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Fri, Oct. 18

Stale business? Revitalize it with a makeover

Question: Lately my business seems to be dragging. I know the economy is down, but it seems that my business is being affected more than my competitors. What can you suggest to help boost sales?

Answer: Do you see your competitors getting ahead? Do your employees appear to be doing little more than going through the motions? Have those bright, new ideas stopping coming?

A makeover could be just the thing to re-energize your business. Don't think that you'll have to make a major financial investment. This doesn't need to be a major overhaul, because some minor tweaks may be enough. What's important is that you recognize the need for action, and learn all you can to make informed decisions.

In order to identify where changes are most needed, you'll have to dig for details about various aspects of your business. Remember to focus not just on the individual elements, but also how they all fit together.

For example, has your customer base changed since you first started? Is it broader or narrower? Older or younger? More upscale or less? You may need a new image, revved-up branding or perhaps just a rewrite of your marketing materials to evaluate the needs of this changing customer base.

Take a hard look at whether your products or services are performing to customer expectations. Remember that your goal should be to exceed customer expectations, not simply meet them. Perhaps competitors are doing a better job, or maybe they've created add-on products or services that you haven't. If you ask them for feedback, your own customers can help with your makeover.

If your marketing message has never changed, perhaps it's time to reevaluate and devise a new one. Try revisiting your original business plan. You might be able to recapture some of the enthusiasm and insight you originally had from creating that document. Think back to your most successful promotions, presentations or sales efforts. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you might be able to update and expand an approach that has already worked for your business.

Don't be afraid to seek out other perspectives. Ask yourself if you are "too close" to the issues to understand the sources and solutions. Meet and brainstorm with your trusted advisers, mentors, friends, partners, employees and outside consultants. Ask customers to give you a frank assessment of what you're doing, how you're doing it, and what you can do to better serve their needs. The more ideas you receive, the more options you'll have for getting your business back on the fast track.

Be sure to register for the next session of SCORE's six-part business plan workshop series that begins Wednesday, July 7. Cost of the series is $90 for two participants from a single business. For more information or to pre-register, go to www.scorenaz.org or call the SCORE office at 778-7438.

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