IF YOU OWN A BUSINESS YOU ARE PROBABLY FRUSTRATED ABOUT HOW SLOWLY IT’S GROWING. SALES ARE NEVER QUICK ENOUGH, PROFITS ARE NEVER BIG ENOUGH. SOMETIMES I BET YOU WONDER WHETHER IT’S ALL WORTH IT.

AS A PARTNER at The Fortune Institute, a leading mentoring company for entrepreneurs, I hear this complaint about slow growth all the time. The truth is, there are many ways you can grow your company a whole lot faster. But you have to think laterally. How? Let’s take a look at some unusual but highly effective ways to get your company back on the fast track.

1 – Do More Level Thinking

Ever heard of Ray Dalio? Most people haven’t, yet Ray Dalio made over $3 billion dollars last year. He has run his company, a hedge fund known as Bridgewater Associates, for the last 36 years, building it from a tiny operation in an apartment, to America’s largest hedge fund. Like all billionaires, he has some fascinating viewpoints and distinctions. I’ve been studying Ray lately and today I want to explore one of his most interesting concepts – Consequence Levels. Basically the thinking goes like this: The average business person only looks at the consequences of an event one level down. The highly effective person however, takes the time to think more carefully and evaluates the deeper meaning of the event. It’s often only when you look at consequences at levels two and three that you can work out your optimum tactic in response. Let me give you an example that happened to me a few years ago. My fiancé and I were organising our wedding day (actually she was doing 90 per cent of the work). After weeks of negotiations, we had agreed upon a cost for the wedding reception with a hotel in Palm Springs. Then at the last minute the hotel’s general manager overturned the deal and demanded about $5000 more, while also giving us only hours by which we had to agree. If we failed to give in to his new (and in our view, unfair) terms he’d cancel our reservation. Forced into a corner with a deadline looming, we very reluctantly acquiesced to his demands. Now, that general manager thinks he’s being a clever business person. By putting immense last minute pressure on us he has made his hotel an additional $5000. But he is only looking at the level one consequence. The level two consequence is that in response to his behaviour, we reduced the number of rooms we booked in the hotel, leading to a major loss of revenue for them. Furthermore, the level three consequence is that we will tell so many people about his despicable act that he will lose numerous wedding bookings, amounting to likely lost revenue of at least $200,000. So these deeper level consequences mean that he actually cost his hotel a large amount of money. What level do you think at? In this breakneck speed business world, it’s very tempting to decide an issue with level one thinking. We look efficient and decisive. We get things done. But it’s only later that level two and three consequences emerge. Hidden ramifications which could easily hurt our business. Or even kill it. As Ray Dalio has shown, the deeper the level you think at, the higher you will rise. By going down, you’ll go up.

2 – Ask More Often

I was on a plane from North Carolina to Los Angeles, 200 people were on board and bored. The flight was over five hours, yet only once did the flight attendants walk down the aisle offering food/snacks. If they had simply done it twice they would have increased their food sale revenue by at least 30 per cent. Now this airline has well over 1000 flights every day, so just think how many tens of millions of dollars they are missing out on, simply by not coming back to their customers with another chance to buy. Are you making the same mistake in your business? Customers who buy once will often buy two, three or 10 times. If only they are asked. Hundreds of billions of dollars of potential income is lost every year by all the businesses that don’t follow up the first sale with other enticements.

Air hostess

  • REPEAT OFFERS

  • NEW REASONS TO BUY

  • DISCOUNTS ON THE NEXT PURCHASE

  • A CALENDAR OF SALE EVENTS

Any of these techniques will increase the profits of any business significantly. So many business owners complain that they aren’t making enough money. But like that airline, they’re ignoring the opportunities right in front of them.

