The Importance of Delivery to Keep a Small Business Financially Stable

Customer Delivery and RevenueToo many times we see businesses focus so hard on winning new business, they forget everything that follows the initial customer win… The stark reality is that only focusing on the initial customer win will ultimately lead to a large majority of businesses’ failures.

Let us share with you a brief example. A few years back, 3SixtySMB worked with a firm that was in the consulting services industry… This firm had seen six years of exponential growth, until they hit snag and had four years of declining bookings numbers. Their CEO thought they had strong brand in the industry and couldn’t for the life of him understand why their bookings numbers were declining. Afterall, they always had a large number of projects in the pipeline to be completed and even had a waiting list for new projects. As part of our work, we reviewed the business in its entirety and found multiple areas of improvement for the firm. But there was one area that was sticking out like a sore thumb: their services delivery. To start, they had hundreds of thousands of dollars in backlogged projects that were either undelivered or taking longer than they initially planned. The CEO saw this as a full project pipeline with a waiting line to begin new projects…“a problem any business would be lucky to have,” he quoted. In reality, it was the exact opposite.

Where the CEO had seen a healthy pipeline of activity, in actuality, it was a list of customers with growing frustration to how long their projects were taking to complete, and customers that sales could not sell to. As we spoke with various customers, their frustrations began shortly after the sale was finalized, as they were sent to a virtual purgatory waiting for their projects to commence. Many of the customers described it as feeling, abandoned… Their frustrations didn’t stop there. Once their projects officially kicked off, they were quickly met with delayed deadlines and longer than projected project schedules. Although the end result of the work was typically more than satisfactory, most customers said they that they looked for another firm for future projects. These challenges within the delivery cycle directly affected revenue; waiting customers were unable to sign off on new work, and once the work was actually completed, they were so unhappy with the process, they made the decision not to spend with the firm again. There was also another side effect. Word of how slow and sluggish this firm was began to spread throughout the industry. As a result, they were losing net new business without even knowing it. At the end of the day, this CEO was so focused on the sales team and the decreasing bookings numbers, he completely overlooked delivery. He was putting continuous pressure on his sales team to deliver new bookings that he was literally burning them—and the customer base—out, while the main issue for declining bookings was actually the result of a poorly designed delivery process leading to unhappy customers.

3SixtySMB follows the motto “the customer is everything,” and in order to get this firm back on track, we implemented a few changes to their process, communications, and tracking with that motto in mind:

Project coordination – It was a tough pill to swallow for this firm’s CEO when it was recommended they hire a project coordinator which would be a cost to the business… It was this person’s function to maintain project coordination from the initial start of the project, all the way to end of it. At the end of their day, their job was to stay on top of clients and internal staff to ensure that each and every timeline item outlined within the project was delivered and on time.

Before the win – Before a customer agreement was even signed, we created a process to ensure that a mutually agreeable project timetable was in place… This was a joint effort between the sales and delivery teams to ensure that the sales team is promising a feasible timeline to the customer. This was then relayed to the customer to ensure that proper expectations were in place from a timing and delivery standpoint before an agreement was signed.

Project kickoff calls – Each new deal that was won had a kickoff call immediately set up by the sales team… The purpose was simple: explain to the customer exactly what they just bought and establish clear and definitive next steps for the project based on the pre-approved timeline agreed upon in the sales process. This allowed for each and every project to start off with momentum and a clear timeline of deliverables, while effectively passing the customer to the delivery team without them feeling abandoned.

Project milestone documentation – After each kickoff call, the client was supplied with a document that detailed each and every step within the process… The primary goal was to ensure they had full visibility of the project. This also allowed the firm to use the document as a measuring stick to ensure deliverables stayed on track. As certain items were pushed out, this document was updated and then shared back with the client for full visibility of how changes affected the timeline.

Project tracking – We have a saying of “what gets measured, gets done,” and that is what was implemented within this firm. Utilizing some customization within, we were able to build out a full reporting structure around the various stages of each project contracted. This reporting structure not only allowed for the project coordinator to easily maintain focus on each project daily, but it allowed for the team to group together weekly to review project statuses during their team meeting.

