Profitable Top Line Growth

Andy Birol, Birol Growth Consulting

10 Keys To Profitable Top Line Growth

Are you interested in profitable top line growth for your small business?

If yes, where can you focus first? What can you do now?

Try these ten keys to profitable top line growth.

10 Keys To Profitable Top Line Growth by small business growth consultant Andy Birol.

10 Keys To Profitable Top Line Growth by small business growth consultant Andy Birol.

  1. Your customers’ growth is key to your business profitability.
    The more you increase the average spending of your customers, the quicker your business will be more profitable.
  2. Your growth is related to your profitability.
    Assessing your customers by how profitable and by how much they are growing gives you the tools to grow the right ones for the most return.
  3. Accurately balance your resources between your existing and new customers.
    Knowing how much to spend on your existing customers vs. how much to invest in your new ones maximizes your efforts and your rewards.
  4. Identify and accelerate your revenue from your most profitable customers.
    Give your customers great reasons to pay you sooner is the most logical way to generate the best revenue now.
  5. Study your customers’ buying habits to reset your selling methods.
    If your customers have changed any aspect of how they buy, then you must change how you sell to them.
  6. Brand and differentiate your business to grow your margins.
    There is just no way to profitably grow your small business as the low cost provider so you must be unique and known to be such by your customers.
  7. Repackage your products and services to grow your customers.
    If your customers won’t buy beer by the glass and if they still like beer, serve it to them over dinner or offer them a keg.
  8. Use existing sales and marketing channels differently to reach more customers.
    Too often a sales force only calls on their familiar customers and advertising only speaks to those who hear the same old message. Refocus both and attract more customers.
  9. Embrace new sales and marketing channels to reach existing customers more profitably.
    If you have younger, indifferent or detached customers serve them on-line and less personally and grow your margins quickly.
  10. Introduce value without introducing cost.
    Profitability is greatest when you can deliver the perception of “new” and “more” at the same price.

Each of these ten keys can unlock your door to profitable top line growth.

Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Top Line Growth

Companies Either Grow Or They Are Sold

While financial gamers, schemes and scams have enabled many companies to avoid either profitable growth or a sale for years…

… ultimately one of these options is inevitable.

  • A company that is profitably growing is controlled by passionately committed owners and investors.
    Their firm is financially and operationally self-sufficient. There is no need to merge or look for investors.  Its leaders can reduce its credit line and pay down outstanding loans. The company has customers who are happy to pay for its valuable products or services. Over time, the company will build up retained earnings and become a creator of wealth. As long as its owners are confident and passionate they should never think of giving up their independence in running it or cashing out. Life is good!
Your company either profitably grows or is sold say Andy Birol.

Your company either profitably grows or is sold says small business growth consultant Andy Birol.

  • A company that is not growing profitably has flat or declining sales.
    Its costs and expenses are fixed or rising and it starts to lose money. The company begins to consume more cash than it generates. Owner, banks or investors have to subsidize the company through credit or by tapping any retained earnings. These leaders lose passion for their business as it is no longer self-sufficient. Clearly, its customers cannot or will not pay enough for the firm to delivery its products and services.  First, the company runs out of cash, then out of credit and finally must be sold.

There are only two buyers for a company that is not profitably growing:

  1. New owners and investors with ideas, cash and passion to return the company to profitable growth.
  2. Bankruptcy trustees who sell the company for whatever they can to pay creditors pennies on the dollar.

So companies either profitably grow or they are sold.

What’s it going to be for your company? Do you agree or disagree?

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How to Profitably Grow Your Top Line (Part I)

Simply put, a business has a profitable top line when its revenues cover both its variable costs of producing its products or services as well as its fixed costs of overhead.

Revenues are the sales price charged times quantity sold.

Overhead consists mainly of SGA, Sales, General and Administrative expenses.

A company becomes profitable when its sales exceed its breakeven point. The breakeven point is where a company’s sales cover both the inescapable fixed costs of running the firm as well as the escapable variable costs of producing a given quantity at a given unit cost.

Why is it so difficult for a business to consistently keep its top line profitable?

How To Profitably Grow your

How To Profitably Grow Your Top Line by Andy Birol

The four main reasons are seen in how it reacts to marketplace demand for its wares or increases in its costs when:

  1. It cuts price to sell more quantity.
  2. It cuts quantity to maintain a higher price.
  3. Its direct costs of producing its product or service (direct labor and direct materials) grow so high that its selling price must be raised beyond what its market will pay.
  4. Its overhead grows so high that no achievable level of sales can cover its expenses.

To profitably grow its top line, a company must raise prices and sell more. Its costs and expenses must be managed but nothing ensures a company’s profitable growth more than being able to price higher and still sell more. Pricing higher than the competition means its products are seen as differentiated and selling more means its products are in high demand.

Most companies successfully do so when:

  • Their products and services can be produced and delivered at high profit margins
  • Their customers believe what they buy is valuable and scarce and they need to do so in order to succeed in their lives, jobs or business
  • The company can choose when, where and how it sells and markets its products and services

Profitably growing ones’ top line gives a small business the power, control and flexibility to do business as it chooses. Over time, it provides the company with security and predictability, and its owner with discretion and wealth. No wonder it is so hard to achieve and difficult to maintain!

Coming in future posts, I’ll further define profitable top line growth, dissect it and discuss how to diagnose it.

Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Top Line Growth, , , , ,

10 Winning Ways To Win Back Wayward Customers

As George Costanza said in Seinfeld, “It’s not you it’s me!”

Well if it is your fault you lost a customer you really need back, what can you do?

Rather than simply grovel or cut your prices which will kill your margins, here are ten steps you can take.

10 Win Back Tactics by Andy Birol

10 Win Back Tactics by Andy Birol

  1. Provide a warranty if your product was faulty.
    If your product or service was deficient, offer some kind of insurance to assure your customer it won’t be their problem next time.
  2. Find another buyer within your customer if it’s bad blood.
    Often there is someone else in a bigger company who you can start over with, especially if what you offered had a good track record before your relationship turned sour. Go over the buyer’s head if you have nothing to lose.
  3. Sell to another department if they start buying for different reasons.
    Why customers buy your services or products can change over time. A purchasing department can make decisions until their company has legal or customer problems at which time their finance or marketing departments may now have the final say.
  4. For a while, give away your products or services for free if you broke your promise.
    Sometimes a customer just needs to see that you are punishing yourself for your own transgressions. Take one for your team if you screwed up in this way. They may regain their respect for you for doing so.
  5. Change your value into a service if they won’t buy your product (or vice versa.)
    Sometimes buyers are no longer allowed to outsource what they used to buy and must make it themselves. For example, if they cannot pay for your maintenance services, you could sell them the training or the components they need to do their own maintenance.
  6. If you have been serving this customer for a long time, reexamine what it really costs you to do so.
    You can cut your price if it’s become cheaper to serve them. Or you should do so if there are now better alternatives on the market. Yours may just not be worth what they once did.
  7. Change what you sell into an expense if your customer’s CFO won’t approve your product as a capital cost.
    Often, capital spending is prohibited but monthly expenses continue to be budgeted. If this is the case, change what you offer so it can be paid for by a different budget category. For example, if they cannot buy new vacuum cleaners, sell them cleaning contracts.
  8. Sell your wares through a distributor if customers start to need smaller quantities or more service.
    Perhaps your service has declined as you pursued larger customers. If so, get a third party to sell and service your customer properly. You sure don’t need to make as much if you are doing less.
  9. If they won’t buy it by the unit sell it by the hour or the result.
    So many times buyers are told to cut costs by cutting out inventory. So sell them all they need by the hour.  Make sure you can profit by providing them with coverage if they need the result of your product.
  10. If you didn’t ask for permission, you can legitimately beg for forgiveness.
    Sometime, you just have to fall on your sword and admit you should have been more deferent, collaborative or considerate. Unless you made a mistake that was evil and premeditative, humility is a winning virtue!

