The 7 Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Business

The 7 Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Business

If you own a small or medium enterprise (SME), you have probably heard the statistic that 60 per cent of small businesses don’t make it past the three-year mark.

Recent figures suggest the market is becoming even rougher in Australia. Data registry and analytics company Ilion provided Fairfax Media with statistics in August showing that business failures increased by 12.7 per cent during the last financial year. More than quarter of a million entities were deregistered, 87 per cent of which were SMEs.

Data from earlier in the decade from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), reported by the Huffington Post, found businesses fail for really simple reasons. About 44 per cent were poorly handled strategically, 40 per cent had poor cash flow and 33 per cent experienced trading losses.

A brief look at that list suggests that some forethought and external expertise early on can help a business avoid some big problems.

 Blirt’s approach is for small business owners to ask themselves seven questions about seven subjects: vision, market, strategy, the business model, customer experience, employee experience and the top priorities to action.

We go into the questions comprehensively here and in the Blirt podcast.

Background

The seven questions you need to ask your about your business

Blirt has developed a framework that guides you through the 7 questions.

The purpose of asking the questions is to see what requires improvement within the business. The business owner must always approach this process through a desire for constant improvement, because some of the answers may prove uncomfortable. By asking the seven questions regularly, a business owner can move past their own biases and identify the gaps in their own knowledge and determine where they need assistance.

Blirt has developed a strategic framework (right) which acts as the tool that guides business owners through each step, allowing them to efficiently uncover the areas that need improvement.

 1.    What is our vision? Is this driven by our purpose? What’s holding us back? How can we overcome those obstacles?

The vision of a business defines its direction and acts as its northern star. It is a subjective view of what the future looks like for the marketplace or humanity once the business has achieved its purpose. By contrast, purpose is the job the business exists to do or the problem that it solves.

A business should achieve its purpose every single day and consistently work toward its vision but never fully achieve it. For example, (very simply) if the business is an online clothes shop, its purpose would be sell clothes and its vision might be to make the world a more stylish place

 2.    What is our market? Who is our ideal customer? Are we perceived as different? Does this difference help us – so is it competitive advantage?

A business must continually put itself in the shoes of its customers. What are customers looking for, and how does the business satisfy that demand?

Are there enough customers out there to make a substantial market? What is the ideal customer within this market segment? And, how do we understand this customer and go deep in supporting them?

If poor strategic decisions are the top reason for business failure, the decisions at this early point – deciding who customers are and what makes the business unique – are critical to the long-term survival of the business.

 It’s also important that a business finds a market space that it can own by developing a unique offering that is different from the competition. This is most critical in a well-established industry where the competitors are large and experienced.

For example, there are plenty of online competitors for our clothes store and well-established competitors including Amazon. This store might be able to differentiate itself through efficiencies that create lower prices or quicker distribution, or it simply might offer more stylish designs.

The process of developing competitive advantage is analysed in question four.

 3.    What is our strategy? Where is our growth focused? Does this support how we are positioned?

The Blirt podcast mentions that strategy is more an end point than a process. If we compare business to a battle, the strategy is the outcome or the commander’s objective rather than the actual plan to bring about victory.

In his paper The Importance of Strategic Management to Business Organisations, Julius Tapera from Lupane State University analyses leading academic literature and determines that strategy gives business the impetus to work proactively and is more likely to develop profitability. The paper also suggests that strategy can be in a process of continual development.

If a business’s strategy is not achieving the vision, the owner has to decide whether to change the strategy or the vision. It isn’t always the strategy that needs changing; sometimes, a business may find that it has tapped into an unseen market with excellent growth potential and might choose to re-position to take advantage.

4.    What is our business model? Is it creating value? What metrics tell us? What practices reinforce the value creation process to build our competitive advantage?

A business model can be displayed as a diagram which shows how a business creates commercial value or will create commercial value. Business metrics, key performance indicators, dashboards and other statistics can provide objective answers about if the model is working in the marketplace. Today’s essential tool for businesses is a comprehensive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that can provide all this detailed analysis and show where a business is succeeding – or failing.

Blirt helps businesses utilise Salesforce CRM, the market’s leading CRM, and bring about business transformation through it. Businesses can automate interactions with customers and obtain comprehensive data from almost anywhere in the world on any device through Salesforce. Salesforce cloud platforms are also imbued with an artificial intelligence, called Einstein AI, that can draw conclusions of its own and save time by performing tasks itself.

In his seminal 1985 strategic management work, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, Michael Porter breaks down the creation of a product or service into a value chain. He theorises that each link of this chain can add value to what a business produces and so create competitive advantage.

Consider what makes furniture giant Ikea successful. Is it the design of the furniture? Is it the warehouse-style shopping experience? Is it the range available? Or perhaps its affordability? In fact, it is all of these things. Each link in Ikea’s value chain gives it an advantage over other businesses and they all combine to create an unassailable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Every time a business introduces a system giving it additional competitive advantage over its competitors, it is multiplying the competitive advantage it has. Doing this is crucial for a business to succeed on the global stage.

 5.    What is our customers’ experience? How do we acquire, retain and grow our customers through our brand personality and experience? What improvements need to be made?

Customer experience is simply defined as the unification of sales, marketing and service across a platform that can be used to acquire and accelerate the customer journey. Businesses are becoming more cognisant of it today because customers return to businesses where they have a personalised experience and ignore businesses where they do not.

Businesses with a leading CRM platform should plug it into every department to gather as much data as possible about customers. This can be analysed and business owners can make changes to their interactions with customers and automate steps using the CRM so the customer journey is smoother, and the content that customers receive is more relevant. This personalisation helps retain customers in the long-term.

 6.    What is our employees’ experience? How do we acquire, retain and grow our talent? What improvements need to be made?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs sets out the five things employees look for in their employment. It starts with physiological needs at the base (food, breathing, sleep), then safety, love (friendship) and esteem (respect from others, achievement). Meeting these needs is crucial for providing an excellent employee experience.

However, self-actualisation sits at the peak of the pyramid as the highest human need. It is the idea of using employment as a vehicle for reaching one’s full potential. An employee achieving this sees work as more than a job, but rather something that aligns with their character, makes them a better person or fulfils a higher purpose.

The vision of a business is an important place for self-actualisation to start – and is often a place where businesses seem to fail. Forbes points out that a World Economic Forum report recently found that millennials rate ‘purpose’ at work the second most important criteria for taking a job. And a Gallup report from 2016 discovered that only 40 per cent of millennials were connected with their company’s purpose.

 7.    What one, two or three things that, if we delivered, will shift the needle of the business?

The answer to this question will vary depending on the business – it might be onboarding, innovation or optimising customer experience. Answering the first six questions honestly will generally help a business uncover any major discrepancies that need addressing.

Ultimately, this process of questioning requires action. It necessitates passion and a desire to change from the business owner. And if you act on your insights, it’s possible to bring about business transformation.

About Blirt

At Blirt, we specialise in helping small and medium enterprises transform themselves across sales, marketing, service and finance, with the objective of improving their processes and results. We can help you develop a strategy and business model that works and then implement the changes to move your business in the right direction.

 If you would like to find out more, we can book a discovery call to find out what you need and tell you more about our approach.

 

Big News from Dreamforce

Big News from Dreamforce

More than 170,000 people. Over 2,700 sessions. Expert panels, case studies and keynote speakers. And, of course, world-changing announcements for businesses using the world’s leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Salesforce.

Dreamforce, the world’s largest non-profit technology conference, wrapped up recently in San Francisco, California. Over the four days, a number of trailblazing technologies and ideas were announced that will change the way small and medium enterprises (SMEs) globally do business.

Firstly, what is Salesforce?

