No matter how long you are or have been an entrepreneur, you will always get confronted with some sort of problem that needs to be fixed. One of the most common problems that a business might and will encounter at some point in time is being stuck: there are not enough customers coming in. Growth doesn’t come as it was expected, or growth has stopped completely. Before you start to unleash hell in advertisements, you might want to consider first what the true cause is and what you can really do about it to solve it.
Growth has many forms
A business is mostly rated on the amount of money it brings in. We don’t always like to talk about pure profits, because spending money is way easier then earning it. Besides that, it’s way cooler to talk about a high number. The numbers represent the relative number of customers that the business has served. Which means that sometimes one client is enough to save the year, but it might also mean that you have a problem when that one client doesn’t make a stop to shop at your place.
Owning a business, means taking responsibility and that means brutal honesty with yourself. Ask yourself which parameter for you represents growth. It can be that you use your business to spend more quality time with your family. If your business allows you to do that without being caught by worries that you don’t make enough money, then this is your parameter to measure growth.
For others it might be a number of clients they helped. Or a certain number of people who have been reached and are now aware of some message that needed to be heard. Whatever it is, it’s ok as long your business can exist. Know that growth can stop for any of those different parameters used to measure the well-being of your company.
Don’t jump to conclusions
When business owners start to notice that growth declines, a slight panic sets in. A business hardly involves just one person, instead most likely, more people are connected with it, or even worse, depending on it. Because of that, some pressure comes along and soon any solution that seems plausible is good enough for a try. Why? In business land (and maybe also in some other parts of reality), time is money. Solve the problem as soon as possible, get that machine working again as fast as you can! No customers can be quickly solved by spending some extra cash in advertisement, invest in some marketing and the problem is solved. But not for long though…
In doing so, symptoms might be treated, but the underlying cause gets away with it. It’s only a matter of time before new problems arise, perhaps in a different form, unrecognisable from their original form. I hope that it’s clear that quick fixes, solving superficial problems, is not the way to go. Too often, wrong tactics and methods are being used to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place.
That’s why it’s important to know where to look for the cause. Let’s take our example of ‘no customers’ and relate that to the 4 major field of causes.
Cause 1: physical field
A first true cause of declining growth can be found in the physical field of reality. Maybe something happened in this world that changed the market completely and you’ve missed the (not so) obvious. The market place is evolving and changing every minute of the day. New inventions are being made, new methods are being used to make something more effective, pushing you out of the market. See how fast digitalising has upset some of the traditional markets, such as phones, cameras, music industry, …
But it might also be that you have reached your own physical limits. Your office is too small, you don’t have or don’t find enough people that will join your company to help you out. If you reached the physical ceiling of your business, then it’s time to check for solutions that will tackle that specific problem.
Imagine that you are not aware of the physical limits (but in most cases you will be), then it’s very well plausible that you invest money in advertisement, attracting new and more customers. It’s not very difficult to see what kind of mess you can get yourself into when you are solving the growth problem from a wrong angle.
Cause 2: strategical field
A second field of causes is the strategical realm. Growth is declining because you are using outdated methods, slow processes or just not effective ways to get your business or the customer from point A to B. This field of causes is already more subtle to notice for yourself. We tend to have blind spots when it comes to strategies. Why? Most strategies sprout from our own minds, from our own beings and it’s hard to admit that they are ‘sub-optimal’.
Strategies are very hard to implement, but once installed, it’s even harder to adjust. It’s like an old habit that sticks and requires a conscious effort to adjust. Sometimes it might just be easier to get rid of a strategy all together and to install a completely new one in the place. In the past, many computers had the problem of being outdated, including the software they were depending on. Nowadays, everything happens in the cloud, allowing for easier access to updates, if these are not yet installed automatically.
You and everyone involved in your business, should allow some time and energy to focus on an update as well. Persons evolve and change as well, sometimes persons get physically stuck into a certain position, not allowing change to happen for the best. I’m not saying to start firing people, but it might be a good idea to give them some new moves, to not get rusty and by that helping your company to stay lean.
Here too, it’s not a solution to invest big money in advertisement if your business doesn’t have a smooth flow to process all the incoming and outcoming work. Energy is abundant, but when not used properly it runs out. Strategical solutions require vision, ideas, processing the current situation and improving it with small comfortable steps so that the whole team (and environment as well) gets a chance to adapt to new circumstances.
Cause 3: communication field
The third field of causes is the communication field. This is where most business owners search for the holy grail to re-start growth. “Let’s communicate even more to the world what we do and find new customers!” Or growth depends on buying out competitors, giving lower prices, better conditions, search for new ways to manipulate people into buying!
The communication field is where all the inter-action happens. It’s where you show who you are in a non-verbal way with your customer service and everything that is related to how you help your clients. You also show who you are by sending out a verbal message. You probably understand that it’s way easier to adapt your verbal message. Change some words, use some cleverly used constructions of words and you get people to buy your product or service. More customers means problems solved. Or…
If the true cause is to be found in the inter-action field, then you might want to look for a deeper cause and a better alternative for advertisement or extra marketing. If you don’t get new customers who came to you via other (happy) customers, then this is a clear sign that you have some investigation to do in how you help your customers. When you help people out and you do it in a personal way so that you give the client every attention that you have, then that customer will become your marketing.
Here too, investing big money in advertisement is useless if it doesn’t create a cycle of new customers that will keep your business going without having to re-invest. Advertisement is like a spark needed to make a fire, the advertisement should never be the fire itself.
Cause 4: motivational field
Fourth and last field of causes is the motivational field. How much energy do you get from your business? You started a business out of some specific reasons. Do these still hold truth for you? Is your original intention still being fulfilled or did it change into something else?
If you don’t know why you are doing something, then you might want to investigate this. Doing something without a good reason doesn’t make any sense. If the reason you find is something external like money, peer pressure, pleasing, fleeing, … then you won’t get the motivation you need to carry on. You will burn out over time.
Seeing this, requires again some self-honesty. It also means that you know it’s time to make a change, most likely a big change and that might make you afraid. Nevertheless, it should be done as soon as possible, as there is no way around it. Without motivation, without love, nothing stays, neither does your business. Ask yourself the question what you need to get going again. Be honest, find a strategy, some help to reach your newly set goals and feel the fire within burning again.
If growth, in whatever form that might be, stops and it means the world for you, then take your time to investigate and find the true cause. It helps when you know how to look at a problem and where to search for the deeper cause. It doesn’t make any sense to throw good money after a wrong solution that won’t last. In business, time is money, and you lose way more time if you don’t go to the cause and keep on fixing symptoms.
If you don’t know where to start looking, start bottom up with the motivational field. Look at all the aspects of your business and see where you feel resistance when perceiving it.
I wish that you optimize your business every day, that you improve by taking the time to observe what is really going on and then make the changes in the right field. Do this every day and you will soon feel being taken up in a stream where things are no longer working against you but are lifting you up to make the flow even bigger and more effortless than ever before.