Weekly project status meetings – We all hate meetings, but again, what gets measured, gets done… These meetings were typically held between sales, delivery team, and management, with a goal of understanding the various project statuses. This allowed for the entire team to understand where each project was with regards to status and to find ways to move along stalled projects as a team.

Communication – We emphasized communication—both internal and external. Internally, sales was copied on all messages that went out to the client. This ensured that they maintained up to date on project progress. Externally, we pushed to over communicate with clients as well. The goal was to ensure that they didn’t feel abandoned, while allowing them to feel as if they had control over the overall project timeline.

Once the firm became adjusted to the process, project completion times were cut significantly without sacrificing overall quality… These changes, along with a few others, allowed the firm to double sales within the first year of implementation, while seeing further growth as time progressed.

When it comes to building a winning business, the initial customer win is less than half the battle. Regardless of your industry, it is as important to have a strong customer delivery platform as it is to have a strong marketing and sales strategy. Step back and think about some of your latest purchasing experiences. Did you have a good or bad experience with them? Now think about how that experience will influence your willingness to go back to those same businesses. Well, the general public thinks exactly the same as you do, and good experiences lead to repeat business while bad experiences lead to never returning to that business again.

Let’s dive in a little deeper:

Repeat business – Quite simply, the number one reason to ensure proper product and service delivery is to ensure happy customers… And happy customers can and will return! And, let’s not forget that new customers are hard and expensive to win in the first place. Happy customers are easier, faster, and much less expensive to bring back, time and time again, making any business more profitable over time.

Happy customers are also exponentially more likely to not only continue to purchase but expand their purchases as well… In the B2B space, I’ve seen $100,000+ annual relationships start with a small $10,000 purchase.

Speed of delivery – After analyzing thousands of small businesses, a core theme that is a killer for most is their ability to deliver their products and services in a timely manner. Not only does it frustrate customers having to wait, but a waiting customer cannot buy more… So, not only is making your customer wait turning them into an unhappy customer, but you’re hurting your chances for that customer to buy from you again.

Customer referrals – Another side effect of a happy customer is they tend to tell their friends and co-workers of their experiences… Customer referrals are the lifeblood of a small business. They tend to be a much lower cost of customer acquisition and close much faster than a net new win. And the process tends to be cyclical as they tell their friends, and so on. There are many good small businesses that solely function on referral business. However, again, on the flip side, customers can and will tell their friends about negative experiences as well.

Online reviews – No longer do customer experiences stay within an inner circle of friends and family; there are literally hundreds of websites and online forums that customers share their experiences on… Regardless of whether you love or hate these sites, the reality is customers are on them daily sharing their own experiences (good and bad)… Too many negative reviews can literally kill a business.

When growing a business, it can be all too easy for a firm to focus on new customer wins as customer bookings are the lifeblood of a business… But, if you are not a customer centric business with a focus on product delivery, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And in the long run, you’ll just end up drying up the well. Becoming a customer centric business doesn’t require a whole heck of a lot of money; a majority of the businesses we find that are struggling with delivery simply lacked a defined and measurable process around delivery. With a little bit of process and measurements in place, what gets measured, will be done!


The Importance of Technology in Your Small Business

Outdated TechnologyA common theme within the writings and consultation that 3SixtySMB takes on, is the pure and simple fact that businesses that remain stagnant can and will eventually fail… To avoid becoming stagnant, it is important for a business to constantly look into the mirror of self-reflection in order to find ways to continuously improve their business. One enabler within small businesses that we find commonly overlooked, is the area of technology… Technology costs money, and in the eyes of most small businesses, anything that costs money and doesn’t have a direct financial ROI, is taking money directly out of profits. However, technology is the unsung enabler within a small business that directly impacts how people perceive a business and its ability to efficiently communicate with them. Let’s expand upon this a bit by sharing a specific example we ran into recently:

A firm 3SixtySMB recently worked with had been in business for roughly 20 years with 25 employees… These employees were a mix of office-based and remote, with many frequent travelers throughout the firm. As part of the work we conducted with this firm, we reviewed multiple aspects of the business in order to help find areas of improvement throughout the firm to help them become more efficient as a business. One item that was continuously overlooked by the firm was its phone system. As, in the words of the CEO and owner, “It was nothing more than a means of communication, and it worked; people were able to pick up the phone anytime and make a call anytime they wanted”. Herein lies the problem; their phone system was just about as old as the business itself, and without them noticing, it was a major inefficiency within the business, costing them an unknown amount of time and money. Let’s dive in a little deeper on this.

