Posts Tagged ‘customer’

10 Good Reasons to Use Email Marketing

May 7, 2011

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group, LLC

As a CEO, I wish that 30 years ago I had this extremely productive tool to communicate with my customers and prospects.

If your business is not using email marketing, then you need to make it a part of your marketing mix going forward.  What benefit will your company get from email marketing?  Here are 10 good reasons:

  1. It will increase your business cash flow:  Email marketing costs less than direct mail, television, radio and other forms of purchased media.  This means more cash for your company to use in other areas of the business.  Executed properly, over both the short-term and long-term email marketing will have your highest return on investment of any marketing channel in your business.
  2. Can segment your customer base:  Instead of a general message to a mass audience you can tailor your message to a segment of your customer base that has shown a desire for information on a specific topic, product or service that you offer. Relevant targeted content is at the heart of effective email marketing.
  3. Can build a 1 on 1 relationship:  This is not possible with television or radio.  Each email can be personalized with the recipient’s name, they can reply to what you have sent and you can directly respond to their comments or questions.  
  4. Can review response history of the individual:  Did they open the email?  Did they click-through to a link? Did they buy? Compare this to newspaper or television where you have no idea  whether your customer even knew the ad or 60 second spot even existed.
  5. Allows you to use triggered emails:  Based upon response history, you can automatically target future emails to their area of interest.  For example, if you are an attorney and your prospect clicked on an estate planning article, you can follow-up with an email on trusts.  Triggered emails can be set up by date such as birthdays, anniversaries of a successful completion of a job, for  holiday messages and many other ways.
  6. It lets your customer be in control:  Marketing has changed. The consumer now controls the relationship.  With email marketing the consumer can choose what part of the email to read, when to read it, if they want to respond to an offer and even opt out of receiving future emails if they conclude that your information is not relevant to them.  This is a good thing. The best performing company will win. Make sure its your company. 
  7. Email marketing can be synchronized with other marketing channels:  Email marketing does not have to  stand alone. You can use other channels like social media or direct mail to sign up prospects to receive emails about your company. By identifying a specific area of interest, a key person can respond with a personalized letter or phone call and not waste your prospect’s time.
  8. Can utilize education-based marketing:  Email marketing is not a sound bite or tweet.  It allows you to dig deep into a topic and educate your consumer.  Better yet, your company can send a series of emails weekly on a topic of interest.
  9. Builds brand:  A consistent ongoing message can build trust and credibility in your company. When the time finally comes to make a buying decision you will have built a reservoir of goodwill that will give you a chance to close the sale. 
  10. Can link to your website:  Your website should be treated as if it was another location of your company that is used to strengthen the relationship with a prospect or customer.  Linking to different parts of your website from an email can educate, sell, and communicate what makes your business unique.

There are some who say that email marketing is on the decline and is being replace by social media.

I disagree.

Email marketing continues to be at the core of an integrated marketing strategy that can build sales and profitability increase the cash flow of your business over the long-term.

I would be interested to know what your  experience has been with email marketing.

Will Groupon Increase Business Cash Flow?

May 4, 2011

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group, LLC

I have to admit that I have not used Groupon or the other coupon sites from a seller standpoint at this time.

But I am intrigued by the potential these sites have to offer.

I know there are businesses that love what coupon sites do to sales and return time and again to using Groupon and sites similar to it.

Having said that, here are a few questions an owner or CEO should ask themselves before taking the online coupon plunge:

  • Who is your customer?  What do they really want and expect from your company?  While everyone likes a deal, do they expect you to be selling your products or services at 50% off?  Are they more price driven or value driven?  Any new prospect you attract should be similar to your existing loyal customer.
  • What is the impact on your brand?  What message do you want prospects and customers to hear from you?  Is the coupon call-to-action aligned with the value proposition your company has invested time and money in developing?
  • What is the cost to acquire a new customer?  You should know this.  What % of the coupon users will return to buy the next time at full price?  Run scenarios to see if you like the cost of customer acquisition.
  • What is the profit per sale and are you comfortable with that?  Run the numbers on gross margin and overall cost of marketing.   If the coupon site takes 50% upfront, what will you be left with after the sale?  
  • What is the impact on your existing customer? Will they expect the same offer even if they do not act on the coupon?  If you offer them the same discount as the coupon, would they have purchased anyway but at full price?  Do their expectations of your company change going forward?