3 – Generate Popularity

I was out driving recently in Los Angeles and saw an amazing sight. A famous hot dog stand called Pink’s had a line of people outside that went halfway around their entire building. The question is, why? Is it because their hot dogs are so amazing? Well, I’ve eaten there and while they’re good, a hot dog is a hot dog. There’s only so much you can do with it. Is it because they spend a fortune on marketing? No way. In all my years in L.A I’ve only seen one ad for Pinks. Is it because they cost less than other hot dogs? On the contrary, they cost more than many of their competitors. No, in my opinion the reason Pink’s has people waiting for an hour just to taste their dogs is because of a factor far more strange and subtle. People line up outside Pink’s because they see other people lining up. They assume that because so many are lining up the hot dogs must be amazing, and so they decide that they too must visit this place. So it becomes self perpetuating. There’s a term for this in behavioural research – it’s called Social Proof. Humans tend to get more interested in things when we see that other humans are interested in them. So, think about this: How can you create the appearance that lots of people love your company? If you could just achieve that, then you too would get an ever increasing number of people desperate to buy from you. As I see it, there are three ways:

  1. Get lots of testimonials

    When potential customers read about other customers that adore your products, their desire for your stuff will dramatically increase.

  2. Initiate a PR campaign about popularity

    Plan a campaign of hitting the media outlets with stories about the fast growth and popularity of your company, product or service.

  3. Create shortages

    Consider occasionally making your product unavailable or booked out, due to high demand.

None of these strategies cost much money, but together they will go a long way to creating the impression that your company is popular, and that your product is something really special. Pretty soon you could end up like Pink’s. Not selling hot dogs, but selling hot products.

HUMANS TEND TO GET MORE INTERESTED IN THINGS WHEN WE SEE THAT OTHER HUMANS ARE INTERESTED IN THEM.”

4 – Always offer an expensive option

Here’s some amazing news. Diageo recently announced that they will be releasing a $150,000 whiskey. That is not a misprint. They really are going to ask people to pay 3000 times more than normal for a bottle of malt. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking who on earth would be silly enough to buy it? The answer is, plenty of people. In fact Diageo expects to sell out of the stuff . As their spokesman remarked, “We don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding buyers”. This is worth thinking about. If Diageo can feel confident asking for $150,000 for a single bottle of alcohol, maybe your company should introduce a super premium priced product or service. Maybe not 3000 times more expensive than your usual products, but how about three times more? Most entrepreneurs believe that they couldn’t possibly charge that much. In fact most of them feel they couldn’t even off er a product that cost 20 per cent more than their competition. But having spent over 25 years advising a myriad of companies on pricing, my experience is very different. If you position it right (emphasing exclusivity, premium ingredients or service, and focusing on value rather than price) at least five per cent of your customers will choose your super expensive option. Indeed, many companies fi nd that 20 per cent or more of their clientele pick the uber expensive product. And here’s another interesting aspect of premium pricing: even if nobody at all buys your premium offering, they will think your current products are cheaper by comparison. (For research that supports this, read the classic book on persuasion, Influence, by Dr Robert Cialdini). So either way you win. Why not take a few minutes now to conjure up some ideas for a really expensive product or service. Create a good one and in a few months you and your business partners may be celebrating record profits. (Maybe with a bottle of that $150,000 whiskey).

Whisky

IF DIAGEO CAN FEEL CONFIDENT ASKING FOR $150,000 FOR A SINGLE BOTTLE OF ALCOHOL, MAYBE YOUR COMPANY SHOULD INTRODUCE A SUPER PREMIUM PRICED PRODUCT OR SERVICE.”

5 – Work like a sports star

I often ask myself the following question: What will the top business leaders be doing in 50 years? I fi gure if I can guess that, and start doing those things now, I should lead the pack over the next couple of decades. Let me give you one of my answers, it may help you build a better business, faster. I believe that the elite business people in 50 years will train like sports stars.

A. THEY WILL USE THE MENTAL TRAINING TECHNIQUES USED BY SPORT STARS
For example, almost every major Olympian today regularly rehearses in their mind, seeing themselves performing perfectly. This mental rehearsal has been shown in countless studies to improve performance. So why don’t we in business world do the same? Is it not likely that it could improve our performance in sales presentations, time management and our interaction with clients? Of course it would. The brain is a magnificent computer that can be programmed much like any other computer. Just read books on neuroplasticty like The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge or Rewire Your Brain by John Arden for examples of how deliberate imaging of superb performance can literally change the structure of the brain and improve our performance. When you think about it, it’s crazy every ambitious business person isn’t using these techniques daily. I certainly do.

