How 5 Questions Generated £1m+ For My Small Business

by | 26 Feb 24

Here’s something I’ve discovered that can transform your business, no matter what you do or who you serve. Whether you’re supplying schools, law firms, restaurants – it doesn’t make a difference. Or if you’re in the B2B or B2C space – again, it’s all the same.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s tapping in to how the human mind works. Despite all the technological advances and AI, it’s still us humans making the buying decisions.

The magic happened for me around 10 years ago when I asked myself five simple questions. These questions changed everything for my business, catapulting us from £500,000 annual turnover to a great £1.8m in just a few months.

It was a 30-minute exercise, but the impact was phenomenal. Within weeks, we started to see change, and within months, we were swamped with more business than we could handle. We were actually struggling to keep up with the demand, but, that’s the kind of problem you want to have in a small business.

Overcoming that problem, though, is a blog for another time. For now, I want to share how these five questions can shake things up for your business.

So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Use these links to jump straight to the part of the article that interests you most.

> Back In The Day
> The Same As Everyone Else
> We Must Stand Out
> How To Stand Out
> How To Implement This

Back In The Day

It’s 2014 and we’ve got a fantastic product that stands out in the market. We’ve cracked the problem of how we can provide custom reports for our customers, and they absolutely love it. Then, out of nowhere, a massive industry shift hits us.

Let me give you a bit of context first. Our business developed software for schools. Our software was great for teachers and school leaders, it saved them loads of time on data reporting. This freed them up to focus more on what really matters – teaching and learning. It was a simple, but very effective solution.

Now, back to that seismic shift in 2014. The government’s Department for Education decided to scrap the standardised system for recording pupil assessment data. In one fell swoop, our software went from being a fit for every school in England and Wales to being useless. A punch in the chops! Ouch!

Our only option was to overhaul the main spine of our application. But without a standardised system, the big question was – how do schools want to handle this now?

The thing is, there wasn’t a straightforward answer to that. So, we hit the road, visiting schools across the country to understand their needs. After a week of intense brainstorming and discussions, we came back excited, with a clear plan.

Fast forward three months, and we’ve invested a load of time and money into redevelopment. That’s when we realised that our competitors had done exactly the same thing. They’d asked the same questions, gathered the same insights, and arrived at the same solutions.

Just like that, we lost our edge. We were no longer unique. We were just like everyone else.

The Same As Everyone Else

You know what’s the very worst thing about being just like all your competitors? The only way to stand out then is by price. Talk about a downer.

I didn’t want this for our business, not because I wanted to rip off our customers – far from it! What I really wanted was to offer something that would make a real difference in their daily lives. Something to positively influence the learning experiences of pupils at the schools using our software.

If we could free up some time for headteachers and teachers, they could focus more on doing the amazing work they do to provide top-notch education to our children!

So, I had to dig deep and find a way to differentiate ourselves again.

Now, I know its ironic that the DFE’s removal of standardisation ended up making us all look the same! But that’s exactly what happened. And I had to figure out our next move.

We Must Stand Out

There’s nothing to gain from blending in with the crowd. Your customers certainly don’t want that – they’re looking for a great solution to their specific problems. Your employees don’t want that either – they want their work to have meaning and purpose.

And, you don’t want that either. You want to make a significant impact on your customers’ lives. You want to be the company that makes a real difference.

So, back in 2014, nobody wanted us to be just another face in the crowd. As I mentioned earlier, I had to dig deep and figure this out. So, I started thinking. I knew I had to ask myself some tough questions and make some big decisions.

But the funny thing is, figuring out what questions to ask was the real challenge. The answers? They came a lot easier.

So, what’s next? I’m going to share the questions that can help your business stand out from the pack. But you’ll have the spend the time to answer them.

How To Stand Out (From ALL Your Competitors)

So, if your business is stuck in a rut, or you’re struggling to stand out from your competitors, or you’re not attracting as many customers as you’d like… well, these are the questions for you.

Take half an hour to really ponder these questions and jot down your answers:

  1. What is the single most urgent problem you solve for your customers?
  2. What are your deeply held beliefs about the issues your customers face?
  3. What do you advocate for in your industry?
  4. What do you oppose in your industry?
  5. What kind of change do you want to bring about in your customers’ lives?

Aim for clarity in your answers. Don’t overcomplicate things. Avoid jargon or fancy language. Write as if you’re explaining it to a child. Make your answers so clear that anyone can understand them.

Once you’ve spent 30 minutes on this exercise, set your answers aside. Don’t even glance at them for at least a day.

Then, revisit them. Ask yourself: Do I still stand by these answers? If not, revise them and give yourself another 24-hour break.

If you still agree with your answers, ask yourself: Can I refine them further? Can I better align them with my values, beliefs, and passions? If so, tweak them and take another 24-hour break.

When you reach a point where you fully agree with your answers and feel confident about your messaging, well, then you’ve made it. You’ve nailed it.

You’ve positioned your business with a message that’s distinct from your competitors. And why is that? Because no one else is exactly like you, with your unique blend of values, beliefs, and passions. That’s something to celebrate!

How To Implement This

So, now it’s time to bring your team into the loop. You might want to include them in this task. But once you have it nailed, you need to rally them around this vision. This is how you set yourself apart from everyone else in the industry.

This information is going to be the guiding star for your team when they’re carrying out marketing activities and talking with customers or potential clients. It’ll help them articulate the values of your business and what it truly stands for.

And believe me, that kind of stuff is powerful.

When your marketing efforts, your team, and you consistently share this philosophy with your audience, you’ll start to forge stronger bonds with your customers. They’ll get to know what you represent – and if they share those beliefs – they’ll become your biggest advocates. And in return, you’ll form a deeper connection with your market.

Bear in mind – not everyone in the market will see eye to eye with you. And that’s perfectly fine. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever win over 100% of your market, regardless of whether you do this exercise or not. But by doing it, you’ll start your journey to secure a significant portion of the market that genuinely love what you stand for and what you do.

This straightforward task, coupled with spreading the word, added an amazing £1m+ to my company’s annual recurring revenue – and let me tell you, that felt pretty good. Our customers reaped the benefits and our team was buzzing to be part of that movement. Top stuff.

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