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B3 - Better Business Blog

About this Blog

There are many ways to improve your business and many ways for us all to have a better industry. This Blog will explore these possibilities and hopefully share some useful insights.

Hopefully you will be so impressed that you will want to use sherpa 63 to help you find ways to keep making your business better.

Is Listening to your Customer a Waste of Time?

Improving Businesses Posted on 16 May, 2016 14:23

Surely we all know that we need to listen to our customers? That way we will know how best to serve them and delight them, right? Well maybe not! Shocking as it might seem, we might find that we risk losing our customers if we do what they ask us to. So here are 3 reasons why Listening to your Customer can be a Bad idea and, to balance the perspective, 3 reasons why it could be Good. Let’s do the good stuff first.

Listening to your Customer is Valuable because:
1. You find out where you are Failing.
Complaints records and customer satisfaction surveys can deliver deep insight into where you may wish to invest time or resources into improving things. This may have nothing to do with your product offer (I’m including Services as a product here), but may be all about how your customer wishes you to do business with them. This can be about the way you transact business, but also the service you provide to your customer Before, During and After the sale. Winning a new customer is harder than getting repeat business, so finding out how to make doing business with you a positive experience throughout the cycle will pay dividends.
2. They tell you what they Want…
…and you can work out how to give them more of that. This increases customer satisfaction. You are going to want to find the things that give high satisfaction for low effort and/or low cost for your business and save the harder stuff for later. Finding out customer ‘wants’ also gives you an insight into their emotional state. Bearing in mind that all purchase decisions are made on the basis of wants (and then subsequently justified by needs), finding these out helps you bring products to market that hit those targets on the want side of the equation.
3. They tell you what you are doing well.
If you want to improve your business, you will need to make changes – right? So take care not to take out or worsen the things that your customers value. You’ll need to find a way to preserve the cherished aspects of your business; at least until the customers switch to that new thing you just brought to market. Knowing what to keep is just as valuable as knowing what to change, and if you really have to get rid of a thing that people like, at least find out why they like it so you can work out how to give them something that they will love even more.

Listening to your Customers is a Waste of Time because:
1. They usually can’t see past the present. So when they say what they want, it relates to where they are now, not where you might want to take them. As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted , they would have asked for a faster horse.” In fact Henry asked himself a far better question: What is the challenge that the customer thinks can be solved by a faster horse?” And so a more useful answer starts to emerge.
Thinking about your customer in this way is all about seeing things from their perspective, and then working laterally to develop alternative solutions. Don’t forget – if you also talk to people who aren’t your customers [yet] then you may get another perspective.
2. Customers don’t see Trends, they participate in them.
So they can’t tell you what the next big thing should be. But they do have expectations that are constantly evolving. Uber has created an expectation that you can get things you want Conveniently and Safely using your mobile phone. When a competitor works out how to do something like that in your market, you will find customers ready to buy. But they won’t have predicted this or asked for it.
3. Customers don’t always tell the truth!
There are many reasons for this: They may not like to give you personal information that could help you understand them. They may not tell you that your product/price/performance offer is just fine, because they want to get a better deal from you. They will certainly come up with any number of false objections about why they can’t say ‘yes’ to the deal. So do your research around the customer to better understand their position. Find out what is really going to be good for them and when you present it, study their body language and facial expressions. That way you’ll have a better appreciation of how they feel. Which is not something many customers talk about.

So what is the conclusion?
As ever it is a bit of a compromise: Yes, talk to your customer and listen to what they say but then go and find out the rest of the picture. Oh, and if you are going to have a dialogue with your customers, make sure they know you have been listening. Active feedback here is essential. No lip-service please. Check your understanding, Thank them for their input and time, Respect their opinion and don’t argue or justify.

Good Luck!

Is it Conference Season Already?

Superyacht Industry Activity Posted on 02 Mar, 2016 11:50

A couple of weeks ago I spent a good day in London at the Make Your Mark 2016 event organised by the Superyacht Events division of TSYG. Along with a sizeable group of like minded individuals I listened to experts from outside our Superyacht Industry, which gave us all some great insights on reaching customers in the luxury market as well as how to get our message across multiple media channels. Next week I will be participating in the Quaynote event in Malta, titled Opportunities in Superyachts. The following week it will be the USSA Summit in Ft Lauderdale and in the first week of April over to Singapore for the Asia Pacific Yachting Conference.

Some industry colleagues have commented that there are too many conferences and you only hear the same things again and again. I think that is a fair criticism, but to counter that I have two observations:
Firstly – Conference organisers have reached the same conclusion and are changing things up to give new perspectives and different insights. For example, at the USSA Summit attendees will be asked to participate in assessing new Yacht designs and Business Innovations. In what promises to be a fast and furious Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank style session, Designers and Businesses will get 180 seconds – just three minutes – to make a pitch to the conference, who will then vote live, using smartphone tech, to decide the winner. All of the designs will also have been reviewed by an expert judging panel and whose scores will be combined those of the Summit attendees.
Personally I think it is great to see an association showcasing new talent and innovation in this way. [Note: At time of writing, entries were still being accepted…]
At the APYC, the focus is on the continuing development in the region and many of the sessions will explore how East-West business relationships are evolving now and for the future.

Secondly – If you have heard it all before, perhaps the reason you should go to a conference has changed. Maybe you have become a participant who can provide input and insight from your own experience. Sometimes we fail to spot that we have shifted from being the student to becoming a master. Perhaps you need to go to share what you know.

Of course I find that conferences provide great networking opportunities and I particularly enjoy meeting up with old friends alongside making new contacts. So let me know which ones you will be attending this season and I’ll look out for you there.

[In the interests of transparency I should let you know that I have served on the steering committee of both the USSA Summit and the APYC. So it goes without saying that I think you should all attend these excellent events.]


5 Steps to a Better Business

Improving Businesses Posted on 17 Feb, 2016 16:01

See if this situation sounds familiar: You started your business a few years ago and it has done pretty well. Now you are very busy each day running things and doing what you do.
So far so good, but just around the corner is someone else, just like you were when you started – seeing the opportunity, finding the gap and working out how to be the next great thing in your market. And here is the problem: Doing what you do well today will not be enough tomorrow. So how do you face this potential challenge and continue to succeed?
Here are five steps that all businesses of any size can take that have the potential to lift you up and set you on an improved course.
1. Look to the Future
This is not to do a prediction or a forecast, but to decide what you want your business to look like five or ten years from now. Do you want to be a bigger business with more people working for you, be more profitable, be operating in new areas or is it about how your business can give you more personal freedom to do things that interest you? Whatever it is, think about how you would describe it to a friend.
2. Write it down
This is how an idea becomes something more. Something you can Send, Show, Store and Share. It doesn’t have to be all words either, pictures and diagrams can work just as well, but above all what you set down should capture your vision of the future and let you communicate this to others.
3. Work out how to get there
Don’t imagine you have to sit in a darkened room and work this out for yourself – the people in your business will have some of the best individual insights to go with your overall view. Don’t forget that your customers will also have some great input that you can draw on.
4. Plan out your pathway
Think First Steps and Next Steps to get all of the things that you have identified into a useful sequence. This is the Who and How part of the planning process that follows the What and Why that you set out earlier.
5. Keep the dust off your plan
Use it as a reference that you regularly check back on as you pass through key checkpoints. Don’t be afraid to review and modify the plan – certainly on an annual basis – but keep the overall aim consistent.

…and remember, you are good at running your business, but just as you use Accountants, Lawyers and the like for their specialist expertise, you should consider getting a Business Advisor to help you as you work through these stages.