What makes for a successful business?

Today’s topic: Right product and/or service (14th March 2015)

A friend of mine once owned a music store in Dubbo NSW. One day I walked into his store to be greeted by this extremely loud head banging music playing through the store. My friend was about my age, let’s just say mature, and I asked him “Ross, do you actually like that??” He said “It sells, I love it!”

There’s another story about when the Chinese first came to Australia and decided to open Chinese Restaurants and sell Aussies Chinese food. The story goes they served up traditionally Chinese food and few Aussies liked it. What to do? They decided to try cooking something else that they thought Aussies would like and the rapidly growing and successful Chinese food industry is now history. Real Chinese food is still something very different to what most of us order when we want Chinese food.

Go into any major supermarket today to buy an apple and chances are you’ll find a display of apples that look impressive, are all roughly the same size, they are quite shiney and you’ll be hard pressed to find too many with any blemishes. Most of the other fruit and vegetables on display looks and is presented just as impressively. Just down the street is a small independent fruit and vegie shop who sells locally grown produce. His doesn’t look quite as impressive and the size and shape varies considerably but those who shop there swear by the freshness and the quality, and that the prices are very reasonable. History shows that this little independent will have a huge fight on his hands if he is to withstand the competition provided by the local supermarket giant.

The point I want to make with these stories can be summed up in what is called the Marketing Concept.

The Marketing Concept says “marketing is finding out what customers want or need, and then providing it for them while making a profit”.

So what’s one thing that makes for a successful business?

Making sure that what you’re giving your customers is what they want or need. Note: I said what they want or need, not what you want to give them.

How many businesses do you know that have been started up by someone with great enthusiasm and the sincerest of intentions and who thought that people would want what they wanted to give them, only to see them fail.

There was a time when life on the land got very difficult and many farming people decided to leave the land and open up businesses instead. Many of these chose to open businesses where they felt their skills, personal interests or hobbies could be put to good use. Many found it doesn’t work like that and soon went out of business.
This is one of the reasons that a great number of small businesses fail in their first couple of years.

Check your business!

Questions to ask yourself about your business or service if you feel you’re not getting as many customers as you think you should:

Would most of the people I’m trying to attract really want or need what I offer?

Consider your market potential.

Are there enough people out there (in my catchment area) who would be interested in your product(s) service?
Do enough of these people know about you?
If they do, why aren’t they responding more?
If they don’t, how can you reach them?

Consider your product(s) mix.

Are your products the brands most people want?
What benefits do your product(s) or service offer over others?
Are these benefits significant enough to influence people your way?
If so, have you done enough to make enough people aware of them?

Consider the experience your customers get from you.

Do enough of your customers keep coming back?
Do they come back often enough?
How do you think your customers would rate the experience they get from you compared to your competitors?
Is the experience your customer is getting the same it was years ago?
If yes, should it be updated to address changing attitudes, tastes or trends?
Whatever your opinion, what could you do to provide a better customer experience?

Want to comment or ask for more specific advice?

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Content Marketing

One of the new flavours of the month with press advertising is what is called “Content Marketing”. Essentially it’s using an editorial style to sell or promote something and often it’s done in a way that the reader may not even recognise what they are reading is essentially an ad.

The method can prove to be very effective but because it’s essentially comment or a story that’s been paid for by an advertiser, one must also assume that what’s written has been slanted to say only positive things. A newspaper is hardly going to bag a product, service or anything else in a story that the advertiser has actually paid for.

I’ve attached a couple of examples of content marketing for you to get the idea. The first is taken from a copy of the Sun Herald and you’ll note that they disclose (towards the end) that the writer was a guest of the advertiser.

The second example is something I wrote for an advertiser in our newspaper. This was not paid for by the advertiser, it was in fact a small value-add editorial for one of our regular advertisers. It could however, just as easily have been a free standing paid ad in which case we’d have placed a small “Advertisement” notation at the top.

Content or advertorial style advertising is well worth considering as part of any advertising strategy but like any ad, make sure it’s well thought out and executed with a clear outcome in mind.

