According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half of all businesses fail after just 5 years, with many sources citing that up to a staggering 96% of businesses close their doors after a decade. Considering that small businesses account for 47.5% of the total U.S. employee workforce, these are some worrying figures. Unfortunately for small business owners stuck in their old ways, these numbers won’t be changing any time soon.
Today, I sat down with Australian marketing expert and founder of Direct Results Local, Jason Shipway, to discuss what he believes small business owners can do to achieve “evergreen status,” and survive the next generations to come.
Shipway enjoyed a quick ride to six-figure entrepreneurship when he started his now-booming business, Enhanced Home Cleaning, before going on to help other small business owners achieve similar success with his established marketing and consulting agency, Direct Results Local.
Reporter: Thanks for joining me today, Jason. What is your definition of an evergreen business?
Jason Shipway: In an ideal world, an evergreen business is one that is fully autonomous and able to withstand generational changes, revolutions, and hardships, utilizing integral systematic processes to perpetually propel the business forward and maintain a steady flow of new customers, while also retaining its existing ones.
Reporter: Based on your experience, what systematic processes do you believe small businesses should have in their toolkit?
Shipway: First and foremost, the lifeblood of any business is its customer acquisition system. Choosing to stick to the conventional mode of immeasurable image-based advertising is not a viable option for small business owners with a shoestring marketing budget.
To avoid falling into the steep pit that most business owners succumb to, make the concept of over-delivering value to clients your main focus. We’re playing the long game here, hence the idea of an “evergreen” business. Calculate the lifetime value of your ideal client and determine how much money you are willing to spend to attain them. From there, create an avatar of your dream customer, mapping out their biggest fears, frustrations, wants, desires, potentially unanswered questions, personality traits, demographics, and psychographics.
Give them a hypothetical name, age, occupation, and even marital status to make it easier to craft a message targeted at this specific person. Then, and only then, can you devise a sales process that takes your dream avatar from prospect, to lead, to customer, to raving fan, before automating the process by using funnels, automatic follow-up sequences, loyalty programs, and referral systems.
Reporter: Could you elaborate on the concept of lifetime value?
Shipway: Sure. Lifetime value (LTV) is what comes after your initial sale. Think of a restaurant — its initial purchase value may only be $30, but if that customer comes back in just once per week for the next 2 years, that figure becomes $3,120. Now, with this in mind, how much would you be willing to spend to generate a customer? For most business owners unable to see past the value of the initial sale, this is a perplexing concept and the main reason they lack longevity.
Generating clients is one thing, but keeping them is the important part. When you can spend more advertising dollars to retain new customers, you’re able to build a stronger relationship with them to make them stay, and depending on what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer can be anywhere between five and twenty-five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. This makes the concept of over-delivery a vital core in any business.
Early in my cleaning business, I calculated the lifetime value of a 3-year client to be a staggering $14,440, meaning I could easily out-spend my competitors to win new clients. Of course, I utilized low to no-cost advertising for building my initial client base, so instead of going negative to acquire a customer, I chose to instead provide this value to my existing customers with the goal of retention in mind by giving them unexpected gifts like hampers, meal vouchers, candles, soaps, and more. This built a strong relationship with my clients and is the reason why more than 80% of my initial clients are still choosing Enhanced Home Cleaning today.
Reporter: For the new businesses and startups out there, how can they surpass their competitors who have been in the market for potentially decades?
Shipway: I was able to propel my company, Enhanced Home Cleaning, to the top of my industry within 60 days with what I like to call “positioning”. Positioning is the reason why you immediately perceive brands like Rolex and Mercedes-Benz to be exclusive, high-class, and desirable.
Rather than doubting my inexperience and choosing to position Enhanced Home Cleaning at the bottom of the market, I created innovative and unique systems that allowed me to park my business at a higher price point and attract higher-quality clients. These are what I call “Unique Customer Buying Advantages” or a “UCBA”. A UCBA is something that gives customers an edge in buying from you, as opposed to your competitors.
Furthermore, by its exclusivity and uniqueness, a UCBA grants you the capacity to charge more for your services and become selective with prospective clients. A UCBA can be anything from a unique spin on how you create or deliver your product or service compared to other businesses in your market, a risk reversing guarantee, value-add propositions, or any other benefits customers get by shopping with you instead of a competitor. A UCBA can be inherent to your business, or it can be created.
Reporter: Finally, are there any pieces of closing advice that you would have for small business owners?
Shipway: Aim to innovate, rather than create. Original thinkers and inventors are the ones who always end up broke, whereas the innovators are the ones who become rich. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead, look at what is already working in your market, model it, and improve upon it.
Consumers are cognitively biased to conform to the same buying habits they have been accustomed to since the dawn of business, and that is something that will likely never change. Therefore, sticking to mastering the principles of what is already proven to work is the surefire way to ensure a business’ success.
By taking what you’ve discovered here today, you now know more than 90% of small business owners. Take this knowledge, and let it lead you on a prosperous journey, for what I’ve shared is only the tip of the iceberg.
A warm thank-you to Jason Shipway of Direct Results Local.
Jason Shipway’s social media links: