So what have you planned for 2018? No more smoking? A serious diet? Get thee behind me, devil drink? Whilst you’re fore swearing personal pleasures spare a thought for your business. Doesn’t it need some New Year’s Resolutions, too?
If everyone in your organisation changed just one small habit, the effect on overall profitability could be huge. Nor does anyone need moral support groups to achieve this. It’s more about adopting a new and better habit rather than giving up an old one.
We’ll start with sales. The most flexible, most convenient and best retail marketing tool is the human voice. Use it on every customer and the effect is dramatic. It’s also free.
Asking for additional sales might have attained music hall joke status - something for the weekend sir? - but the fact remains: it works. Most purchases prompt another and if you don’t ask, you’ll miss out. Just for asking one question consistently, you can increase sales by up to ten per cent, without incurring any costs.
In the same vein, go for upsizing. We’re all creatures of habit and will buy what what we usually buy. The larger size – classically a multipack - invariably comes with a price benefit, so offering it is good service to your customers, who may not know you stock it, nor how much it saves them.
Again, it’s just one question. Then there are new products. Your customers have all seen them advertised in the media and you’ve got them. But unless you bring it to people’s attention, they may well not notice. I can’t be the only person who regularly shops with his brain in neutral.
The same applies to promotional offers. People love free, win and save, which is why manufacturers run promotions. When the rain is lashing down in February, telling customers that they can win a holiday if they buy product x is going to lead to sales, isn’t it?
You can run your own simple promotion especially on new products: trial.
Imagine if Maltesers was a new brand. How many cases do you think you’d sell by opening a few bags and giving one single Malteser to every customer?
Clearly, you need your staff right with you to get any benefit out of this. So they need a resolution, too. Telling them to ask those questions won’t do it.
Use a simple incentive - it could be a free go on the lottery each week they continue. If you can work out a middle/long term cash incentive, so much the better.
There is another incentive which is easily overlooked. Talking to customers is the enjoyable bit of the job. If that customer says, “Oh yes, I want some sports socks. Thanks for reminding me”, then there’s some job satisfaction that doesn’t come with just taking their money.
Get the detail right. Customers, especially new customers are sensitive to their surroundings. They can react very negatively to minor matters. So, are your premises spotlessly clean? Do your windows sparkle? Are your staff smart, welcoming and polite? Are your displays tidy? Are your price tags, signage and product information up to date, clear and of professional appearance? All the best retailers look like the best and vigilance on these details will rapidly enhance your image.
There are two sides to profit (and that’s what these resolutions are about). As well as increasing sales look at cutting costs. You probably think that you buy well. But it’s easy to get into a cosy rut with reliable suppliers. Establish the principle of a regular structured check with their competition. If nothing else it will satisfy you that, yes, you’re buying well. It might, equally, open your eyes to new profit avenues.
Can you reduce your fixed costs? Does your rent reflect the going rate for your trading area? Clearly, moving to reduce your rent is a serious step, but if you can demonstrate to your landlords that you are paying 15 per cent over the odds they should be ready to review. Remember, if you should move they won’t relet at an inflated rate to a new tenant.
Much the same applies to business rates. We all get hot under the collar about these (especially if we pay Council Tax to the same authority), but you may have the opportunity to reduce your liability. If improved parking facilities, street lighting, pedestrian crossings and the like have been promised but not delivered then the council owes you a rebate. Your elected councillor should be as keen as mustard to help if you find the local authority a maze.
Look into the valuable deals offered by utility suppliers. If you can achieve ten per cent off your annual running costs on electric, gas and telephone that’s money straight into the bottom line. They’re all making promises of at least that size.
Business resolutions are much like personal resolutions. You make them to put right something that annoys you, that embarrasses you, that costs you money and upsets you. In your business they have another purpose: stick with them and they’ll make you richer.