Those are just a few of many questions to consider prior to using the online coupon channel of marketing.

Lastly, I would talk to businesses similar to yours who have used Groupon and similar coupon sites.  Ask them what worked and what they would do differently.  The beauty of Groupon and others like it is that you can learn from the experiences of others.

What do you want to accomplish from using online coupons?

Profitably increasing your business cash flow should be at the top of your list.

A Business Must Pry Loose Consumer Savings

August 4, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

It has been widely reported that businesses of all sizes have accumulated cash over the last year to reduce debt and have a cash flow cushion going forward.

Someone else is doing the same thing.

The consumer has decided that saving money is a good and needed strategy for themselves and their families.

The US government reported that consumers saved 6.4% of after tax income for the month of July.  This trend in increased savings has been happening now for a few months.  Compare this savings rate to 1%+ prior to the economic chaos that started in 2008.

Why is the consumer deciding to save more at this point in time?  Here are a few reasons as I see them:

  • It is no secret that consumers are trying to reduce any and all debt they have.
  • Uncertainty plays a major role in consumer psychology.  The consumer is telling themselves that caution is the best strategy and that means saving dollars until they can get a better “feel” on the future of the economy.
  • The consumer is becoming wiser.  Part of what got the consumer and the country into economic trouble was spending on unnecessary products and services as well as houses bigger than were needed.  You can add to that a few vacation homes.  Now the consumer is still spending, but it is on more necessities and less on “feel good” items with no lasting value. Some of the remaining dollars is going into savings.

In spite of this new pragmatic approach by the consumer, businesses still have to generate sales.  The consumer has not stopped buying. They are just buying less and being more cautious.  A company needs to capitalize on that mindset.  Here is how to do it:

  1. Know who your target customer is and channel your available marketing dollars at that customer.  As  a business, you do not have the luxury of using a shotgun approach.  That only wastes cash flow.
  2. Know which of your services or products is most desired at this time by your target customer.  Don’t make the mistake of emphasizing secondary products, styles, colors, sizes, or categories in your offering.  Lead with your strength.  Do research to find out what that is if necessary.
  3. The consumer right now appears to only be buying bargains.  So give them a bargain.  Find a way to promote your most wanted items to the target customer at a price point they cannot refuse. Then cross market and up sell to increase the average sale and bump up margin.
  4. Offer the best guarantee or warranty that you possibly can.  The consumer is not very trusting right now.  Let them know that once they finally decide to buy that they can have peace of mind that their purchase will not be a mistake.  Trust and credibility in the seller is currently an important part of the buyers decision-making strategy. 

The consumer has money to spend.  And they will spend it given a good reason to do so.

It is up to the owner or CEO to give the consumer a valid reason to dip into the increase in savings and spend it with your company.

10 Creative Ideas To Increase Sales Now!

July 13, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

As a business owner or CEO you must create and maintain positive cash flow in your business.  It is your #1 priority.

Let’s be clear where that cash flow is not going to come from.  The amount of loans to small businesses fell in the 1rst quarter of 2010 compared to 2 years earlier.  Banks and other private lenders are being more choosy about who is getting any type of small business loan.  Regardless of good cash flow projections and collateral, some businesses still are not receiving the lines of credit needed to operate their businesses.

As an owner, I would not automatically assume funds will be available from my local lender.      

There is one solution that will work.  The small business owner must find ways to increase sales.  The smart owner has already cut expenses, gotten extended terms from suppliers and probably tapped into personal investments.  More sales will bring more of the business cash flow your company needs to survive and grow.

Your company will need to do creative and unique tactics to spring loose the purse strings of the consumer or business who is your customer.

Start doing these 10 things today to increase sales:

  1. Learn more about the needs and wants of your customer.  Find better solutions to their problems and market to that.  In one word, “listen” to the individual customer more than before.  You may find that there is a whole category of products or services your company should have been selling to him that will increase your sales.
  2. Monitor and use social media.  There are many ways to use social media to generate sales.  The overriding method is to use social media to build relationships with customers and noncustomers.  Monitor for  complaints about competitors and offer a solution.  Monitor for complaints about your own company and be there to take ownership of the problem.  Incorporate surveys, contests, and links to websites, including your own.  All of this can position your company as a credible source of information. The end result will be an opportunity to create a new customer.
  3. Use email marketing to strengthen customer relationships.  This is not an opportunity to just email blast special offers constantly.  Instead, use emails to target a message about the benefits of your product, new information on your industry, an interview with a local business leader or an update on coming events involving your company.  Email marketing is an inexpensive way to stay in touch with your customer.  A call to action can still be included to trigger additional purchases.
  4. Get lapsed customers reinstated.  If you sell to other businesses then call on the company.  If you sell to consumers then send a personalized letter to each customer with a special coupon.  Don’t let them forget about you.
  5. Offer extended terms.  Help your customer finance the purchase.  Chances are your customer needs your product.  Here is a way to show that you are there to help them.  Instead of normal 30 day terms, extend out to 60 or 90 days.  Of course, make sure this offer is to creditworthy customers.
  6. Offer an unusual promotion.  Check the gross margin of your most popular products and offer something different to pry loose the spending of your prospect.  It may be a discount, a free service with purchase or a bundling of products.
  7. Run a 3 day limited promotion.  Make it unadvertised and exclusive to your customer database.  Communicate this with an email and followup contact by phone or in person.
  8. Offer a special after hours private shopping event.  If you are a retailer, tie in with a local not for profit and include their database in the invitation list.  Have a portion of the proceeds go to the charity.  Include wine, music, and giveaways at the event.  This could easily be held on a Saturday or Sunday evening.
  9. Create a white paper.  Your prospects and customers are probably having cash flow issues also.  Offer tips on how to save cash.  This will work for both businesses and consumers.  They will appreciate the free advice and use their new-found cash to spend on your products or services.
  10. Ask for and get testimonials.  Then send them out with a promotion to both prospects and customers.  There is no method of advertising more effective than a third-party advocate.  By including existing customers it will reinforce that they made the right decision by buying from your company. 

Use one or more of these ideas to pump up sales and increase cash flow.  Keep track of results and show your banker the action plan, goals, and the resulting increase in sales. 

You may see your banker wanting to make a loan to this well run growing business of yours.

One Simple Low Cost Method To Increase Sales

July 1, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

If sales are down try this low-cost method to increase sales and instantly improve your business cash flow.  The best part is it takes zero advertising dollars.

Look back at the last 3 years and calculate the average revenue or sales per customer that was generated for a year.

Make a list of your top customers and rank them in order top to bottom by year to date volume and determine who is trending to hit or exceed the yearly average.

Now,  make a list of those customers that are trending below the average, set a specific goal per customer to close the gap and have the sales department assign these customers to the top sales people in your company.  Their mission is to move sales volume up on each of these customers so by year-end their volume is at the predetermined average.

Why would this approach work?

First, you have already invested dollars to get them as a customer so no new advertising is needed to get these sales.  Second, the customer likes your company and what you have to offer since they are purchasing from you.  They are just not buying enough.

Try the following steps to increase sales with these customers:

  1. It sounds crazy but ask them to buy more.  It could be that the sales department has just been taking orders and not trying to build the sale.  Tell the customer how much the company values them as a client and would like to do more business than they currently are doing.  Believe me, this will work by itself with some customers.
  2. Increase sales by identifying a product or service that they are not buying that would be a good fit for the customer.  This becomes new sales for your company and sales that should have been generated with this customer all along.
  3. Offer a rebate or some incentive if by the end of the year their total volume hits the target goal.  If you get pushback, tell them the goal is realistic and is just the average amount purchased by the typical customer of your company.
  4. Review the payment history of this account and if it has been good, inform them that as a valuable loyal customer their credit limit has been increased. Like many users of credit they may purchase up to their credit limit.

I would do all 4 of the above suggestions for each customer.

Bonus method to increase sales:

After you have implemented the above program to increase sales with the “below average” volume customers, do the same steps with the “above average” volume customers.

The result will be a spike upward in the overall annual average revenue per customer.  This all happens without bringing on any new customers.  You are just maximizing the potential with your current customer database. 

Your business should see a jump in sales, cash flow, and profit.

I Quit. Oh No! That Was My Top Customer!

June 23, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

One of the great “moments of truth” in the history of a business comes when a long time loyal customer quits and decides to take their business to the competition.

It can be like a family member dying.

When this happens, the sales, profit, and business cash flow of the company can take a major hit.

