Have you ever noticed how some businesses seem to do extremely well, and go from strength to strength, whilst the majority just seem to muddle along?
Since starting my own business I've met many small business owners and what I've noticed is that the vast majority of them seem to just about get by, but few reach the level of success that they're actually capable of. Some of them end up failing altogether, some lurch from project to project, and some do OK, but never really achieve the success or lifestyle they envisioned when they started their business.
On the other hand, I know a handful of extremely successful service business owners, who are making high 6 and 7 figure incomes every year (and rising) - and yet they don't work longer hours, their products and services are not magnitudes better than their competitors and they aren't geniuses!
So what is the difference between the successful businesses and the struggling businesses?
In a word: Marketing
Whilst there can be other factors that affect the ability of a business or practice to be successful, such as the economy, trends, cashflow and product/service quality or innovation, the number one difference between successful high-flying businesses and their struggling counterparts is good marketing.
Here is the lament of one survey respondent which is typical of the angst felt by service business owners who know they do a good job, but who don't understand why they don't have a queue of clients at their door:
"We know our products and services are good - we get great feedback from those clients we've worked with - but we still have trouble getting potential customers to buy in. Our services offer real benefits to clients but we are not as successful as we should be when we see what other companies offer (not as much) and yet are still very successful."
If you offer a quality service or product that produces great results for your customers or clients, and yet you're still struggling to get all the clients that you want or need, or to charge the fees you deserve, you probably have a marketing problem.
What do highly successful business owners do that others do not?
The first thing that they do is to realise that their primary objective is to build their practice or client base. In the words of Michael Gerber (who wrote The E-myth) they "work ON their businesses, not IN their businesses". What this involves is making the time to work on the business - in particular on marketing and product or service development, rather than spending all of their time handling clients, delivering services and dealing with administration.
They also look for areas where they can gain "leverage". Simply put, this means gaining maximum return for every hour they work. Instead of trading hours for pounds or dollars, they find ways to do the work once and get paid for it many times. They find ways to market their services one to many, instead of one to one (thus reducing marketing and sales effort and time). They delegate those activities which take up a lot of time (but which don't add much value in terms of moving the business forward) or which they are not skilled in such as admin, accounting, website maintenance and copywriting.
They also develop a success mindset, understand their strengths and weaknesses, take risks, innovate, hang out with other successful people and build a support network around themselves.
But above all, they learn how to market their businesses and create a marketing system that keeps a steady stream of prospects knocking at the door, without taking up all of their time!