Salesforce is much more than just the world’s leading CRM system. It is a system architecture designed to give SMEs control over their data and deliver richer customer experiences. Its platforms – Sales Cloud, Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud – provide knowledge-driven insights to the sales, marketing and customer service functions of a business and take action through artificial intelligence (AI).

Salesforce gives unprecedented power to users through:

  • Cloud-based systems that enables business owners to access data and change processes or automation anywhere in the world and on any device
  • Reliable cloud infrastructure framework that allows for multi-tenancy, giving a guarantee that data is secure
  • The largest business app marketplace in the world, Salesforce AppExchange, which enables businesses to customise Salesforce so it meets their business requirements
  • An integrated artificial intelligence (AI) system, Einstein AI, that automatically delivers insights and personalises the customer journey

Sales cadences

Some of the biggest announcements at DreamForce centred around Einstein AI. Salesforce has maintained that the purpose of its AI brainchild is to make people’s jobs easier, rather than replacing humans entirely.

The announcements are therefore all about giving businesses more power from anywhere and helping them take advantage of insights in sales and marketing. These changes are the latest in a line of improvements that Salesforce has made to a system that delivered as many as 475 million predictions, recommendations and lead scores last year.

Businesses can now use sales cadences to create sequences for their sales teams to follow, which can be set out to meet legal requirements or best practice. Managers can effectively set up a cadence to train their sales representatives live. This creates a dynamic sales environment where sales representatives are guided to listen to customers and the technology is empowering them to improve customer experience.

Siri and Einstein: a genius match

Salesforce Einstein & Apple Siri Integration

One of the biggest initiatives to come from Dreamforce was Einstein Voice Assistant, which enables users of Salesforce’s platforms to work in their CRM through the voice function of their phone or smart speaker.

Salesforce can be easily accessed and changed in the field using any device, and this innovative system will allow users to make their alterations hands-free. Through Einstein Voice Assistant, users can access dashboards, make updates and access briefings in conjunction with Siri, Google or Alexa.

Salesforce users with Einstein Voice can speak conversationally into their phones to log notes, set up phone calls, create meetings, look at follow-up tasks and analyse insights. In meetings, Sales representatives can speak to their phones to draw up the information they need and display it for other participants.

The ever-increasing popularity of smart speakers suggests that these Salesforce features are essential for the future. A study conducted by Voicebot, PullString and RAIN Agency his year found that almost 20 per cent (19.7 per cent) of US adults have a smart speaker, a number which equates to roughly 47 million people. The survey also predicts 50 per cent growth in adoption by the end of 2018 – meaning 30 per cent of the US population will have them.

Another Voicebot report found that when someone buys a speaker, they tend to use it. Just short of two-thirds, 62.7 per cent of people surveyed, said they used them daily. Only 12.7 per cent ‘rarely’ used them. Forbes reports on studies showing that 20 per cent of mobile searches were voice services in 2016 and that, by 2020, half of all searches will be voice searches.

In episode #11 ‘Live from Dreamforce‘ on the Blirt podcast, we point out the adoption of smart speakers are reminiscent of the smart phone revolution. It’s likely we will see employees coming to work with smart speakers in the future, expecting to be able to connect them to the CRM and bring up insights in meetings. Einstein’s Voice Assistant will help to make that a reality.

Einstein Voice Bots, another product, enables businesses to create personalised voice experiences for their customers with its Bot Builder, which links into Salesforce and enables customers to speak through any smart speaker.

Partnership with Apple

The Salesforce app for Apple systems is being rethought, with the integration between Siri and Einstein AI one of the results. A host of iOS 12 capabilities will work in conjunction with Salesforce, including Widgets, Face ID and Business Chat. The new app will be available in early 2019.

Salesforce Mobile software developer’s kit (SDK) has also been optimised to work with Swift – Apple’s programming language. Salesforce Mobile SDK enables businesses to develop their own apps that work inside Salesforce and use the power of its platforms. With Salesforce, businesses can use the right combination of metadata and code-driven tools so that they can customise their apps to work the way they need to. Salesforce’s Mobile SDK adds to the customisation and allows different frameworks and languages.

The reworked Salesforce Mobile SDK will be available later this year.

Apple will also launch a new learning platform called Get Started with iOS App Development Trailhead Trail that will teach keen developers to build iOS apps using Swift – which will be a useful skill for career growth.

Partnership with Google

Salesforce continues to build its partnership with Google, chiefly through better integration between Salesforce Sales Cloud and Google Analytics 360. Einstein Lead Scoring and other e-commerce measurements can be imported into Google Analytics 360, which helps businesses gather more insights from their purchase data.

There are also a suite of productivity improvements that the closer relationship has brought about, including a feature which enables Salesforce tools to appear in Gmail, and the Lightning Object Creator, which can turn a Google Sheet into a Salesforce app within minutes.

Partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Salesforce announced a closer integration with AWS, where it currently runs most of its public cloud workloads. Salesforce is now on AWS in Australia and Canada, which represent its first infrastructure expansions internationally using cloud services from AWS. It’s expecting accelerated growth in both countries as a result.

The expanded partnership with Amazon is will offer enhanced privacy to app developers, who will be able to use an Amazon network connection instead of the public Internet, and it will allow customers who use both Salesforce and AWS to publish and subscribe to Salesforce Platform Events in AWS in a much simpler fashion.

Customer 360

Customer 360 will be a revolutionary tool enabling SMEs to link up platforms so that marketing, commerce, sales and service all work together.

Salesforce’s platforms for marketing, commerce and service – Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud – work in slightly different ways. For example, Sales and Service Clouds’ consumer records are Person Accounts Objects, Marketing Cloud has subscriber tables called Data Extensions and Commerce Cloud’s customer tables are Customer Records.

Customer 360 is a new system that gives customers a unique identification and marries together the same customer’s records across the system, ensuring the records are updated and that there are no duplicates.

Salesforce 360 customer view

Salesforce’s visual representation of how Customer 360 works

The end result is greater power for SMEs to deliver better customer experiences. For example, Customer 360 will allow marketers to use Marketing Cloud to create a journey for abandoned shopping carts that are triggered by Commerce Cloud, which can lead to further sales.

Customer 360 is currently in a closed pilot release but it is expected to be made available for the general public in 2019.

You can also click here to see the complete series of announcements on the Salesforce website.

What Blirt Offers

Blirt shows you how you can make your business a more successful, data-driven SME by using the world’s leading CRM platform, Salesforce. As a Salesforce Cloud Alliance Partner, Blirt knows how businesses can use the system’s latest innovations to improve customer experience.

If you would like to develop your own data strategy that will improve the experience your customers have, we can book a discovery call and help get you started.

If you are passionate about Digital Transformation and how it can change your business, make sure you check out The Digital Transformation Show by Blirt.

Subscribe, leave a review and post some comments – we’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have, or find us on twitter https://twitter.com/blirt_loud

What Will AI Mean for Your Sales Cloud?

What Will AI Mean for Your Sales Cloud?

Sales Cloud’s artificial intelligence (AI) feature makes the world’s leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform more powerful – and an even greater asset to your business.

 

Aptly called Einstein AI, the system analyses the data you keep in Sales Cloud and produces insights for you that help you close sales and take action to improve the experience you offer your customers.

 

But First: What is Salesforce?

CRM technology determines the strength of your customer relationships and is critical to your endeavors to provide incredible customer experiences. The right system stores your data and processes it to develop insights that help you better market your accounts, automate interactions with your customers and improve your relationships overall.

 

As the leading system on the market, Salesforce and its platform Sales Cloud does all these things exceptionally – and much more. Its cloud-based technologies offer an infrastructure framework that allows privacy and security for businesses and their clients, and it offers a consistent update program. The platform is available on any device, accessible anywhere in the world and is fully customisable through the largest business app marketplace in the world, AppExchange.