It can and should be a shock to everyone in the company.  I hope it never happens to you.  However, if it does there are 2 basic questions that must be answered immediately:

  1. Why did the customer leave?
  2. How do we get the customer back?

Here are 5 thoughts and questions I have on addressing why a long time customer left:

  1. First, the owner or CEO should personally be the one to analyze what happened.  It is not acceptable to lose an important customer or client and the responsibility falls primarily on the shoulders of the person at the top of the organization.  As a leader, you cannot be in the business of losing your top customers.
  2. If this customer found a reason to leave then it should be assumed that your company might be on the verge of losing other customers due to something you are doing or not doing.  This customer is like the canary in the mine.
  3. The owner or CEO should visit the other owner or CEO and have a heart to heart talk.  Find out exactly what the problem was that caused this decision and ask where the breakdown was occurring.  Chances are it was not one reason only.  Often there was an ongoing issue that was communicated repeatedly to the company, and in the opinion of your client, the issue was ignored or not taken seriously.
  4. Initiate immediately a listening campaign with your other large customers. It should be assumed that if the competitor persuaded one important customer to change then they will leverage that decision to go after your other top accounts.  A senior manager needs to visit your customer’s top management and find out if there are any problems brewing.
  5. The management team should meet back at headquarters and compare notes from all the conversations.  Are there common threads that require an action plan be put in place?  Some issues that may be identified are:
  • Has the processes in place to do business with your company become too complicated?  Has it just become too difficult to do business with your company?  For example, think of a customer service problem where the customer has to speak to numerous people and no decision is made.  Is your company lacking one point of contact for a customer to go to that would simplify the process or has your company become loaded with territorial silos.
  • Are your employees just going through the motions?  Are they taking customers for granted?  Is there a morale problem that impacts the relationship with all customers?  If so, why is there a morale issue?
  • Is there a growing quality problem?  Do finished products have mistakes and have to be remade?  Are shipments not delivered completely?  Are deadlines not met?
  • Do you have competitors now offering the same product or service as your core product and selling it at a lower price?  Has the competitor re-engineered your product to deliver more benefits?  Even a #1 product in the marketplace has to keep evolving to stay ahead of the competition.  

There may be other problems but it is my guess that one or  more of the above will be the cause of your business divorce. 

So, how do you get the customer back?

The reality of the situation is that you may not be able to.  Chances are the other company struggled for a long  time to arrive at this decision and will probably stick with it.

Regardless, here is what I would do:

  • Chances are the problem stemmed from a series of people issues.  I would put in place one point of contact and that person would only be the owner or CEO.  No one else.  If this is the real problem, then this solution will communicate how seriously the owner considers the situation.  
  • Schedule weekly meetings chaired by the CEO to review the status of the account with your lost customer’s management team.
  • Revisit with the customer’s CEO or owner the reasons why they chose to do business with your company to begin with.  Psychologically this allows the customer to resell themselves on what they liked about your company.  It also shifts the conversation from a negative to a positive one.
  • Identify the #1 feature that the customer likes and consider offering it at no  charge or reduced cost for a period of time.  Possibly throw in extended terms.  If you think it is too costly to do this ask yourself the cost of acquiring the new customers needed to replace the volume of this one top revenue generator.
  • If the customer is still reluctant to change back, ask if your company could take a reduced position in serving them instead of losing 100% of the business.  There is a good chance this strategy will work.   

One benefit coming out of this is that the CEO of your company will get a clearer picture of what is working and not working in the company.  That is a positive thing.

The best way to prevent this loss from happening again is to be proactive by making sure your management team is taking the following 4 actions:

  1. Listening to your customers
  2. Managing with timely accurate metrics to find where the company is falling down
  3. Keeping your employees motivated and focused on the customer and not themselves
  4. Making sure your value proposition and core products are in tune with the wants and needs of your target customer as well as the marketplace. 

In my opinion, losing a top customer is a leadership issue.  Sales, cash flow, profit and net worth will suffer.

Don’t let it happen to you.

14 Reasons A Company Should Use Internet Marketing To Increase Sales And Business Cash Flow

June 22, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

I envy the manager of today that is  just graduating from business school.  They have a tool available to them that I wished that I had for most of my 30 years as a CEO.  That tool is the Internet.  I can only imagine how this productive tool for generating sales will evolve over time.

It is an exciting time to be the Director of Marketing of any organization.  If your mission is to build brand, generate leads, expand a relationship with your customer, or simply surpass a sales plan, then the Internet must be part of an integrated marketing communications strategy.