Example 1.



Example 2.



Learn patience

Once upon a time if you rang or emailed someone and had to leave a message for them to call you back, you could reasonably expect them to get back to that same day, unless of course, they were away.

My more common experience now is that people can take anything up to several days to return calls or emails and I find that extremely frustrating. Quite often I have tasks that I want or need to do but can’t because I’m waiting for someone to get back to me with information or something else that I need before I progress.

I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying and if you’re like me, you sometimes let such things get to you, especially if you’re a person who likes to deal with things pretty quickly or while you’re hot to trot, as they say.

Take a tip. This slow response culture appears here to stay with a lot of people, so best to accept that and plan your day accordingly. In other words, factor into your plans that you may be waiting a while for a response, accept that you just have to be patient and go about other tasks that you can do. If you let such things annoy you, as I have been guilty of, it really doesn’t achieve anything other than raise your stress or annoyance levels. Learn patience is the message here, that’s if you want your days to go better. Do this and you’ll be setting your expectations lower so that when your caller does happen to ring or email you back in a timely manner, you’ll feel like you’ve had a win, a much better feeling to enjoy.

2% mightn’t seem like much

Sometimes we business owners tend to let our hearts rule our heads in certain situations. Take credit card fees. For a couple of years, we had a number of our clients pay their bills with us using a credit card. Each time they did, the bank charged us around 2% for the privilege. I tended to wear these “little” charges because I’m one of the those people who prefer the idea of not having “extra” charges when I do business. I prefer the price to include everything because I just feel better with that.

That may have been all well and good, even noble, but at the end of the year my costs included anything up to $2,000 or more in bank fees accumulated from these credit card charges. I finally decided that was silly and now charge 2% extra when a customer pays with a credit card. Since changing policy over 8 months ago, only one person has complained and the amount at issue was just $2.80. After explaining our position the guy understood and apologised for his attitude. He just said he “hates” bank fees and in future would pay us by electronic transfer.

My point is obviously this – credit card fees can add up and if you don’t pass them on, it comes straight off your profit. Decide for yourself but I think it’s fair to say that a fee is almost expected by customers these days and this is another simple way to cut your costs or increase your profits.

Just on that, at one point my overall bank fees, including credit card fees were running at near $5,000 a year and that’s without any finance or overdraft facility. Despite the effort and inconvenience, I shopped around the banks and was able to reduce this by over $2000 a year by swapping banks. Later when I started charging the 2% credit card fee, I reduced my overall bank fees costs further again.

Why join 8 out of 10?

Does anyone know of anything else that sets out to do what 8 out of 10 does?

Perhaps before you can answer that accurately, it’s worth asking yourself exactly what does 8 out of 10 set out to do?

It’s really quite simple.

8 out of 10 is there to help small business owners improve their businesses and their profitability. We do this in a number of ways but not necessarily by using clever or sophisticated words or methods or by hyping people us with unrealistic notions or expectations, it’s more about sharing simple good sense and business wisdom that has been gained through practical and real world experience by myself and others over many years.

What’s even more important, to be a part of everything 8 out of 10 offers, the cost to members is just $11 incl. gst a month and only for as long as you wish to be a member.

The bottom line is this……..

If after a month or two as a member you don’t feel you got $11’s worth of value each month, I’ve failed miserably.

If you invested $11 and joined 8 out of 10, you took an $11 punt on whether you’d gain $11 worth of value, enjoyment, entertainment and anything else you consider valuable for your money. I trust when you weigh it all up, you’ll consider the $11 you spend here as money extremely well spent – possibly the best money you’ve ever spent on improving your business and your overall attitude to being in business.

So, I said this was an ad and if you’re reading this, you’re already a member. What I’m hoping you’ll do for me is this – tell a friend about 8 out of 10! If you have friends in business who you think could benefit from being a member, please encourage them to go to our website www.8outof10.com.au and read what it has to say. Maybe you’d be willing also to share your impressions with them as well.

Free advertising – no extra cost!

