Did your company grow this last year? The “recession” is no longer an acceptable excuse for lackluster financial results.

The current economy has become the new normal, and healthy companies need to be showing steady financial improvement. Many businesses have not yet regained this healthy status.

If you want to restore company growth and enjoy rising profits, focus your attention on two areas. First, discover and eliminate obstacles that may be hindering your progress. Second, make new improvements to boost your business success.

Discover and remove obstacles

If your growth has slowed or stopped, it is important to find any obstacles that may have caused that change. You were growing before, so what happened to change that pattern?

Look back 18 to 24 months prior to your slowdown. Were there any significant changes in the business? Was there a change in pricing, technicians, follow-up system or the person who answers the telephone?

It takes time for the results of changes like these to manifest themselves. Carefully consider whether any of those changes may be to blame for sluggish profits. Should any of these be reconsidered?

Inconsistent implementation of marketing hurts growth. Many companies develop a “feast or famine” marketing pattern. In this approach, the company waits until the schedule slows before sending out follow-up or marketing materials. Advertising and marketing take time to produce results, creating extended periods of slow time followed by surges of work. This can create scheduling challenges.

Consumers sense this inconsistency and perceive your marketing as a purely self-interested sales effort, instead of a set of helpful reminders for them.

Discounts can often be overused in order to boost the effectiveness of marketing, thus sacrificing profits. Stabilizing the implementation of your marketing will smooth out your scheduling, eliminating needless slow periods and subsequently increasing profits.

Some companies have accepted far lower profits than what is possible. Once a truck becomes fully booked, many owners fail to realize that increasing financial gains are still available.

Profits can continue to grow if the customer base is converted to a repeating clientele, thus eliminating the need for advertising. Money that would have gone to advertising, plus the money saved by doing away with discounts, would become pure profit without altering the technician’s workload.

Growth improvements

Look for changes you can make to increase your company growth. If you do exactly the same things as you did last year, you will get the same results. You need continued improvements if your business is to prosper.

The most obvious way to stimulate growth is to increase the number of sources you have for getting new customers. There are hundreds of ways to advertise and market your company.

Develop a system for testing advertising sources in order to find the ones that will work for you.

First, determine which return on investment (ROI) an advertisement must receive to qualify as profitable. Is it 2:1, 3:1, etc.? Then create a list of reasonable marketing options you think might work. Investigate what has worked for similar companies.

Next, try each in order to test and see if they will be profitable for you. If you achieve your goal, do more of it. If it falls short, move on to the next option on the list. You don’t have to wait for the results of one trial before moving on to the next.

The rewards of testing new marketing, in this way, greatly outweigh any small losses you might incur.

Marketing should be viewed as an investment. If you are continuing to get a good return, why would you hesitate to invest more?

Improve your follow-up system to convert customers to clients, who repeat and refer. Growth will be slow if you do not stay in touch with them. They need your help to know when to call and how to contact you again for service.

A good follow-up system is also the best way to stimulate referrals.

Look for ways to increase your company’s value in the eyes of your customer. What changes can you implement to improve your company image, upgrade your skills and certifications and fine-tune your customer’s experience with you? You could offer booties, use corner guards, lost and found bags, offer each customer a spot cleaner, etc.

A fully-booked company is in a great position to groom its clientele. All customers are not the same. Give priority to clients who schedule frequently and are more profitable. You can encourage and increase the percentage of work they represent for your company by developing a system to rate your customers.

High-ranking clients should always have scheduling priority. Lower-ranking customers should receive less follow-up attention and have less access to the most desirable time slots.

Well-run companies prosper in both good and bad times. You are in control of your company and by continuing to make improvements; it can continue to grow no matter what the state of the economy.

Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 30-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an IICRC-approved instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who provides a turn-key program for attracting better customers. For more information, log on to www.BeCompetitionFree.com.