For you business owners still not sure whether the Internet is worth spending your company’s marketing dollars this way, then here are a few thoughts of mine on why the Internet needs to be a part of your future:

  1. Pay for Performance:  As a CEO nothing gets better than this.  Using pay-per-click advertising that is  correctly executed allows your company to only pay if a prospect clicks on your ad.  Compare that to a TV spot on the evening news.  You pay for that spot whether your prospect is watching or not.  It’s the same with the newspaper.  Regardless of the location of the ad, you will be writing a check to the newspaper gods even if your prospect is on vacation and did not read the paper that day.  By the way, I predict that all digital newspaper sites will eventually go to pay for performance advertising.
  2. 24 Hour Marketing:  With a website, blog or video on YouTube the Internet offers an around the clock opportunity to deliver your message.  The prospect can log on when they want and you know your message will be delivered.  Compare this to event marketing or a showroom with limited hours, or a radio spot that is only for 60 seconds.  You get more bang for your buck.
  3. Results Can Be Measured:  How many readers really saw the newspaper ad?  How many listeners really heard your radio spot?  How many visitors to a trade show really walked down the aisle of your exhibit?  With Google analytics (read more here about Google)  your company can track how many visitors came to your website, how  many seconds or minutes they stayed, what percent were repeat visitors and on and on.  With analytics for the Internet you will know what pages were read and what pages were not visited at all.  You can even determine what part of the page was viewed.  With good timely accurate information, the Marketing Manager can then make the Internet investment more productive than what is happening with your non-Internet marketing today.
  4. Used To Build Database:  By using such tools as white papers and giveaways, your company can build a database of interested prospects from your website  to then establish a relationship with over time.  This beats buying a list tied to some demographic sampling that maybe could care less who your company is.
  5. Email Marketing:  This is possibly the highest return on investment outside of word of mouth.  For pennies a business can send enewsletters to a pre-qualified database that you generated.  The enewsletters can be segmented based upon the information the prospect wanted so only relevant content needs to be delivered.  The Marketing Manager can judge the performance of this tool by measuring how many readers opened the email and read it.  Email analytics can also tell what day of the week and what hour of the day is best to send the enewsletter.  Probably the most important aspect of email marketing is allowing the company to build a relationship with the prospect or existing customer.  An effective email marketing campaign provides information and a solution to problems of the reader.  It is not just used to deliver a call to action for a promotion.  For more information on effective email marketing go to the website of Exacttarget right here.
  6. Can Reach a Younger Customer:  Instead of hoping a younger demographic comes to your website, you can go where they are.  This can be done by advertising on sites most frequently visited by a young prospect group.  For instance, your company might advertise to young males on the ESPN site or to young female entrepreneurs on a women’s business blog.
  7. You Can Target Market to Almost Anyone:  By utilizing keywords in your organic or pay-per-click marketing strategy your company can send your message to a specific segment of customers in almost any defined geographic market for a predetermined price.
  8. Education Based Marketing:  The consumer is getting smarter and now controls the buy-sell relationship.  Before engaging the seller, the consumer will first take time to educate themselves thoroughly about the product or service they are seeking.  This will be done primarily over the Internet.  Those companies that will take the time to help the consumer by answering their questions and providing good information will gain credibility in the  mind of the buyer.  When she finally decides to purchase, the company that took the time to provide the knowledge she desired will be first on her list to be shopped.  The buying funnel or buying decision cycle has been extended by the consumer spending more time gathering information prior to the buying step.  Make sure your company is the one educating her.
  9. Mobile Marketing:  I predict this will be the most dominant marketing channel in the future.  Consumers are already accessing coupons at the checkout counter on their smartphones.  Will you be ready?
  10. Speed of Message:  In the past if sales were horrible and I wanted to execute a quick promotion it necessitated producing and sending a direct mail piece or producing a TV or radio spot.  If we moved fast enough it might happen in 7-10 days.  Now, if the marketing team this morning wanted to communicate a promotion, it can be delivered via email to the customer database before the sun goes down.  Maybe they would follow-up with another promotion in a couple of days.  Not only is it much faster than before but it is also far less expensive.
  11. Use of Video:  If you want to personalize the message there is no better way than the owner of the business looking into the camera and speaking one on one to the prospect or customer.  Some consumers do not want to read copy.  The video can be used to create traffic to your website, educate the consumer, or be part of a strong call to action.  Video on the Internet tends to be very short in duration and much less expensive than producing a TV spot.  Therefore, video marketing needs to become a strategy in itself.
  12. Build Brand thru Social Media:  All forms of social media such as Twitter or Facebook can be used to build a dialogue with prospects and customers.  This can be the first step in building a relationship that will turn into a sale.  Forums and consumer sites on the Internet can work to the benefit of a business or against it.  Social media is the new word of mouth marketing.  Make sure your company knows how to use it to its best advantage.
  13. Test Headlines and Copy:  By combining analytics with pay-per-click, a company can test various headlines, copy and promotions prior to running a newspaper ad or producing a direct mail piece.  For a nominal investment you will know ahead of time which headlines and promotions the consumer will best respond to.
  14. It’s the Future:  Internet marketing is less than 20 years old.  Yet the estimated dollars to be spent annually in online marketing is expected to surpass $30 billion in the next few years.  At the same time advertising on radio, TV and newspaper is struggling to show any increase.  The message is clear.  Online marketing will continue to outpace other methods of advertising.  A major reason is simply the ability to better measure results from the dollars invested through the Internet.

