Friday, June 19, 2009

Marketing, Sales, Operations or Customer Service? What Is Your Weakest Link?

Marketing's job is getting customers to walk in the door.

Sales' job is getting them to buy once they walk in.

Operations delivers on the promise that the sales person made - the product or service that the business provides.

And finally, Customer Service is making sure they are satisfied with what they were sold.

Those are the four main functions of delivering a product to your customers. Unfortunately, most small businesses are good at one, maybe two of them, but very few are good at all four. Because if they were, they probably wouldn't be small anymore.

I've heard it said that anyone can get someone to buy something once - often times they will do it out of curiosity. But getting them to come back again and again - to become a lifetime customer - takes a real business person. And of course, it takes "systems".

As you build a new business or grow an existing business, recognize that it doesn't matter how good any one of the processes that I spoke about earlier. Think of the four systems as "the chain of business". You are only as strong as your weakest link. How strong the strongest link in the chain is doesn't matter, the chain will always break at the weakest link.

Sadly, most small business owners usually do the exact opposite - they tend to be really strong in operations - building the product / creating the service that is their business - and they work to make the product better - instead of working on strengthening the other three aspects of their business.

Sure, you can have a great product or service - most people who have a small business do. But if you can't appeal to your target market (or don't know how to) or you can't sell your product (close the deal), or you can't ensure the customer is satisfied once the product is delivered, then it doesn't matter. You might get an occasional sale, but nothing to grow a business own.

Like life, your business needs balance. You need to nurture each segment of the business cycle, Marketing, Sales, Operations, and Customer Service. And you need to make sure that each element is as strong as you need them to be to ensure your customers experience what you INTEND them to experience when they patronize your business.

This takes diligence and commitment. So, as you begin to set out your goals for the next month or even 6 months to a year, make sure that you are committing to not only developing your product and service, but also to how you are going to market it, sell it, and satisfy the customers who purchase it.

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