Danger Signals: Sounds of Circling the Drain

Danger Signals Sounds of Circling the DrainThese are the noises companies make
as they’re going down the tubes:

1. “Our only problem is traffic.”
Slow traffic is a symptom, not a disease. Look for its cause. WHY is traffic slow? Is it because the public doesn’t know about you, or is it because they do? Is the problem with your advertising, or is there something wrong inside your business?

2. “That’s not our customer.”
The businessperson who says things like, “Our customer doesn’t care about price,” is usually surprised by how quickly he runs out of prospects. Are there customers out there who don’t care about price? Sure there are. But what percentage of the population do you think it is?

3. “Our advertising is reaching the wrong people.”
I’ve never seen a company fail because they were reaching the wrong people, but I’ve seen hundreds fail because they were saying the wrong things. Do your ads speak to the felt needs of your customers, or are you answering questions no one was asking?

4. “I don’t worry about what the competition is doing. I only worry about what we’re doing.”
Is there a game that rewards a player for ignoring the moves of his opponent? If there is, I’ve never heard of it. Business is competitive and you’re not the only player in the game. Like it or not, you’re being compared to competitors in the mind of your customer.

5. “There’s enough business out there for all of us.”
A limited number of dollars are going to be spent in your business category this year. Are your competitors going to make sure you get your fair share?

6. “We can’t compete with the Internet.”
The idea that the Internet is a low-overhead business environment is a myth. Other than the cost of occupancy (rent,) the costs of doing business online are essentially the same as for brick-and-mortar businesses. The average brick-and-mortar store spends about 5 percent of its annual sales on rent. If online companies had no offices, no shipping facilities, no warehouses or other physical presence, they could still offer only a 5 percent price advantage to your customer. If you’re not competitive with the Internet, you need to take a close look at how you’re buying. You need to comb through your payroll, your miscellaneous expenses and your G&A. Your problem is inside your own house.

7. “Our secret is our people. No one provides as warm a customer experience as we do.”
In 30 years as a consultant, I’ve known dozens of business owners who have convinced themselves that having “better people” was their store’s primary advantage. In every instance, the store’s prices were high, their merchandise was unremarkable and their people were average. (Even if your staff is exceptional, the worst thing to advertise is remarkable customer service. The expectations of the public will be raised to impossible levels. Promise it and you’ll hear nothing but endless complaints. I’ve made the mistake more than once.)

How Did You Score?

You’re Average if you’ve heard yourself say just one or two of these things. Hopefully, you’ve recovered from your wrong-headed thinking and are on the road to right action.

You’ve Got a Problem if you’re guilty of saying three or four of these things. If you want to recover, you need to start associating with people who will smack you when you start talking nonsense. Surround yourself with friends who won’t let you slide sideways into delusional excuses.

You’re in Real Trouble if you’re saying five of these things. It’s like a drug habit. You say these things to reduce your anxiety and ease the pain of failure much like an addict takes a perspective-altering pill to help him make it through the day. Rehab is going to be tough, but you can survive if you dig deep and awaken the tiger in you. Clean out the closets of your mind, throw out the trash and gain a clean perspective. Fight to survive.

You’re Not Going to Make It if you’re making six of these statements. Can you hear the fat lady singing? I don’t mean to be harsh, but you really ought to throw in the towel and find something to do with your life that will make you happy. This obviously isn’t working.

You’re Not Saying Any of Those Things?
Excellent! Go, the world is yours for the taking.

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