After a complete review of their phone system, we found several problems:

  • This phone system was made shortly after caller ID made its way into businesses, and it was very limited in its capability.
    • Caller ID disappeared – As an example, once a call was picked up, both the name and phone number would disappear.
    • No caller ID logs – This system was so old, that it had no caller ID logs. Which meant, if someone got up from their desk and received a phone call and the caller did not leave a voicemail, the employee would never know they even received a call.
  • Physical phone number forwarding – This firm had several remote and frequent travelers as part of the team. Their current phone system was poorly designed for these team members, as each phone number had to be forwarded to their remote lines physically on a phone at the headquarters. This led to physical phones randomly placed throughout the headquarters with the sole purpose of forwarding phone lines to remote workers. This also became a problem when the business would lose power for any amount of time… As during these power outages, there would be no ability for these remote workers to receive a phone call. And, once power was restored, the office manager had to reprogram each and every phone for these employees. A worst case scenario that happened for this firm was when their building lost power for a week straight due to a construction mishap.
  • Physical voicemails – With the physical phones, came physical voicemails which lived on each and every phone. This meant when someone left a voicemail for an employee, it would be left on the phone back at headquarters, leaving these remote employees to check their voicemail several times a day… Frequently while onsite, we would see red blinking voicemail lights on some phones for days on end.

Individually, these are not big deal breaking issues. However, once combined, what we uncovered was an out-of-date phone system that was painfully difficult for remote and traveling employees to deal with. But, there was a much bigger issue facing this firm, as their outdated phone system made them look slow and sluggish to their customer base, with zero disaster recovery options in place which had an untold amount of direct revenue impact to the firm. Again, the main driver for the executive team was they did not want to invest into something that they saw as completely utilitarian… What they didn’t realize is that for something as low as $12  – $15 a month per user, they could invest into a software-based phone solution such as Fuze or 8×8, that would send their phone system lightyears into the future. They could also combine other features that they were currently paying monthly for with Go-to-meeting. This was something the firm was already paying $12 – $16 a month for per user.

At the end of the day, for essentially what they were paying out-of-pocket for another provider, they were able to upgrade their entire phone system to be more inclusive of their remote and traveling workforce and provide more streamlined communications with their client base.

This is not at all an uncommon scenario, as again, most leadership within small businesses see technology the exact same way, “utilitarian,” and completely overlook the value that new technological enhancements can bring to the firm. As we work with clients to find areas of improvement, we look across multiple aspects like people, processes, technologies, and other enablers; and technology must not be overlooked. At a high level, here are some of the areas that could be improved upon with little to no investment from a technological perspective:

  • Software: Software can be expensive, however over the years, the innovation within software has grown in leaps and bounds… Many small businesses we work with are still relying on old on-premise technology, which makes it difficult for the remote and the traveling workforce to do their jobs. Then you have the added cost of maintaining physical systems in place; again, there are disaster scenarios such as power loss or fire that can effectively wipeout an entire business.
  • Website: Web technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the years as well. Not only does a dated website make a business look old and archaic, there are major ramifications from an online search perspective. Let’s not forget that Google search drives 81% of all sales these days.
  • Social media and online forums: Social media or online forums such as are not just for kids anymore and cannot be ignored by businesses… Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight
  • Document management: We wrote about this a while back (Digital Document Management for Small Businesses), but we still find that many businesses are heavily reliant on paper documentation of anything from HR and tax documents, to sales orders and invoices. Not only are stored documents a hog of physical real-estate, but they are extremely difficult to search within and completely unsecure… Then you have the fact that they are not friendly to a remote or traveling workforce, and completely susceptible to a disaster scenario such as fire.
  • Printing and scanning: Small businesses love to hold on to old printers and scanners way past their life expectancy. Not only does old printer and scanner technology cost an untold amount of time for the firm dealing with issues as they arise (which happens all the time), they tend to be completely inefficient as well… Something as simple as executing signatures on paperwork takes multiple steps of printing, physically signing, scanning, and then making physical copies, which takes a ridiculous amount of needless time. Whereas something as DocuSign and digital document management, cuts down on time and material cost.

