Recently I surveyed my customers using Survey Monkey to find out what the major issues in their businesses are. Here’s the top 10 things I learnt from their responses.
The biggest frustration for most business owners revolves around time. Half of the people that responded to our survey said the lack of time, or their inability to get things done in a reasonable amount of time, was their biggest challenge. Three specific challenges were mentioned:
- Spending too much time on the unimportant stuff
- Outsourcing and building a team
- The time it takes to get things done
The second biggest frustration for most business owners revolves around marketing and presenting their value clearly to the customer. Comments suggested there were two parts to this:
- Getting clear about the focus and the value
- Staying on track once they’d defined their value
The number one thing people want to accomplish in their business in 2014 was to make a bigger difference to their clients. This is surprising. I expected to see the usual things of growing your business listed in terms of dollars, more clients and more things about ‘us’. Instead, there was a distinct shift to focusing on the clients’ needs and gaining satisfaction from this. And, ultimately using this as the pathway to growing your business.
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The second biggest thing people want to accomplish in their business in 2014 is to create products. This may be a little distorted given people responding to the survey came from my band of followers and that I have been writing a lot about products myself lately. The main reasons for creating products were:
- To create an asset for the business
- To manage cash flow over the long term
- To grow the business reputation
In response to the question ‘What would it take to double your business?’, most people suggested they simply needed to do more or better around what they were already doing. These included:
- Gaining one referral from each existing client
- Building more business systems
- Working harder
The second most popular response to the question ‘What would it take to double your business?’ was focused on new activities and new strategy. These included:
- Creating products from existing knowledge
- Working with consultants to expand knowledge and learn new ways of operating
- Shift from working one-on-one to working with groups
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In response to the double question of ‘What strategies have you tried that worked?’ and ‘Which ones didn’t work?’, there was, as you might expect, mixed responses. In some cases people said that focussing on online strategies worked brilliantly. This included:
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Building a great website
In contrast, other people specifically said these things did not work for them. Mmm… that’s interesting!
Similar to number seven, there were mixed responses for the value that employing consultants provided for the business. In some cases the people employed did not know the industry well enough and were not able to deliver the results that were expected. In other cases, the consultants were able to offer a fresh perspective that helped produce considerable growth in the business.
Another consistent thread of strategies that worked and didn’t work revolved around what activities people undertook to attract new clients. In some cases, direct contact with potential clients was effective through:
- Going to networking events
- Having coffee and lunch
- Presenting to live audiences as a keynote speaker
In other cases, this was done indirectly through:
- Creating online material
- Publishing books and other content to build thought leadership and reputation.
My final learning from this survey derives from the things people said worked and didn’t work. It is really clear in the responses that people were willing to try a lot of things. And as you might expect, some worked and some didn’t. I think this cuts to the very nature of running and growing a business. Whilst we all need a strategy or a vision for where we’re heading, we also need to try lots of different things to find out the best way of getting there. And, what works in one situation may or may not work in another. Keep experimenting!
PS: A big thank you to all who responded!