Will the Internet be a part of your company’s future?

It had better be because it definitely will be a part of your customer’s future.

Increase Sales And Cash Flow With Crossmarketing Alliances

May 26, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

As a business you must increase sales while not overspending on marketing.  If this is done well, your company will realize more profit and an improved net worth.  The increase in cash flow will allow you to do such things as pay down debt, expand into other markets and contribute back to the community.

The challenge lies in the ability to effectively market your product or service by spending your available dollars wisely.  The marketing options are many.  Depending upon the target customer you may invest in TV, radio, newspaper, special events, trade shows, sponsorships, direct mail, or the many forms of internet marketing.  There are some companies that still telemarket, use billboards or even canvas door to door.  The form of marketing that worked last year may not work this year.  As a CEO  I knew the head of marketing had one of the toughest jobs in the company.

In spite of all the marketing channels available to a company I always thought there was one method that was extremely effective and underutilized.  Executed correctly the marketing cost could be extremely low.  I am talking about using crossmarketing alliances.  What is that?  It is where separate companies with different products market to the same customer together.  In the eyes of the customer there is synergy in the offering coming from the combined approach of the companies.  The customer perceives this combination as added value.

Confused?  Here is a simple example to illustrate a cross marketing alliance that works well.  Think of the bride and groom.  Now think of all the things that have to be coordinated for the wedding.  Imagine if the couple can receive a suggestion from the florist they like to use a specific bakery for the cake and then both companies suggest a reputable photographer.  This can continue with the tux or wedding dress store, limo service and even the location for the reception.  There might be discounts used for the referrals.  This approach works for both the business and the customer. The customer gets what they want and the money the business saves on marketing can increase cash flow and add to profit.  More sales, more cash, and more profit is always a good payoff for a winning marketing strategy.

How can separate companies market themselves to the same customer.  Here are a few ways:

  • Share the cost of direct mail or brochures where each business’s product or service is featured.
  • Hold events or shows together and invite the same targeted customer.  An example is a Bridal Fair.
  • Pass out coupon books with each company featured.
  • Display an ad , sign or presentation in each others business location.
  • Offer a bundled package of services or products for one price.
  • Write testimonials for each other.
  • Mention the other company on Twitter, Facebook, or in a blog post.

Those are just a few ideas.  The key is to think outside the box.  Not sure this approach is right for you?  Here are some other examples of companies that could benefit from crossmarketing services:

  1. Web designer, SEO agency, email service, copywriter, video production company.
  2. Painter, plumber, electrician, handyman, home cleaning service.
  3. Attorney, CPA, insurance agent.
  4. Veterinary, kennel, pet grooming, pet store
  5. Landscaper, lawncare company, deck company, tree service, fence company
  6. Auto repair, wrecker service, car rental, car wash.
  7. Dry cleaner, seamstress, shoe repair, fire & water restoration.   

I suggest you have your mangers brainstorm this topic at the end of your next management meeting. You may be surprised at some of the workable combinations they will discover.

Remember, the next time you want to save some marketing dollars and increase cash flow try using a crossmarketing alliance.

