In a prior blog, I defined a successful company as one which retained at least 10% of sales as net income. I posed the rhetorical question – who would want to work as hard as most entrepreneurs do, and retain less than 10% of sales? To get to 10%, I mentioned that the company would need to realize at least a 40% gross profit margin on sales. However, 40% is a very difficult target in most industries, considering customer price resistance. Further, I theorized that the successful company would have to sell its good/services at higher prices than that of the competition in order to achieve the 40% gross margin. But how can that possibly be done? Here are my conclusions on achieving higher margin sales after 30 years of observation:
Beat the competition with excellent goods/services. You hear this a lot, and it sounds really good. However, this is simply where the bar starts. Your competitors have excellent goods/services too. If they didn’t, they would no longer be competitors. So if you have excellent goods/services, congratulations. You met the minimum standard and get to stay in the game – for now.
Excellent Sales Team
This is vitally important, and will help keep your company in the hunt. But your competitor likely has a tenacious sales team that may be better or worse than your sales team, depending on what day it is. One way to get an edge is to invest in the product Integrity Selling – Congruence of Knowledge, Skills and Values by Ron Willingham (http://www.integritysolutions.com/). I strongly believe that Willingham’s “Sales Congruence Model” will transform your sales team and significantly improve performance. Please do yourself a favor and take me up on this one. Integrity Selling flat out works.
Excellent Branding and Marketing
As a part-time CFO that comes from an accounting education and background, what could I possibly know about good branding and marketing? Admittedly, not much. But I do know it when I see it.
Let’s consider Petaluma’s own – dog walker/handler/trainer extraordinaire Glenn McTaggart, founder of “The Love of Dogs” (http://www.theloveofdogs.net). Does Glenn have a great service? Oh yeah. Taking dogs out on regular pack walks does wonders for their canine psyche and normally keeps them from chewing up your new $5,000 Italian leather sofa. Glenn’s training, through the use of hand signals and positive reinforcement (as opposed to copious amounts of mystery meat), brings real and sustainable behavioral change. Glenn also facilitates pet sitting and might even get your “Lassie” or “Rin Tin Tin” on the silver screen through http://www.reeldogagency.com if there is sufficient talent. But what really is making Glenn’s business take off, in my opinion, is his knack for branding. This car generates at least ten new sales inquiries per month, just driving around. Branding is a difference maker. If you do not have branding that clearly separates you from the competition, creates excitement from potential buyers, and clearly lays out your value proposition, then you have short-changed yourself and are constantly at a disadvantage to your competitors.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website and other online marketing is here and now. It is not kid’s stuff. It is not a flavor of the week. In your company’s case, online marketing likely has a very significant influence on whether prospects buy from you or from your competitors. Embrace online marketing and your company will likely flourish. You can grow your company organically by meeting “one on one” with prospects, or you can grow exponentially with the “one to many” capabilities provided by online marketing.
Since I know just enough about online marketing to hurt myself, I will refrain from throwing out any “secrets” or “must do’s.” I instead recommend that you align yourself with an experienced and knowledgeable expert in the field of social media, web development, and search engine optimization. Ryan Kelly at WSI Smart Marketing (http://wsismartmarketing.com) would be an excellent choice. WSI is ranked #1 in Internet Services Business in the world by industry-leading Entrepreneur magazine. Ryan can educate you on the latest Google online ranking rules and other technical online marketing issues, as well as strategies that will give your company a measurable advantage in the marketplace over the competition.
So you want profit growth in or around Petaluma? I believe that 10% net profit retention is the barometer and is possibly an improvement over what your business now achieves, after paying yourself a reasonable wage. To achieve that level of profitability, you will likely need to obtain a 40% or better gross profit on sales. I believe that is attainable through excellent products and services (again, that’s where the bar starts), a focused sales team to match that of your competitors (please go order and read Integrity Selling now), and a robust branding and online marketing program which enthusiastically communicates your value proposition. I hope to see you at the top of the charts in next year’s North Bay Business Journal – Book of Lists.