These are just a few areas that we typically target within a small business to identify current areas of weakness that could be easily upgraded, completely cutting out inefficiencies, and in many cases, cutting cost.


Five Tips to Quickly Help Get Your Business Online, Before It’s Too Late

Open and closedSomething that we at 3SixtySMB have been educating the small business market about for years, has been the need to have a digital and online presence The Importance of Having an Online Digital Presence for Local Small Businesses. Yet, some still haven’t made the change. As a result, slowly but surely, businesses that have not adopted digital and online strategies have been disappearing from the landscape one by one. However, up until recently, it has been process that has been slowly but surely killing them off… But, given the current economic pressures with essentially the entire world on lockdown, businesses no longer have years to make the shift. With most small businesses looking at significant loss of revenue, and in some cases losing their complete revenue streams, they are now looking at potentially days or weeks before they may be forced to close their doors forever. In this article, we are going to cover some quick tips a small business can use to pivot their strategies with regards to their digital and online presences. What we are about to share is not going to close the revenue gap completely, but it will hopefully provide enough revenue to keep the doors open enough to make it past these troubling times.

Let’s face it, unless you are Reckitt Benckiser (Lysol), a toilet paper manufacturer, grocery store, or Amazon, your business is going to have some difficult times ahead. The larger well-funded or profitable companies will have the cash to weather the storm, but for many small businesses, they simply don’t… The fact is that essentially the entire world has been told to stay home and it is putting a strain on businesses everywhere. This has also emphasized in an extreme way, that when you rely solely on foot traffic, you are setting yourself up for failure. In today’s market, it is important to be online because that is where your prospects are, full stop. Here are a few quick tips that can help small businesses readily make the transition:

Social Media ­– Start with social media first. Why? Well, a social media profile is essentially the easiest process to start. And with everyone basically trapped indoors, they are spending significantly more time on it. This is a topic that we tackled not too long ago How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business, however when looking to develop a strategy, you need to be quick. Start with setting up a business profile on the major channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram), and begin posting right away. At its core, social media takes only minutes to set up and has become a fundamental way for communicating with your core prospects and clients in real-time.

As an example, if you’re a restaurant, you can use your social channels to let people know about your adjusted hours, specials, menu items and other things such as that. Again, the core goal of using social media is to use it in a way to communicate with your communities in retail-time, and trust me, it works. Over the past few weeks, the way several small businesses have been communicating on Facebook has enticed my family to grab takeout or delivery from them multiple times.

E-Mail – Email is another quick and effective way for communicating, and quite honestly, something many small businesses just do not know how to properly utilize. This was another topic covered not too long ago Why Email Marketing is Broken, and How To Fix It. The key, if you do not know how to get started, is to think of all the email addresses you’ve captured over the years. Most small businesses capture emails to some extent, we just find that many simply do not do anything with them. Now is the time to dust off those emails, build a list and start communicating… Again, similar to social media, email marketing can be a way to communicate in almost real-time with your customer base with little to no effort. The key thing to remember is to keep your e-mails educational and informative, and stay away from abusing the list by trying to sell too much.

Website ­– We are absolutely blown away at how many small businesses do not have websites set up… Let’s face it, the yellow pages are nonexistent, and with the fact that everyone is essentially confined to their homes for the next few weeks, you are getting zero business without a website. We get it, building a website can be a daunting task. The reality is, building a website can be fairly easy, as there are so many companies that offer plug and play website building options that enable almost anyone to build a website overnight. The goal in times like these is to start simple and build a website that covers the basics such as: product and services overview, address, hours, and contact details. Once you get the basics down, you can slowly build out the website to be more comprehensive over time. Services like WIX and WordPress offer options that are extremely low cost and fairly easy to build out with very little experience and expense.

Switch to Virtual Phones – Most businesses rely on traditional wired phones for their primary communication method. When people are in the office, they work very well, however situations like this can cause huge issues. There are many businesses today, that simply are not allowed to have employees in the building and as a result, there is no one answering the phones. This directly results in loss of business and frustrated customers… Now is the time to look into services such as Comcast Business, 8×8, and Fuze which offer virtual phone systems. These systems do not only work the same way a traditional phone system works, but in times like this, allow employees to take “business” calls directly from their computers or mobile phones without skipping a beat. It may sound like a difficult process, but transferring your existing business lines to something such as one of these services is fairly easy to do.

Offer Alternatives – This suggestion goes beyond the concept of digital and online but really focuses on thinking outside of the box for keeping a business afloat in difficult times. As an example, when the governor of Massachusetts first announced the stay home order a number of weeks ago, many small businesses were forced to close their doors overnight. But, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case… Again, I will be using restaurants as an example; there are many traditional restaurants that fell victim and were forced to close doors because they only offered dine-in options. We urge these traditional restaurants to think outside of what is traditional and find ways to offer takeout and delivery alternatives. This can not only provide you with a small revenue source but potentially give employees that would have otherwise been put out, an option to collect a paycheck as well. In cases like this, nothing will replenish your revenue stream completely, but something is certainly better than nothing. Especially when facing potentially laying off employees or going out of business.

Nothing is going to replace 100% of your lost revenue during times like these, but the more that you do as a business to shift to a digital and online presence, can and will help mitigate any losses you might be taking on… Also, when things do come back to normal, you’ll have a competitive edge that you didn’t have once before. Good luck and please feel free to reach out to us if you ever are in the need of help.


The Importance of the Ding Email

The Importance of the Ding EmailAs leaders, one of the toughest jobs we have is keeping a team motivated… When you break it down, we all spend on average 7.9 hours at work, and it is difficult for anyone to stay motivated 100% of that time. We are all human after all, and it’s natural to have cycles of intensity on the job. As leaders, we all have our tactics and secrets to team motivation… One that I wanted to share with you today is the concept of the “Ding Email”, which is something that not only can help motivate a team, but something that can help a team perform more efficiently as well. So, what is a Ding Email?

Well, a common practice within many sales cultures is to celebrate recent wins with the ringing of a bell! The purpose of ringing the bell is simple: get people excited about the sale and improve overall morale…

Not only does ringing the bell celebrate a win, but within sales cultures, it has an interesting side effect of team motivation. If you look within the DNA of any sales team, you’ll find that an overwhelming majority of salespeople have some type of competitive sports background and are extremely competitive by nature… As a result, the ringing of the bell, is an extremely public way of raising the competitive bar for others on the team, and by nature, it will motivate other team members.

Here is the fundamental problem with ringing a physical bell: only people within the vicinity of the bell can hear it when rung. This is where the concept of the Ding Email comes into place. The Ding Email is not a new concept; in fact, it was implemented at HubSpot back in the day. The Ding Email was to take the concept of ringing the sales bell to the next level. Not only did it celebrate a recent sales win, but it provided intelligence to the team abroad around the recent win–essentially the who, what, when, where, and how details of the win.

Here’s the thing: everyone wants to be part of a winning team. And nothing shows individual team members that they are a part of a winning team more than seeing new customers come on board, and the Ding Email is a very public way of showcasing this… However, sharing the details of the deal takes everything to the next level as it provides motivation to the individual departments that things are working and also provides actionable intelligence on the deal itself. In this essence, HubSpot had the Ding Email loaded into their instance, in which when the email was sent, it was then uploaded into the customer intelligence aspect of their instance…

What this did was provide the following teams intelligence on the deal:

  • Account Management – Had intelligence on the complete deal and cycle of the deal
  • Customer Success Team – Had intelligence on who bought, why did they buy, and what were they hoping to accomplish
  • Sales Team – Provides a virtual battlecard of intelligence that might help them win their next deal
  • Marketing – Knew instantly what brought the customer into the funnel and what marketing programs were working
  • Product – Knew what parts of the product customers were most interested in using
  • Finance – Knew who were the billing contacts
  • Support – Knew who were the key users and various details on expected software usage

Each and every one of these teams benefited from this intelligence creating an overall better customer experience… and with one additional interesting side effect: creating a more efficient team. As an example, one of the biggest annoyances for a sales team is constantly being asked by various team members questions such as who a key point of contact for a customer might be or questions on what exactly someone bought or why. However, on the flip slide, nothing annoys teams such as customer success or account management more than getting a new customer with zero information about the deal or customer. The process around the Ding email solved for this and many items.