Despite how the practice of sending letters through the mail is rapidly declining, there still are billions of letters sent to people by all manner of businesses.

Many of these businesses use printed envelopes, typical of those that have the business name and address up in the left hand corner.

If that sounds like you and you still have reason to buy one or several boxes of printed envelopes on a regular basis, why not use those envelopes as part of your marketing?

Instead of doing what most businesses do, that is print their name and address etc. in the top left corner, why not use more of the space to print a more meaningful marketing message on your envelopes? It costs no extra to print more on the front of envelopes unless you choose to use extra colours.

You’re smart so I’ll let you think about the possibilities but here are a couple of thought provokers to start you thinking. In both cases, the cost to print either option is exactly the same.

Envelope Examples

envelope 1


envelope 2

The 1.2.3. of building customers

Put very simply, the process for building your customer base is –

1. Do things that will cause potential customers to come through your front door.

2. Do your darnedest to exceed their expectations.

3. Trust them then, if you did this well, to come back again.

The way you get them through your door is up to you but normal media advertising is one way.

The way you exceed their expectations is a matter of judgement but could involve any one or more of number of methods. If you’re a coffee shop, you could acknowledge they’re a first timer and offer a free upsize. If you’re a hairdresser, you could give them a product sample to try as a parting gift. A butcher I once knew used to give the kids of customers a cocktail frankfurt to chew on. He made his own. If parcels are involved and your customer is a lady, you could carry the parcels to their car for them. A motel I knew used to wash the windscreens of guests cars each morning and give guests an apple as a parting gift to eat on their trip. The ideas are endless, just choose something that is easy, thoughtful and costs you little or nothing. Giveaways aside, a warm and sincere greeting and similar farewell may be enough to exceed a customer’s expectations.

Assuming the product(s) you sell or the service you provide meets the customer’s satisfaction, you can reasonably assume that by doing that something extra to exceed their expectations, that they’ll come back again. Why wouldn’t they, unless one of your competitors does even better than you?

To take your business ahead of your competitors, doing 1 may help, but doing 2 more creatively than others will be what makes the difference. Get 1 and 2 right and 3 will take care of itself.

A little bit of comfort

For Christmas 2013, my son included a pair of simple innersoles as a stocking stuffer among my Christmas gifts. He said, although unusual, he had a pair and found them very comfortable. I thought to myself “oh well, whatever?”

I put them in my workday shoes, which are pretty comfortable and good quality to start with, and boy I could really notice a pleasing difference, very soft and comfortable underfoot. When they finally wore out, I decided to see if I could buy the same ones again. I shopped around and finally found them in a Mather’s Shoe store. They are called Waproo Freshfoot odour destroying foam insole and much to my delight, they cost just $5 a pair. Not earth shattering marketing advice by any means but if you like comfortable shoes, for just $5 you may like to give them a try.

99 out of 100 can’t all be wrong

You can do one of two things with the advice I’m about to give you – you can lock it in to your thinking and draw on it when somebody seemingly tries to spoil what is otherwise a good day, or you can disregard it suffer a lot more spoiled days than you need to.

It’s about human nature and it goes like this –

If you walk down the main street of where you live and 99 people smile at you and tell you what a great person you, and somewhere along the way just one person tells you they don’t like you and why, guess which of those 100 people’s comments will dominate your thinking for some time after?

I’m sure I don’t have to explain the whys and wherefores of this, suffice to say that while ever you let something that one nasty person, or one unreasonable customer or one obvious “nutcase” has said or done to you during your day dominate how you feel, a lot of energy that could otherwise be used to achieve positive things will be wasted while you dwell on the bad experience.

Every day could well have someone out to spoil your day, but they can only do that if you let them. If and when it happens, turn your mind immediately to some of the good things that happened earlier and let your mind enjoy these. Whatever you do, try to maintain balanced thinking in such cases. Good sense says if 99 people say you’re good and one says you’re something else, you can readily assume that 99 people can’t be wrong and confidently remind yourself – you’re good!