Having witnessed and made so many mistakes over the years, I have seen all of these ways work wonders to win back a client. And once repaired, a formerly damaged customer relationship is always better than it ever was before the problem occurred. Here’s to your winning ways!

Filed under: Business Growth, , ,

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers

In any economy we fight hard to find, land, and satisfy customers.

In this economy it’s twice as hard, but twice as satisfying to know you really helped your client move forward or save money.

But how does it feel when they tell you they aren’t paying you? Nowhere else in business are one’s feelings more confused! You care about your customer, but they have misled you and stolen your value. Once you have collected your emotions and your thoughts, what is one to do? A non-paying customer is the biggest liability your business can have as you must throw good time and effort after bad to be made whole.

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers - by Andy Birol, Profitable Top Line Growth

When Bad Customers Happen To Good Providers by Andy Birol, Profitable Top Line Growth

When what your customer says is no longer true, all you can do is watch what they do and remember what they did. Here are some ideas

Make concessions based on joint accountability.
If they are asking you to compromise, demand a similar giveback in return. For example if a business owner is asking for relief, have they first taken a pay cut before they are asking you to do the same?

Don’t change your terms because your client changes their mind.
If he or she suddenly makes the excuse your products or service no longer solve their pain or create new profits they are distancing themselves from keeping their promises. Stand your ground and take legal action.

Watch what your customers do and not what they say.
If they aren’t cutting back everywhere or still taking vacations, don’t subsidize their bad judgment or unwillingness to sacrifice.

Credit their Credible Behavior.
If they have kept previous promises you should trust the same individuals to do the same. Beware of the same bait you have taken in the past. Learn only to get screwed in new and different ways.

Don’t assume any accountability for their dysfunctional behavior.
Bad times expose impostors. Learn all the reasons why your customer is in hot water. The chances they will cut the same corners or shirk their responsibility again are much greater in bad times.

Prepare the “MIL’s” that you Must, Intend and Like to get through every negotiation and establish your BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement) where it’s better to walk away than settle. 
The book Getting To Yes by Fischer and Ury is a must-read for preparing for any negotiation.

Stand firmer on receivables in a transactional business than you would a relationship business.
Lawyers and accountants usually let their receivables slide because they know they can bill their clients for years to come. If you have no chance to make it up in the future do not compromise in the short run.

Negotiate as a peer, never as a subordinate.
When a customer informs you they are breaking a promise, its no time for them to be heavy handed with you. They made an agreement and cannot live up to it. If they are telling you and not asking you for relief they think they can squeeze you; so squeeze back.

Keep reminding them of their commitment.
Most creditors are good people who want to pay up. Follow up persistently and incessantly. The squeaky wheel gets the attention and paid first.

Getting paid equals respect.
If you are known as a tough cookie, you are more likely to get paid. If you are known as a pushover, well…

Tough times will bring the best and the worst out of people. While past behavior is usually a good indicator of their next actions, desperate people in denial will do anything. Keeping close to your customers, doing reference checks on prospects (just as they do them on you) and providing high value based on your Best and Highest Use is the best defense. Always being this tough has a final benefit. It allows you to subsidize creditors you believe will survive and who will remember you for reaching out to them in their time of need!

Filed under: Profitable Top Line Growth,

And Take That For Being a Loyal Customer!

Last month, I had to switch from Direct TV to ATT U-Verse, not because I wanted to, but because ATT stopped providing DSL lines when they introduced U-Verse bundled services.

With regret, I informed Direct TV that after 6 years of high satisfaction, I would have to cancel my premium service on all four TVs, and my reason why.

In return, Direct TV fully punished me for my disloyalty by charging me a $200 hardware penalty on the equipment even after I shipped the boxes back.  While U-Verse is more robust, I have missed the reliability of Direct TV despite paying their fine. 

But wasn’t I surprised next when my mailbox was flooded with both new customer and come-back offers from Direct TV with hundreds of dollars off, no set up fees, free movies!  Sadly, all they did was make me feel pleased about leaving Direct TV. 

