If you had to pick three areas that have yielded the greatest return on investment of your time and money, without a doubt they'd be your product, process and people. Here's why.
All the advertising dollars in the world won't help a bad product, and you need to be confident that your product delivers on its brand promise. You know what that is -- it's what you tell your customers your product is going to do for them. Does it deliver on the brand promise consistently?
Maybe you aren't getting as many customers as you'd like. Did you ask for customer input when designing your product? Have you asked them how to improve your service? My favorite one-question survey I’ve participated in was, "What can we do that will knock your socks off?" Present it as one question and one large text box for your customers to answer in. Try it. I promise that you'll learn a lot.
However, the real tell-tale sign of a good product is if your customers are willing to refer you to their friends or colleagues. This is another one-question survey called the Net Promoter Score. Essentially, you ask your customers, "On a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to refer us to a friend or colleague?" Nines and 10s matter, as those people are your promoters. Sevens and eights are your passives, with six and under designated as detractors. Figure this out and then follow up with both your promoters and your detractors to find out where you need to improve.
Process is so critical that it's often overlooked as a technical item. Processes are the steps you'd take to perform a function, such as making a sales presentation, delivering a service or answering the phone.
At Voices.com, we've got processes for making changes to the website, answering customer inquiries and even emergency procedures. Processes eliminate questions like, “How do we do X," or "When do we do Y?" Having a process or set of processes in place gives your team the power to operate on their own and in the same manner that you would.
Finally, processes are what will allow your business to scale from one to five , and then 20 employees. Over time, we’ve seen our processes help us grow from 20 to 100 people. If you want to learn about processes the same way I did, read The E-Myth, an excellent book series by Michael Gerber.
I saved the most important for last. When I say "your people," I'm not just referring to your employees -- although obviously they are important. Instead, I'm talking about all your relationships. I call these people my stakeholders, as they have a vested interest in the success of our company. This group consists of employees, customers, vendors, suppliers and advisers.
Consider the following:
- How do you treat your employees, the office space you provide them with, the technology your company uses and the compensation plan? It adds up to respect.
- Have an on-going dialog with your banker throughout the year so they hear from you more often than just when you need money.
- Stay in touch with your customers, as they pay your bills today and are the best source of referrals and future business.
Remember, business is nothing more than the sum of your relationships, so invest time in your relationships. Get to know people. Send quick follow-up notes via email. Give them an endorsement on LinkedIn. Send a thank-you card or gift basket to someone special. They will appreciate it and remember it for a long time.
In closing, focusing on product, process and people will empower you to create value where there was none before, instill processes that will grow your company and nurture relationships across the board to show that you truly care. By being purposeful, you’ll stay on mission and deliver world-class experiences to everyone who comes into contact with your brand.