 

Einstein AI

At the heart of Einstein AI is a realisation that artificial intelligence is about making people’s jobs easier, rather than replacing humans. Looking at the full picture behind Einstein AI, it is clear that Salesforce recognises salespeople are passionate about selling and that paperwork gets in the way of that.

 

Einstein AI spent more than two years in development after the acquisition of Exact Target and, by 2017, was delivering as many as 475 million predictions, recommendations and lead scores every day across all of Salesforce’s platforms.

 

The revolutionary artificial intelligence system is designed to produce insights and predictions, recommend actions to take and automate some functions – but such brevity does not give it the credit it deserves. In terms of sales, it automatically scores leads and prioritises them for you – letting you know the factors behind those scores – while predicting how likely your deals are to closing, and tracks team performance for you. Using the data in your CRM, it can build a profile of preferences for your customers, predict customer decisions through customer sentiment indications and deliver the correct content to maximise your sales opportunities. It also automatically captures data and creates contacts itself to save you time. Behind the scenes, Einstein AI is always combing CRM data for insights it can give to improve the sales process.

 

However, Einstein AI’s usefulness goes well beyond frontline sales. Through related platforms, it can connect your community of customers with the experts they are after, or automatically generate help topics online so customers can find the answers they are after more simply. The system gives you the ability to create your own AI models to predict the outcomes that matter to you, or create your own bots that can handle simple queries so your staff can handle the more complex ones. You can peruse the full features of Einstein AI here.

 

While the power of Einstein AI, and the features that will be brought online in the future, can obviously help improve internal processes, small and medium businesses (SMEs) should look at them through the lens of improving customer experience. In one of the previous examples, being able to predict what customers will buy through profiling will allow an SME to put more accurate purchasing options in front of customers, creating more sales – but the more personalised approach will also satisfy customers. The same Segmentsurvey from 2007 noting that 49 per cent of shoppers who purchase a product they didn’t intend to after receiving a personalised recommendation also says that 44 per cent of consumers could go on to become repeat buyers from a brand after a personalised experience.

 

The exciting thing about Einstein AI is not just the breadth of insights in can produce, but the way it is ingrained across the CRM platform. AI is not just a bolt-on – it is a part of the Sales Cloud experience. Other companies, even some multi-national information technology giants, have had to play catch-up.

 

Sales Cloud means all of Einstein AI’s insights, predictions, recommendations and automations are available for SMEs to access from the field, on any device.

 

A Word of Caution

In order to maximise sales and build incredible customer experiences through tools like Einstein AI, it is imperative to ensure all data runs into Sales Cloud. Without data, an SME’s relationship with its customers approaches guesswork. For example, the insights derived by Einstein AI are going to be very different – and potentially inaccurate – if only half the available data is inputted, compared to the results if it is all inputted.

 

What Blirt Offers

Blirt shows you how you can make your business a more successful, customer-focused SME by using the world’s leading CRM platform, Salesforce.

 

Blirt is a Salesforce Cloud Alliance Partner and a Salesforce Pardot Select Partner, so it knows how businesses can get the best from the system. With our expertise, SMEs are able to use Salesforce and Sales Cloud seamlessly, bringing internal benefits and, most importantly, making every experience enjoyable for customers.

 

If you would like to better collect, store or use data, we can book a discovery call to find out what you need and show you how to start.

 

Gold Coast Businesses Win at the 2016 Business Excellence Awards

As the October winner of the Mayor’s Innovation Award, Blirt attended the 2016 Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards.

We were stoked to receive the October Mayor’s Innovation Award, so it was a privilege to be invited to the gala dinner.

Well done to Brauer Industries who took out the yearly Innovation gong and to all the winners on the night.

Timezone Gold Coast took out the Business of the Year Award.

We’re big believers in our home town and love that we get do great work for people all over the world just minutes from the best beaches in the world.

Bring on 2017!!