Feeling the crunch? Here are 10 ways to beat the downward trend and keep your business on the right track.
1. Look at more at cost effective ways to market your business.
E-marketing is a very powerful and cost effective way to market your business. It enables you to send out newsletters, mailshots, special offers and loyalty schemes directly to your customers via their email address at no extra cost, you save on postage and/or printing costs too. It also encourages them back to your website to see what other services you offer. The only investment is the time needed to design your promotional e-mail material it is so simple!
2.Invest in an on-line business management tool to help you save time and money
Using a business management system that offers an ‘on-line diary feature’ to enable your customer’s access to book their appointments direct is a great way to reduce down the volume of calls and work generated for reception cover. Business tools to analyse the productivity of your staff against work load and business demand is invaluable to ensure that your business is running efficiently and recruitment of staff is being spent wisely.
3. Ensure that your business software is not costing you in the long run in hidden costs.
Check that you are not tied into lengthy maintenance & costly technical support contracts for your business software. There are a few companies now that offer business software on-line, saving you in set up fees, annual subscriptions, free maintenance and technical backup as well as data protection. You automatically get free upgrades to keep your software up to date and switching over could not be simpler. You just register and pay on line and you will be up a running within hours not days. You also have technical support via email or phone so help is at hand as and when you might need it.
4.Reduce your staff overheads with a virtual pa/receptionist.
Staff overheads are one of the first things that get cut in a recession. An excellent way to compensate staff cuts but not lose on quality of service is to look at the virtual pa/receptionist option. To ensure that you get adequate phone cover for your clinic without having to overstretch your existing resources, you can opt for a pay as you go virtual receptionist that will represent your company. She will answer calls, take messages, book appointments and send out marketing material for mail shots, create and send out invoices, update account spreadsheets etc. She is totally reliable and does not require holiday, sick or lunchtime cover, you simply use her as and when you need to – costing as little as £75 a month! A fraction of the cost of a full-time pa/receptionist.
5.Save on the cost of telephone calls
Look at reducing your phone bills every quarter by installing VoIP technology. VoIP allows you make your phone calls over the internet at the fraction of the cost of a normal phone call saving you hundreds of pounds on your annual business phone. It is really easy to set up and run don’t be put off by telecom technology.
6.Increase customer retention through improved customer care
Ask yourself not what your customer can do for you but rather what you can do for your customer. Customers are driven by both emotional and practical needs – make sure you are satisfying both of these. Look after them by offering customer loyalty cards – stop your clients using your competitors, and reward customers with referral schemes. Most important listen to what they have to say about your products and services as well as your staff, ask them to complete questionnaires – there opinion is vital to your success long term. They may even give you new ideas that you may not have considered.
8.Reduce your operating costs.
Look to see where you can save money on basic essentials i.e. stationery, raw materials etc source suppliers on-line and save money or go direct to the manufacturer and cut out the middle man. A little time spent on researching on the internet will reduce down your material and equipment costs. You can search via brand and model number and then go to price comparison sites to get the best deal.
9.Understand your customers needs better.
Keep up to date with your customers, a good customer database is an invaluable investment to your business. It allows you to share information amongst your team improving knowledge and communication as well as customer confidence in the way you implement it. A database can identify customers needs – their likes and dislikes and will provide vital clues in helping you to cross sell other products and services you offer to increase customer spend.
10. Re-assess your products and services.
Look at all the products and services that you offer in relation to how much you sell and how profitable they are. At times it is necessary to eliminate treatments that are simply costing too much to operate i.e look at materials and labour costs in relation to net profit. The products and services that are the high profit earners are the ones that you and your staff should be pushing make sure you all understand this. Or look at your existing products and services and ways to save money on materials and time but not compromising quality of service.
About the Author: Claire Hibbert. Claire is the Marketing Director for icomplete.com. Claire left a career in the video games industry to launch her own beauty salon in the late nineties. It was while managing her small business that she had the “eureka moment” that would lead to icomplete.com, and the concept of a fully integrated, complete business management solution.
Photo credit: Photo from Flickr, taken by Bitzcelt