What lessons can we learn from this?

  1.  We all know we pay for content and service. 
    Why punish your customers for obsolete hardware that’s paid for itself and you will resell! 
  2. Don’t just ask why your loyal customer is leaving you, but design win-back tactics for each key reason why.
  3. Treat your “departed” customers better than your prospects, even when they leave you. 
    Their passion and credibility in word-of-mouth marketing is palpable (i.e. this blog post) 

Your thoughts and comments, please.

Filed under: Profitable Top Line Growth

Why Focus on Your Customers First?

In our post-crisis, unstable economy, we have learned first to survive.

We have cut expenses, chosen needs over wants and take few chances.

What is more important than focusing on your existing customers in a cash-and confidence-starved world? Nothing.

Nothing more important than focusing on your customer says Andy Birol.

Nothing more important than focusing on your customer says Andy Birol.

Your profitable, paying clients are your quickest path to achieving Profitable Top Line Growth. They are already paying you and trust you to deliver.

Would you rather keep your customers or invest risky money to poach prospects from your competitors? The answer is clear, especially if your customers are at-risk being poached in return. Your loyal buyers need your focus because they already respect your value and provide you with cash.But have they changed along with the world in general?

Unless your current customers are going bankrupt, focus on them by learning know if and how they are:

  • Staying profitable?
  • Behaving differently?
  • Pursuing new goals?

Chances are your customers have changed and will not buy just like they did. What new behaviors, needs and wants do they have? Now, who is your new real buyer? How has their approval process changed? What are their new expectations? Even before the economy improves and confidence grows, why would your customers keep buying as they did?

Instead, they are probably looking for new products, services, expertise, conditions and warranties when spending to meet their new goals. Knowing how they have changed is your first step to Profitable Top Line Growth, because if you do, you can change what you sell to profitably keep, grow or win-back your customers.

Refocusing on customers means changing your previous sales, relationships, margins and practices, often by reinvesting and retooling what you have been doing for years, just when cash is tight. Try to see your buyers’ changing behavior as an opportunity to meet their new needs and you will profit with them. But treat your historic relationship as a blueprint for a future you feel entitled to, and you will likely fail.

This blog will regularly bring you tools, techniques, resources and real-world examples on how you can leverage your customers first.

Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Top Line Growth, , ,

Why Profitable Top Line Growth Now?

Before the financial crisis, most businesses could coast along and rely on their credit lines to make up for shortfalls in sales.

“Good” customers could be subsidized and customers who didn’t pay or went under could be ignored by just borrowing more cash. For the firm, slumping quarterly revenues and rising expenses could be carried forward by financial wizardry and leveraging a balance sheet.

While the lessons of doing business without credit and cutting expenses to the bone have been learned, how can one grow a business back to where it was and forward after the financial crisis? Without fads like buyouts, rollups and ESOPs, an owner, financier or organization should return to the oldest source of creating growth in the book. Sell more products and services and do so at a profit.

Why Profitable Top Line Growth Is Important, by Andy Birol

Why Profitable Top Line Growth Now? by Andy Birol

Profitable sales means focusing on:

  • Higher gross margins from differentiating your value and de-commoditizing your products and services profitably
  • Knowing that every sale you make is profitable by customer, order item or services
  • Managing your balance sheet for liquidity instead of credit where the biggest assets are customers’ predictable purchases.
  • Creating a wealthy company that can be sold for cash and secure the lifestyle of its owners now and later.

Profitable Top Line Growth is not a fad, or just a program to get by in the short term, but a way thinking about your business, investment or organization. It starts with knowing who is paying you for what value and continuously working to repeat this. It is a pay-as-you-go approach to growing your business that reduces dependence on borrowing money, and increases the wealth of a company and the security of its owners and all who rely on it.

Whether your business has major growth or returning to growth in its plans, this blog will focus on the tools, techniques and real-world examples for creating Profitable Top Line Growth!

Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Top Line Growth, , , ,