Reduce Surprises With A Rolling 3 Month Cash Flow Projection

May 25, 2010

By Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

“Cash is more important than your mother.”  A west coast business professor once said that and as a former CEO I agree.  Just for the record my mother would agree with me.

With all the volatility occurring in the economy it is very difficult for any business to plan ahead.  We see turmoil in Europe that may reduce exports, a consumer only beginning to spend again, and private and public debt at uncomfortable levels to say the least.

What is an owner, CEO or senior manager to do in an environment like this?

First, I would remind you that your company runs on cash.  If you run out of cash you either have to replace it or go out of business.  Therefore, it is best to anticipate any peaks or short falls in your near term cash position so you do not find yourself making crisis management decisions when, for instance, it is time to make payroll.

The best tool to use is a rolling 3 month cash flow projection that lists your anticipated inflows and outflows of cash.  In otherwards, where is your cash coming from, where is it going and how much do you have left over?

In my opinion, this should be a monthly cash flow projection that is updated weekly.  If cash is extremely tight and unpredictable then a rolling weekly cash flow forecast is even better.

Meet weekly to update the projections with key management team members.  A side benefit will be a clearer understanding by everyone where the most productive use of cash is occurring.  I found this to be a positive energizing exercise for my management teams.

What to do if you see a shortfall in cash coming?  Here are a few options:

  1. Have a line of credit in place with your bank and use it as needed.  That is what it is there for.  Your banker should receive updates of your cash flow so he can anticipate the request and payback.  He will be impressed how you are managing your cash situation.  He will probably wish his other clients were doing similar calculations.
  2. Speed up payment of accounts receivable.  There always seems to be late payers and being aggressive in collecting may be all the added cash you need.
  3. Get extended terms from your key suppliers.  Rather than just delay paying, I have found it best to ask them for a temporary extension on terms.  If you have been a good customer and paid as agreed this should not be a problem.
  4. If you are a manufacturer one solution may be simply to return old inventory to your supplier and get a credit.  Apply the credit and it may actually offset a portion of the next invoice due.
  5. Cut expenses.  No doubt in the weekly management meetings,  areas will be identified where expenses can be reduced without hurting revenue. As CEO or owner you may have to make the final decision when and where to cut in order to get the action that needs to be taken.   

A rolling cash flow projection is one of the best management tools there is.

Be proactive.  Anticipate your short-term needs and you should not have any cash flow surprises.

Use The Lifetime Value Of A Customer To Increase Cash Flow And Profit

May 19, 2010

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group  

To grow your business you need to retain your most profitable customers.  By keeping a customer who is profitable for the company it adds stability to the organization while increasing all important cash flow.

Lose customers and your business will find itself spending expensive upfront marketing dollars always acquiring new customers to replace ones that went to the competition.  Marketshare does not increase, profit becomes stagnant at best and cash flow suffers.  Consider it lost opportunity.

Some owners and CEOs say that they are satisfied to always be prospecting for the next new customer.  Losing customers, in their opinion, is just a cost of doing business.

These owners would not think this way if they took the time to calculate the lifetime value of a customer.  What is a customer worth?  Knowing this number gives the owner information that helps in developing and executing sales, marketing and operational strategies.  This knowledge becomes a competitive weapon allowing your company to utilize unique promotions or incentives since it becomes easier to identify your true return on investment per customer.

The lifetime value of a customer is really the profit generated from the sales of a customer over the liftime of buying from your company.  It is best to calculate using  group averages broken down by product category.  This allows you to then decide where to spend the most dollars to retain a specific group of existing customers.  Also, based upon the lifetime value of certain groups it shows marketing and sales where to invest the most dollars to acquire new customers.

The best example of explaining  the lifetime value of a customer calculation was in a Harvard study years ago. Read the Harvard customer study here.

As a CEO of a department store I not only knew the lifetime value of the lady shopping but also the lifetime value of her husband and 3 children as a family group.  I knew that if I satisfied the 3 children growing up shopping in the store I would have their 3 families as lifetime customers when each of them got married and had kids.  You can imagine how I calculated the lifetime value of a multigenerational family.  In some cases I had 3 generations of the same family as loyal customers.  It made an easy decision to happily accept that returned gift after Christmas.

The takeaway:  Know the lifetime value of your customer and never take that customer for granted. Now when you lose an upset customer because of poor customer service you know exactly how many dollars just walked out the door.