CUSTOMER relationships and business diversification have topped the list of growth strategies for Australia’s small and medium enterprises this year.
Despite a volatile economy, a MYOB survey of more than 1000 SME owners found the most common objectives for Australian business owners in 2012 in terms of clients and revenue were to strengthen customer relationships and expand business development activity.
MYOB found in its most recent Business Monitor research that 49% of owners were aiming for client/revenue growth in 2012 (an increase of three percentage points on the prior year).
A total of 32% hope to simply maintain their current levels and 13% are focused on minimising losses in these areas. The remainder are unsure of their goal.
“Customers will understandably remain the core focus for Australian SMEs in maintaining and strengthening their business health in 2012, with our research finding more than one-third of businesses are set to increase activity around attracting customers’ attention and building their loyalty,” MYOB CEO Tim Reed said.
“What I found especially interesting was the insight we received into the importance SMEs place on driving growth through diversification.”
“It makes sense for today’s business owners, many of whom face increasingly financially conservative consumers, to foster a ‘stickier’ customer by providing more products or services to whet their appetite. For many it will be the key to their survival in a two-speed economy.”
The survey also found businesswomen were more focused on growing client numbers and business revenues, with 54% of females surveyed having this objective compared with 45% of males.
“It also makes sense for SMEs to broaden their horizons into new markets, and to compete on a global scale where possible, providing their business with access to larger, more diverse audiences,” Mr Reed said.
“This is something the internet and cloud computing easily facilitate if business owners have the right tools and resources at their disposal. We’re seeing more and more operators benefit from getting their business online with a website.
“Our research shows those with a website generated 6% more revenue in the previous 12 months than those without. The key is getting online, being found, communicating well to your online audience and in doing so getting solid access to the digital economy.”
Founder of unique Sunshine Coast business Yin Health, Tsu Shan Chambers, will enact just about all of the growth strategies outlined in the MYOB research in her integrative wellness centre in 2012.
The holistic Birtinya East-meets-West centre, which offers anything from yoga, dance and self empowerment classes to optometrists, GPs, psychologists and physios, is just over a year old.
It is diversifying this year by adding extra practitioners, offering part of its premises for community lease and examining a future partnership with the GP superclinic once the new private hospital is built at Kawana.
It is building its customer relationships by rewarding customers who refer new clients with either a gift or a dollar amount towards a loyalty card that earns them $15 cash back once they spend $360
Ms Chambers said she had already been sending out birthday cards and emails with discounts and specials, as well as cards and gifts to the many pregnant clients when they have their babies.
She launched an online shop and completed a full overhaul of her website at the end of last year.
“It is fully SEO optimised and can take bookings and payments, plus we do Twitter and Facebook,” she said.
“My centre is the only business so far that uses a GP-based software program adapted to include allied health and retail sales.”
She admitted all these measures did take time and money.
“It’s a bit of a stimulus for my business and when times are tougher, you need to be active and innovative, otherwise you’ll be stagnant. I do feel it will definitely be a better year.
“I have done a lot of learning over the past 12 months and I am now very clear in terms of what we’re about and what we want to achieve.”
Ms Chambers is a council regional health ambassador and was a finalist in three of the region’s premier business awards programs last year.
MYOB Business Monitor top 10 focal points for 2012
1 Focus on customer retention strategies – 39% of respondents
2. Focus on customer acquisition strategies – 34%
3. Business activity in new markets – 33%
4. Number of products/services offered by the business – 29%
5. Amount paid to staff – 24%
6. Sale of products/services online – 24%
7. Sales of products/services offline – 23%
8. Number of sales promotions conducted over the year – 22%
9. Number of part-time or casual staff in the business – 21%
10. Dollar value of spending on marketing and advertising the business online – 21%