B. THEY WILL USE FOCUSING STATEMENTS LIKE TOP SPORT STARS DO
Focusing statements are short, sharp summaries that many top sports men and women use to remind themselves of what they need to focus on, just before they perform. For example, the great baseball hitter Alex Rodriguez, uses this focusing statement, “I hit the ball solid with an accelerated bat head”. For a sprinter it may be something like, “Stay low, stay relaxed”. For a football player it may be a sentence as simple as the following, “Confidence and aggression”. The bottom line is that focusing statements like these have been found to be highly effective for all manner of sport stars. They concentrate your mind on what matters and take it away from negativity and distracting thoughts. Couldn’t every entrepreneur get value out of using one of these focusing statements? You bet they could.

C. THEY WILL LEARN TO RELAX LIKE SPORT STARS
The top sports players all value relaxation and downtime. They take their breaks seriously, because they are intimately aware of how overwork harms future performance. They make sure each break is a quality break. They monitor their sleep patterns, ensuring they get enough rest. And critically, they work in quick intense bursts, followed by recuperation. Now you may think that you couldn’t possibly behave like that in the business world. But according to the Human Performance Institute in Florida, you’d be mistaken. In over a decade of studies, Dr Jim Loehr and his team have categorically shown that business executives perform best when mimicking the work patterns of sporting stars – intense work followed by frequent short breaks and lots of sleep. There you have it. Three ways to improve your business performance using techniques of sporting champions. Try them. You may not win a gold medal, but you can still win plenty of gold.

BUSINESS EXECUTIVES PERFORM BEST WHEN MIMICKING THE WORK PATTERNS OF SPORTING STARS – INTENSE WORK FOLLOWED BY FREQUENT SHORT BREAKS AND LOTS OF SLEEP.”

6 – Focus on new ideas

We live in a culture that admires busyness. We applaud the fast moving, hard driving entrepreneur, always on their phone, endlessly moving from meeting to meeting. We respect the urgent executives, with mountainous ‘to do’ lists, no time for breaks, as they get tasks done at a rocket-like pace. But our obsession with busyness can be incredibly costly because usually, the busier we are the less quality thinking we are doing. And it’s thinking that really improves businesses, not just doing. Sure, we should all work hard, but working hard doesn’t create a competitive advantage, as most of our competitors are also doing it. Where we can get ahead is by devoting at least 20 minutes a day to just thinking – alone, with a blank pad of paper and a pen. Resisting society’s urge to do, do, do all the time. It’s ideas that created the modern world and it’s ideas that will revolutionise your business. But they need time to originate. So every day, stop working for a while and do some quality thinking. It sounds simple, but it’s not an easy thing to do. As Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”

7 – Give them a taste

Here’s a great way to quickly build up your business success – off er free trials of your products. They’re a simple, but amazingly effective way to get people interested in buying from you. This really hit home for me recently when I was out shopping in a mall. I walked past a Teavana store – the huge chain of tea stores that has taken America by storm. There was a girl outside the store who offered me a free sample of their tea. As I sipped the delicious brew I asked her, “What percentage of people who try your product then walk into the store?” Her answer floored me – “About one in three”. Isn’t that incredible? Just by offering a free sample of the product she gets hundreds of extra people walking into the shop every day. What does it cost Teavana? Very little. What does it gain them? Millions of dollars of extra sales a year. Free trials are a highly underestimated marketing technique. The concept has been around for so long many business owners have forgotten about it. But free samples really work. Why? Because people need to be convinced, because they’re ambivalent, conservative with money, or stuck in habits of buying your competitor’s products. But often just one free trial is all it takes to sway them to your company and start buying from you. Try offering a free trial this month. It could be the difference that really makes the difference.

Free Sample

So there you have it. Seven unusual but powerful ways to grow your business faster. Do one of them and it will definitely improve your business. Do them all and your sales will sky rocket.

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