At the end of the day, the Ding is not just a celebratory email, but it something that can better align a team closer to a customer’s core goals providing customers with overall better customer experience within a company. This is why we recommend this tactic to every new company we work with… Try implementing it and see what happens. And, if you need help, we are always available to help develop this strategy for your company.

Marketing Performance Metrics Need to Be Just as Visible as Sales Metrics

Smarketing - Sales + MarketingWhen you think about the health of any business, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most people immediately go to sales numbers—pipeline, bookings, and revenue. And, they are not wrong. However, here at 3SixtySMB, we push our clients to focus on another aspect of the business: marketing. Let’s put this into context a bit. How often do you personally purchase a product or service from a business that you’ve never heard of before? If we are being honest with ourselves, the answer is “never” or “very rarely.” This is why we believe that tracking the performance of marketing is as equally important to the health of the business as tracking sales performance. Current statistics show that it takes an average of 5 – 7 impressions for people to remember a brand and that In 2015 Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers’ online and offline purchases, up from 36 per cent in 2014.

Now, as a business, you can try the old school, brute-force method of focusing solely on outbound sales to generate revenue—and it does work. But in all honestly, this method is directly in line with the “working harder and not smarter” mentality, and it is guaranteed to lead to burnout of the team over time. There is the misconception that marketing equals huge expense, but that simply isn’t true; there is a significant amount of marketing that could be completed with zero budgeting dollars spent (just effort). We’ve already covered that in previous articles: Social Media and Online Forums, Hidden Gems of Customer Insight, The Importance of Testing in Marketing Campaigns, How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business and will continue to cover that down the road, but today we’ll talk about how to put a focus on marketing to boost overall corporate performance and morale.

A phrase we use quite frequently is “what gets measured, gets done”… However, we are also firm believers that if you really want something to be done, make sure everyone knows how a team is performing. With most organizations, this is done on a daily basis with respect to sales, as sales numbers are typically reported across the business in dashboards, update emails, and meetings. Yet, with respect to marketing, this almost never happens, and in most cases, no one knows how the company is performing from a marketing perspective. I’m reminded of my time with HubSpot. As a company, not only did they focus equally on sales and marketing performance, but they also adopted the terminology “Smarketing,” frequently combining sales and marketing in corporate communications and meetings. This ensured that both teams were on the same page and also gave everyone the sense of pride that they were all moving forward in the right direction as one team and company. In this vein, we always recommend to our clients to put the marketing team’s performance on a pedestal alongside sales.

At the very core of this, we recommend sharing at a minimum: website performance and lead performance, along with email and social media community growth on a weekly or monthly basis, paired alongside with trending data… But, these are the bare minimum and we always suggest tracking other items such as:

  • Percentage of new vs returning visitors
  • Average number of pages viewed
  • Average time on site
  • Most popular pages
  • Social campaign performance
  • Email marketing performance
  • Pipeline generated from marketing
  • Sales generated from marketing

Each and every one of these statistics provides some real insight to the marketing lifeblood of a company, and when combined with sales and trending data, they can truly lead to a deeper understanding of the real health of a business. Once you start measuring these data points, you can then try to find ways of continuous improvement to keep them moving in the right direction. Sharing these numbers publicly has an interesting side effect as well: it can boost morale … Again, thinking about HubSpot, one of the greatest things about sharing the numbers and trajectory is that it gave everyone a huge sense of pride in the business and was a large part of their culture: Why HubSpot Treats Its Culture as a Product. As a leader within your organization, give it a try and see how it affects the business… We can almost guarantee you’ll have a boost in corporate performance and morale.