Sunday, April 04, 2010

4 Sure-Fire Ways To Lose Business

Q: Steve — What should we do with a customer who is so demanding, but who makes us a lot of money? I am inclined to tell him to take a hike. — Barbara

A:  I am all for firing the too-demanding customer in the right circumstance, but it is hard to say whether this is one of those times. The truth is, customers have a right to be demanding — they give us their money and business and they are the reason we get to do what we do.
And moreover, big customers have an even bigger right to be demanding (to a point, of course). 

They know, and you know, that they are important. They pay you a lot of money because you provide a product or service they need, yes, but they can get it somewhere else, too. With the benefits of their business comes responsibility, eh?

Especially in an economy like this, losing important customers is something to be avoided at almost all costs. It certainly is not something to be taken lightly. So aside from taking important, albeit demanding, customers even slightly for granted, here are some other ways you can be assured of losing business:

1. Failing to keep up — with the competition:  Capitalism is tough. Your competition is looking to get ahead, and often at your expense. They are thinking of new ways to better serve the marketplace. They are investing intellectual capital and money into attracting new business. They are updating and blogging and planning and cajoling.
Are you?

It is an easy trap to fall into: Small businesses get comfortable doing what they do. Learning new tricks and trying new things costs money and takes time.

Too bad. You simply must keep track of what the other guys are doing and take that into account.

2. Failing to keep up — with technology:  It is a truism that business in this era is extraordinarily dependent upon technology; probably more so than any other time, and that is a double-edged sword. On one hand, technology allows business to do more, and reach more people, and often for much less. On the other hand, keeping up with the latest thing takes time that we often do not have and costs money we do not want to spend.

But you simply have to. Customers expect you to be current, as do your partners, vendors, and employees. Whether it's getting new software or servers, or the latest big thing in your own industry, failure to keep up to date puts you behind.

3. Forgetting what business you are in:  What business are you in? No matter what your answer is, it is equally true that you are in the service business. It is your job to serve your customers and staff. The better you serve, the better off your business will be.

So if you want to lose business, forget that that service is your business. Forget that, even though the customer is not always right, he sure is right a lot of the time. Forget that bending rules and making exceptions is often rewarded with loyalty. Forget that customers really can always take their business elsewhere.

4. Stop prospecting:  There are three types of customers

1. New customers

2. Existing customers

3. Exiting customers

To remain in business, you must keep these three balls rotating: New customers become existing customers, existing customers change habits, and exiting customers leave, so new customers must be always located.

Never stop prospecting. Never stop hustling and proposing. Don't stop marketing.
And don't rest on your laurels.

Today's tip:  If you are looking to start your own business, a good book that I recently read that can help a lot is called Your Idea, Inc. In it, author Sandy Abrams walks you through a 12-step plan to make your new business a reality. It's full of great examples and easy to follow strategies. Check it out.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at: you can click here to see previous columns. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Small Business Bible. You can sign up for his free newsletter, "Small Business Success Secrets!" at his website —

No comments: