Monthly Archives: July 2017

Know your customers

In banking and financial services there’s a set of regulations called Know Your Customer or KYC for short. If you’ve opened an account in another country in the past few years you will have experienced the process which can be administratively complex!

One of my clients was opening an account in Hong Kong and the standard procedure of “Please call into the branch with your passport” was not very helpful. The ultimate owner is the person whose identity must be verified – and in this case that was a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who had no plans to visit Asia soon!

Knowing your customers and knowing your market is vitally important for any business. It’s not a compliance issue (as it is in banking) but a tool to help you win more customers and do more business.

I was reminded of this when I heard Lord Karan Bilimoria describing the early days of Cobra beer. He and his partner marketed the beer to independent Asian restaurants and their efforts laid the foundations for the success of Cobra.

He knew his market; he knew his customers and he had created a product to fit with their offerings and their customers.

Had he tried the same approach with many (most) of the restaurants on the high street it would have failed, as they are not usually independent and the manager on the site has little authority to purchase anything!
Had he tried the same approach in another country it might not have worked. In the US, where there are plenty of independent restaurants, the majority (in my experience) do not serve alcohol at all.
If you don’t have a really good connection to your market and a thorough understanding of why your customers choose you, the chances are that your marketing efforts will misfire.

Don’t assume that you know why they buy – assumptions are dangerous and they may be buying for a reason you don’t consider important.

Ask your customers why they buy; ask the ones who have left why they are leaving. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Are you living up to your promises?

Dig out your mission & vision statements and re-read them, would you?

They are promises you made to yourself and the team.

Are you following the dream, or doing just enough to get by?

It’s all too easy to get dragged into the trenches of dealing with the day to day hassle and that can easily take you way from the path you set out to follow. That happens to all of us!

Getting back on track starts with the recognition that you were off track to begin with. Review your plan / budget against the mission and vision – are your actions in the short term taking you towards the long-term goal, just holding your ground or at worst taking you away from your goal?

I’m a great fan of a rolling four quarterly plan and budget.

It’s a methodology that requires you to review the plan at least once a quarter and update it – so you can’t create the annual plan and just leave it in the drawer until the year is done!

It prevents you from saying “Oh well, that was our estimate 9 months ago so it doesn’t matter” as you have reviewed an updated that forecast at least 3 times.

It avoids the cliff, where something is happening just after year end. The annual plan finishes at year end; this event is a moth or so later but it’s not in the plan – and won’t be recognised until the new planning cycle kicks off.  One business I worked with had a royalty payment due in the January; the plans and forecasts finished in Dec and it was not until we started the plan for the new year that it became apparent our cashflow was insufficient!

It avoids a massive planning session that everyone hates. You are planning once a quarter – updating the next 9 months and adding on another 3 – so that it becomes routine.

In the quarterly review sessions, have the mission & vision to hand. That will help keep them in mind and make sure you are staying on track.

Here is your personal time machine

How often do you hear the phrase “I don’t have time to do XYZ?”

I hear it all the time.

I often hear someone being praised for working hard, and usually, that’s connected to the number of hours they put in.

What is much more interesting is how productive someone is – how much do they get done.

How productive are you?

To become more productive, focus on the things that are distracting you and minimise them.

Do you need to be in every meeting?
If you are not driving the meeting, trust your team to discuss issues without you and move things forward. The team will appreciate the opportunity to expand their knowledge, the trust that you are showing them and will probably come to the same conclusions even if you are not there.

How often do you need to check your emails?
Email is one of the big distractions in today’s world. It’s so easy when the email alert pings for you stop writing that proposal (or newsletter, or report) and go read the latest email.
How often do you get an email that requires an instant reply? Never! If you checked your email only once a day would the world fall apart? Why not try that – set a time each day and don’t read emails in between.

Could you turn off the phone for a couple of hours?
When you are in that important meeting that you are driving, you will have your phone turned off or at the very least on silent. What happens if someone calls during the meeting? If it’s important, they will leave a message – and it will probably be “Can you call me when you are free?”

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be valuable business tools but they don’t require your attention every minute or every hour of every day – unless they are your business!

Consider the intentions

Treat others as you would wish to be treated is a mantra that you often hear. It’s something that is worth applying in many aspects of life and I suggest worth applying in the office.

I recently had to intervene in a discussion that was becoming rather heated.

The background was that one member of the sales team had (in good faith) offered additional technical information to a customer.  His belief was that this information was readily available, when in fact it was unproven (but very probably accurate) assumption.

Recovering the situation required the technical department to undertake additional work to prove the theory and provide further details to the customer.

Understandably, the technical team leader was somewhat upset!

The heated discussion was along the lines of “You shouldn’t have said that!” responded with “you should have had the info available”

There’s no way to take back what has been said.

Had the sales team realised this was an unproven theory they would not have made the offer.

Express your frustration, but then let’s move on to a solution.

You can’t change history so stop trying. Learn from the mistake, so that you can avoid it in future, but then focus on what you can change.

Part of the problem in this situation (and in many others) was the failure of either party to consider the intentions of the other.

The very last thing the sales team wanted was to mislead the customer or set an expectation that can’t be met.

The very last thing the technical department wanted was to share an unproven theory as if it were fact.

Pausing for a moment to consider the intentions will often take the heat out of the situation and allow you to accept what has happened. You can’t change it, but at least if you understand why it happened you can accept it and move on.

How would you want to be treated if you’d made the mistake?