For many green business owners, much of your decision-making is based on “hunch” or “intuition.” I’m a firm believer in going with your innate inner-guidance system – that might be a small idea in your mind, that continues to grow on you, that tells you which way you think you should go with your company. But, I also believe that you must use scientific, logical, practical decision-making to make sure that your intuition is “on track.”
Here are five ways to take a more measured and measurable, scientific approach to your business:
1) Test your hypothesis.
Let’s say you believe in a new product or a new service offering. Just as in a scientific evaluation, pilot test your new item by offering it on a limited or trial basis. By testing it on a limited basis, you make sure you work out all the steps in the process and gather all the information you need before you commit to rolling your new item out on a large scale.
By testing your assumptions, at each step of the development process, you can be assured that what the marketplace needs and asks for is on track with what you are identifying as a product/service. On a limited “trial” basis, you can also tweak your product or service to make sure it matches your customer’s needs: maybe they need it in a smaller size, a different color, made out of a different material, or at a different price point.
Test, test, test — it’s the best way to make sure you get it right.
2) Trust, but verify.
As much as you think your clients like you, or your offerings are matching the needs of your clientele, you must verify your assumptions. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “to assume makes an A** out of U and Me.” When you make a blanket assumption, you miss important details that could be gathered through better intelligence or more comprehensive tools like third-party evaluations, surveys, follow-up phone calls, customer service feedback forms, or even a quick e-mail.
As much as you believe something to be true, you must verify that truth by directly reaching out for an answer from the customer, whose support of your business is the primary driver of your success.
3) Offer options and evaluate which is most successful.
I’m a big advocate of creating a “menu” of options to help your customers identify how they best “fit in” with your offerings. Just like an ice cream truck offers vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, you too could offer a Package A, Package B, and Package C. Price them differently, or offer different tools, add-ons, or digital options for each package. By identifying the core components, then assembling them into something easy-to-understand, you can better identify what your customers truly want and need.
If you find that Package A sells poorly, substitute it out for Package D. If you find that there are add-ons such as a maintenance contract, a retainer, a series of monthly packages, or some other way for you to increase the value of one of your offerings, do so — and continue to test the options to find out what your core market offerings will be.
4) Measure your results.
A profit-and-loss statement is not the only evaluative tool. Consider what you want as your metric for any service offering or product in your inventory. Perhaps you want to evaluate web visits, or number of downloads, or profit margins, or time to delivery - whatever the metric, follow that number and track it over time.
Thomas G. Monson tells us “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” Your challenge, then, is to understand which specific number you want to measure, and to focus on that number as your goal. With weekly or quarterly evaluation, you can measure how well your company is doing at delivering on that measurable goal.
5) Publish your findings.
By sharing your knowledge, you gain authority and a reputation for being a leader. Publish what you find out through your process in the form of case studies, white papers, sample client stories, or research briefs. Any other potential customer can then seek you out and use your published information to make a better assessment of if you are a “good fit”. Understand that you lose nothing by sharing your light — you do not need to publicize trade secrets or your intellectual property, but you can make an honest assessment, based on your data, about how well or poorly a particular method may work.
People appreciate honesty, transparency, and integrity. By sharing your findings, you help increase the breadth and depth of your field.
The scientific approach is one that benefits the field of science, and as women interested in building and growing our companies, we can borrow some of the tools of the scientific method to improve our own businesses.