales and increase your revenue, which is, of course, your overarching goal.

By empowering your sales and marketing teams with the right technology, they’ll be able to take a more proactive, intelligent and efficient approach to selling and communicating to customers. With specific data-driven software in place, they will gain valuable insights into customer buying behaviour, manage sales pipelines more effectively, and eliminate any communication blind spots that could derail a sale or relationship. The old-school approach to sales and marketing - one that relies on limited insight and gut instincts - is no longer sustainable. Data, and using it correctly, is now the key to delivering the best customer experience possible.

Long-term success comes as a result of putting time and effort into establishing your core business functions and staying true to your customers’ needs.

By Peter Linas, managing director, Bullhorn