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12 Ways to Spring Clean Your Business
 

Now's the time to revisit the basics of your business, tune up operations, improve customer relations, and clear out any cobwebs.

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When e-commerce company Groove Commerce sent over a list of spring cleaning items to tune up an online marketing strategy, it sounded like a fine thing to do. So I've taken some of their points and added a few others.

Why a spring cleaning? Because sometimes you need to shake the dust loose and examine routines that have become habitual. By doing so, you can see if there's anything needing correction or improvement. It may stop everyone from working like automatons and your customers from responding in kind. Let's start with the e-commerce selections from Groove and then move into other areas.

E-commerce

  • Switch up email acquisition--Did you spend the winter growing your subscriber base? Then consider trying some work to extend customer loyalty. Concentrate on deals and specials? Maybe it's time to draw them into your social networks. This might keep customers from falling into automatic responses to campaigns that may be lulling them to sleep.
  • Evaluate cross selling and add-on tactics--Suggesting additional products, either directly connected to what people buy or others that are related or complementary, is important in sales. Now is the time to revisit your choices and the effectiveness they had with customers.
  • Check your links--This goes well beyond your main site and extends into emails, newsletters, and other marketing collateral. The inevitable shifts in page structures and URLs can send people to page-not-found messages. Find the errors before your customer.
  • Set up advanced analytics functions--If you haven't expanded your use of Google Analytics, or whatever other packages you may use, then you're leaving important data on the table. See how people come onto your site, where they head, and what tends to be the last thing they see before leaving.

Customer relations

  • Check your customer lists--Customer information can quickly go bad as people move, change email providers, and otherwise change their habits. Check the National Change of Address (NCOA) database to see if you still know where they live. Are the email addresses you have still good? When was the last time you heard from a customer?
  • Run a customer satisfaction survey--If people aren't happy, they're more likely to disappear than to let you know something is wrong. So find out how you're doing and see where you might strengthen operations.
  • Do some analysis--It's good to have customers, but not all of them will have the same value to you. Run an analysis to see which of them have the best lifetime customer value, who have been the heavy spenders of late, and, as importantly, which ones are expensive to maintain. Know who's being coddled and who might strengthen your business by leaving and ordering from a competitor.
  • And do some segmentation--Once you can classify customers, see what, if anything, they have in common. Can you notice any patterns that might help you identify other top customers? Might there be things you could do to edge decent customers into the best performer category?

Operations

  • Ask employees what is wrong--You may know your business from one view, but those on the daily firing line are more likely to see things that might becoming tripping points. Make sure that they understand you want to hear bad news and that no messengers will be injured in the process.
  • Competitive comparison--How do your products and services compare to those of your competitors. Revisit the question, as rivals may have improved things on their end. Be objective, as now is not the time to save face. You're better off saving sales.
  • Business partner plans--When's the last time you caught up with business partners, vendors and suppliers, and your distribution chain? Have conversations with the major players to see how relationships look from their end and whether they are making moves that might affect your company.
  • Vet your expenses--Now is also a good time to review utilities, phones, shipping, and any other services you have for your business. Are there changes you need or options you should consider? Can you get better pricing?

Too much on the list? Then pick a few things that might make the biggest difference to your business. And remember, if you don't get it all done for spring, keep going. It's never too late to improve your company.

IMAGE: Steven Puetzer/Getty
Last updated: May 1, 2013

ERIK SHERMAN's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.
@ErikSherman




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