Every business owner goes through a rut, and it can be hard to break free. They’re so busy with the day-to-day operations that can’t see the wood for the trees, or see a way to change their approach.
If you’re in that place right now and you know you need to find ways to attract new customers, it’s worth taking a step back, analysing your mindset and seeing if you need to re-learn these three simple lessons:
1. Change your attitude to data
In this digital age, we’ve all become data-hoarders. Many of us never clear our email inboxes, we have countless unused spreadsheets and data including research reports, customers statistics, income and profit charts, website and social media user data and customer engagement statistics going back years. We love collecting data. But do we use it effectively? Probably not.
Most companies today are data-rich and insight poor. That’s because collecting data is simple but using it can be more tricky. But in the end, because we have so much data, and more is being created by the day, if we don’t change our mindset and embed a data strategy, we’re in danger of being left behind.
Part of the issue is often that we’re collecting the wrong data; we’re still collecting the statistics that we needed when the business was founded. The first thing to do is to undertake an audit of exactly what you’re collecting, and why. Then go out to your customer teams and ask them if they ever use this data, and what other types they think would be more useful, and why.
Patterns and trends in data will give you the information you need to identify new customers, and where they can be found. If you change your approach to data, you’ll empower your teams to step up a gear.
2. Loosen up and start taking more risks
Every business owner knows that risk-taking is part and parcel of building a successful company. But it’s remarkable how much of our risk-taking appetite we lose over time. And while it’s sensible to avoid huge and obvious risks, by closing our mind to anything that carries any risk at all can severely hamper our ability to reach new customers.
Highly successful founders do take risks, sometimes big ones, but more than that, they continue to take calculated risks throughout their careers. Take founders like refugee-entrepreneur Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia, or Deliveroo founder Will Shu. These entrepreneurs took what many would regard as huge risks to start their businesses, but they’ve also continued to look at risk in a very different way: as the only way to get more customers and stay ahead of their competition.
The reason why business-owners stop taking risks is that they worry about failure, and how that will affect their employees. But entrepreneurs who don’t take risks have a tendency to bring power back into the centre at a time when they should be empowering their teams, demonstrating trust and delegating more than ever. This can have a very negative effect on customer-facing teams especially, and that knocks on to customer service and engagement.
Engaged employees who are given responsibility, are trusted to make the right decision – and yes, take risks – deliver a far better service to customers. According to Gallup, highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales. When a business owner is comfortable with risk, they’re building risk-resilience in their teams.
3. Treat every single thing you do as a new learning opportunity
Highly successful entrepreneurs and business owners have one thing in common: they are lifelong and voracious learners. They accept up front that that don’t know everything, can’t possibly be expert in everything and are utterly driven to learn as much as possible.
This might seem obvious and just plain common sense. But if you think about it, how many of us really do wake up every day and think: wow, how many new things can I learn today? How many of us treat everything we do, every place we go, every person we meet, as an opportunity to learn something new that could get us out of a hole later down the line? Not many of us. But that’s exactly how highly successful founders think.
This approach is harder than it sounds. Because it requires us to analyse every interaction and event in depth, follow up on data and the ideas of others, really dig deep and take new thinking to the next level. But this approach has led businesses to pivot dramatically, and gain traction with new customers in areas outside their initial scope.
Take Slack for example. Initially, the founders made a small video game that had a messaging platform built on top. The game was very popular but made no money. When it went bust, their teams wanted to keep the messaging platform, so they developed that instead.
Changing your mindset can have a radical and positive effect on your business and employees. If you can take time out to think about how to change your approach in just one of these three areas, you’ll be in better shape to find new ways to reach out to new customers.