You’ve gotten your new business off the ground and managed to establish a good customer base and profit coming in, but maybe things aren’t moving as fast as you expected. If you’re ready to take your small business to the next level read on for three tips that will help you level up.
Develop a Plan
You probably had to have a business plan to get loans or investors to help you start your business, but when’s the last time you revisited your plan and updated your strategy? Create goals that meet the SMART tool: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. For example, if your goal is to save on utilities, your specific goal could be to install solar panels in order to reduce your reliance on electricity by 90%. You know that by comparing your existing bills you can measure the difference, perhaps taking an average of the last 12 months. By working with a solar company you will know whether or not it is attainable. The goal is relevant to saving money on utilities, which may be a focus you choose, but you could also have goals of increasing market share among 20-somethings who focus on sustainability, around which you would create a whole other SMART metric. For savings, you might want to track over the next year, but for the market share you may create a longer timeline, but in either case, you need to set the timeline over which you expect to see a specific change.
Diversify Your Audience
If you’re a brick-and-mortar store that relies primarily on a local audience, try branching out with online offerings. Even a business like a restaurant should be collecting email addresses. Use your POS system to send receipts and create a sales list from those receipts. Send emails with your latest events, discounts or even a new loyalty program.
On the other hand, if you’re an online retailer try a direct mailer to locals or an email campaign focused on your local customers, encouraging them to share with friends and family. Look at options for people who don’t want to deal with shipping, setting up potential person-to-person sale sites at farmers’ markets or swap meets. You could even offer free delivery to local customers.
No matter what options you choose, diversifying should be part of a trackable business plan. Learn where your marketing dollars and time are best spent and don’t feel like you have to continue options that aren’t profitable.
Use Social Media for Marketing Instead of Advertising
Most businesses know the importance of a social media presence, but if you aren’t clear on the difference between advertising and marketing you could be hurting yourself with sales-heavy posts. Experts recommend only 20% of posts should be directly advertising products or the business. The other 80% should be focusing on creating the story around your brand and creating content that has value to your audience. Even as those recommendations are revised, it’s still clear that overselling is a turnoff to most customers. At best they ignore you and at worst they stop giving you their business. Brand trust is created through excellent customer service and products but part of creating true brand loyalty is creating a relationship with your customer. Let them get to know your team members, educate them about new uses for a product, show them tricks of the pro. All of these posts create value by reinforcing a relationship and providing free tools that cost you nothing. Loyal customers feel like they are getting something from you that meets or exceeds the value of the money they spend with you.
Growing your business is in large part about finding and creating opportunities. Accept that sometimes opportunity leads to failure, but a business that is unwilling to fail in small things is unwilling to take the risk that can lead to big success. By measuring the outcome of your attempts you’ll find the balance that leads to increasing success.