Jamilah Barnes Creekmur, a marketing-savvy negotiator with a penchant for innovation, earned her stripes leading business development efforts for AllHipHop.com (and won the Black Enterprise Rising Star Award in 2006). Eventually serving as chief operating officer, Barnes Creekmur was at the helm of several multimillion-dollar deals and partnerships with the likes of Verizon Wireless and Sprite, propelling the multiplatform news portal’s valuation to $17 million. Now the principal of JBC Consulting (www.jbcnyc.com), she specializes in business development, strategic partnerships, and several other aspects integral to enterprise growth. Barnes Creekmur offers these five tips to rev up your business:
1. Consider adding value before raising prices. With inflation on the rise, 15% of small business owners reported raising prices during the month of May, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. But Barnes Creekmur cautions against doing so without first creating added value. “Figure out if there are additional services you can offer with that same product that will cost you a minimum or no extra investment,” she says. She recommends explaining to the customer the additional service that will accompany the rise in price, which will either enhance customer experience, the product, or service being offered. For instance, technology companies may consider offering more frequent upgrades or integrate new automated services to existing offerings.
2. Don’t forget to innovate. With technology in a constant state of advancement, early adopters of new innovations may reap the financial rewards. For Barnes Creekmur, making sure AllHipHop.com was an early adopter of mobile technology was essential to its growth. “There’s usually an 18-month lead time on new technologies. This would give me time to see how we could fit this into AllHipHop’s core offering,” says Barnes Creekmur. She spent time attending conferences hosted by CTIA, a global wireless organization, to get a jump-start on the competition and latest developments. “Try to provide a service before your customer knows they need it,” she adds.
3. Partner up. Does another business offer a service or technology that would enhance your business or help reduce expenses? Barnes Creekmur urges businesses to consider strategic partnerships. This is a symbiotic business relationship that serves to propel each company in whatever capacity their terms are built upon, she explains. The key to a successful strategic partnership is understanding your business, and what you need to reach those higher goals, she explains.
4. Plan accordingly. Failing to set goals, to constantly assess and reassess your current positioning, and to establish clear, defined objectives for your business could spell doom. “A lot of small business owners I come across want to have that million-dollar idea but don’t always understand the investment or sacrifice it takes to get to that point,” says Barnes Creekmur. Key performance indicators or established metrics will help track your day-to-day performance to ensure that your business meets that end.
5. Understand that communication is essential. It’s cheaper to keep a loyal customer than to acquire a new customer. While customer retention and loyalty programs may be a good way to boost sales from current clients, for Barnes Creekmur, communication is at the heart of any of these initiatives. “Loyal customers have an emotional connection to your brand,” she says “and word of mouth is the best revenue driver.” She also advises entrepreneurs to under-promise and over-deliver on the entire customer experience. This may be in the form of follow-up phone calls to see how satisfied the customer is with the product or service, or simple best practices such as making a note to remember each customer by name.