A good website can be a highly cost-effective way to generate new business and meet needs for essential information, advice and support 24 hours a day. A bad website – with out of-date information, poor navigation, and unhelpful content and design – can kill your enterprise. Make sure your website builds your brand.
In the social economy, successful collaboration is as likely to sustain your enterprise in difficult times as is successful competition. Partnerships and consortia are a growing trend for bidding or contracts. But don’t over-estimate the potential savings from scaling-up your enterprise – particularly when you are selling services rather than products.
Know your competition (which for a choir rehearsing in a church on a cold winter’s night is not only other choirs, but anything that will keep people indoors!) Continually gather as much information as you can to monitor the changing environment and keep on the lookout for trends that might present opportunities or pose threats.
And make sure the surprise is a pleasant one! The German retailer Tchibo changes stock (and offers) in shops every week to create a sense of anticipation and excitement. You don’t have to change your offering this often, but always think how you can develop and improve your service. Use that innovation as a reason to contact your customers and a hook for getting press coverage.
Be honest, positive and precise with your customers about what you can do for them, and then exceed their expectations. If you tell me you’ll have my problem sorted the next day and I have to wait a week, I’m disappointed. If you say you’ll sort it by the end of the week and do it the next day, I’m impressed.
“Better, not cheaper” is a more sustainable mantra than “more for less”. Price your products and services so you can offer discounts by working out three prices. The top ‘dream price’ represents the real value of your input. The middle price should represent a good profit margin, and the bottom price is one you should never go below. Start by asking your dream price and only negotiate down for bulk orders, payment up front etc.
Charging different prices at different times, responding to changes in demand is OK. Airlines, cinemas and ice-cream sellers do it. A community café could do it to profit from affluent workers with limited time at lunchtimes to allow others who are time-rich and cash-poor to eat more cheaply mid-afternoon.