The biggest problem any business faces, is when it considers itself to be a business. It stops thinking of its clients as individuals with different wants, needs, expectations and aspirations and lumps them all under the label of “customer”.
Last week, we went to a local restaurant for dinner. We were expecting a place to have conversation, to eat wholesome food and to enjoy good service. Instead, the person we booked with hadn’t passed on the message to the greeter. When deep in conversation, we’d be disturbed by the owner booming out his own inane drivel at decibels guaranteed to reduce us to silence and don’t even get me started about how the service was arrange to suit their needs rather than ours. Will we be going back? No. Do they know what they are doing wrong? No. As their client base dwindles will they blame it on the recession? Yes. What could they have done differently? They could have asked for anonymous feedback. They could have placed someone in a corner to watch and observe reactions. They could have asked. They could have tried looking at what they offer from the perspective of the customer. Disappointment arrives in the gap between the expectations of the customer and what they actually receive. If you don’t understand the essence of your business then you certainly will fall into this trap.
What is the essence of what you are providing? Ask your customers. Are you providing healing? Or a forum in which a person feels you “get them”? Or sanctuary from speed and stress? You need to know their perspective to ensure you adapt your practice to suit. And remember it may be different for different people. You know this already, but when in business for a long time, it’s easy to forget.
When touring Ireland this year, I could see the South had been hit by the recession. It was almost tangible. But ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you that a recession can also be seen as an opportunity, not just a problem.
- In a recession everyone is looking for solutions to cut costs and increase productivity just to survive.How can reiki fill this gap?By having a monthly treatment could you prove an increase in productivity?
- Opportunities exist for innovative new services to be launched.For example, I created an e-learning experience so that I could be teaching in other countries whilst I’m still in England.
- Opportunities exist for redefining an existing service as a new service by unbundling or reframing the offer.For example, Reiki can be offered as pure relaxation for the stressed, or as a tool to increase productivity or you could rebundle the Reiki together with other services to offer a whole day package or you could create a tangible package where there are a set of vouchers for a series of Reiki treatments placed in a gold box with a gift ribbon and sold as a gift package.
- Opportunities exist to get customers to outsource their in-company internal services, thus increasing “customer share”.For example, a spa may hire you on an ad-hoc basis where they would usually hire a full-time member of staff.A care-home may hire you to use your tools to calm the agitated or distressed residents.
- Build stronger relationships to get through the tough times together.Use your support groups to bounce ideas, share resources.For example, a group of ten of us clubbed together to get our promotional exhibition screens and were able to negotiate a substantial discount.
Tips for during a recession
1. Look at other businesses in your sector. What works and what doesn’t work? Cherry pick the best ideas and make them work for you.
2. Look at what happened during a previous recession. What can you learn from it? Are there still people around who can teach you what they learned from it? Some sectors recover earlier than others. Is yours one of them? Will you be ready?
3. Have any of your competition closed their business. There may be potential clients looking for an alternative solution.
4. Don’t stop communication with your client base. In a recession they may spend less, but when it recovers you want them to come to you first. If you can’t afford advertising spend, then switch to a more low-cost method such as using your free text-messages to contact offers directly, or use email to contact your existing clients. Even better, create an offer that is so crazy you’ll be getting everyone talking about it. Word-of-mouth advertising is great.
5. Cut your costs, not your price. Customers are looking for value so if you increase the perceived value of what you do, you’ll keep the customers coming, but it need not cost you more. I noticed at a spa recently, rather than letting me rush off after the treatment, they led me to a quiet area, settled me into a comfortable repose and brought a tiny cup of fresh fruit and a small glass of juice. A delightful surprise and an indication that I could continue to allow the relaxation to set in, rather than rushing off.
Consider whether your clients think of Reiki as a need or a want. When it is perceived as a “need” they’re more likely to quibble over price. When it is considered as a “want” it is less price sensitive. How can you position your Reiki treatments as a “want?”
About our Guest Blogger
Jane Sheehan is the UK’s leading foot reader and recently released her third book “Sole Trader: The Holistic Therapy Business Handbook.” She tours The UK and Ireland regularly and can be seen sometimes on television and in the national print media. See www.footreading.com for details.