Small businesses need every opportunity for growing into a viable company for the niche that they have chosen. This article is being written in the middle of the COVID -19 global threats that are causing major economic problems and may very well create huge paradigm shifts in business and society worldwide.
These are not normal times, as a pandemic spread of this magnitude appears to only happen a few times per millennia. As a small business owner you need to know how to grow and uniquely position your product or service especially if it is a commodity or non-unique type business.
You cannot grow your business if you do not fully understand your business. You need to know why you are in business, what drives you and to what purpose you are a small business owner. If you cannot fully answer these questions then growing your business will be a chore and not a delight.
Is your product or service tangible or non-tangible? Maybe a little of both! What are the features of your product and do you know how to convey the benefits to your current and potential clients? What is the value proposition that will encourage clients to come to you as the small business of choice?
Is your product or service a standard commodity or is it highly innovational in today’s current economy? These and many other questions need to be addressed and fully understood about your small business.
In today’s business world, the lack of a website means you are not in business. It is truly that simple. However, having a website is only the start. Making it robust and a call to action is paramount. Let us discuss this.
What is the value of a website for your business if it only denotes you are in business? Your website has to inspire those who land there to stay, look around and take action. After all, you are filling a need in people’s lives, correct?
Your website should be filled with valuable content with backlinks, SEO optimized so they can find you and a call to action. If nothing else, the call to action would be to subscribe to your newsletter or blog with a valid email as signup.
Why not state the pain on your website so you can bring in the solution with a purchase of your product or service? Informational websites only can sometimes be boring. Jazz it up with reasons to take action to get on your newsletter or even purchase from you.
Understand, you do not need to sell them everything, just let them buy something from you and then make them a client for life. Upsells can occur after the initial sale. The rule is to make someone a client first then they can obtain the rest of your services.
Also, your Website needs to be mobile compatible. I mean, we all knew that several years ago, but it has to be. Most people will visit you from their mobile device and not their laptop or computer. Clients are on the go and you need to go with them.
Just to back up my statements you can refer to some suggestions on the six common things that the best websites have in common.[i]
So do you need to be on LinkedIn if I have a website? Well, the answer is “Yes”! LinkedIn is the main premier business to business online network sites in North America and maybe the rest of the global business community. It is designed to be a “go-to” place to network your business, find new customers and even find new employees who qualify for your small business positions.
LinkedIn is more than just a networking site. It is filled with services designed to grow your business influence. Any business can open up a LinkedIn account and get the basic for free. However to utilize their full suite of services, one would need to upgrade to their Premier Services to jump-start your small business influence.
LinkedIn works best when you have at least 500+ connections. These connections are your network of other businesses that you can help and that can help you. It is designed to be that sort of thing. Now one thing to understand is to not focus on making connections in your industry. Why? Because people in your industry will not buy your products! Think about that for a moment.
It will be better to target other people and businesses that are not in your industry but would make exceptional clients. The mutual benefit will occur as you become clients to other members. So the plan would be to open up a LinkedIn account to explore all the benefits this service has to offer. LinkedIn.com[ii]
Marketing is the art of letting people know your business exists so they can become your client. It sounds simple, but it is more than that. It can be stated that having a Website and a LinkedIn account are forms of marketing and that would be true.
However, you will need more than just those two avenues. You will need to reach as many of your target clients as possible in the most effective way with the most cost-efficient tools or strategies. The first two that come to mind are email marketing and text marketing. Both employ the concept of “top of the mind” marketing.
Top of the mind marketing means that when people have a pain or a problem that needs to be solved in their lives, your small company is the first one they think about. Why is that? Because you have a marketing system in place!
Your website should be set up to capture emails as people get your free newsletters or purchase your product. Once you have their emails organized through an autoresponder service you can increase your “top of the mind” marketing to them.
Email marketing provides more than just sending out those nuisance emails. It is a way for you to send thank you emails, special offers, and much more.
Another marketing tool is text marketing. This shows up right on people’s phones because they permitted you to text them. It is now becoming more widespread and should be used by any bricks and mortar retail and online business.
You send out offers and information about your business via automated text messages to your growing list of clientele. A very good company in this field is Sentext Solutions.[iv] They are a great company worth looking into.
Of course, these are not the only marketing avenue. There are TV ads, radio ads and about 100 plus other ways to get your message out. Each type of marketing has its pros and cons. You need to choose a few of them, and track the results using your key performance indicators.
Capitalism is based on the profit motive. There is no question about that. However, for authentic capitalism to prosper it has to have the basis of providing value to the people it serves. Without providing value, there is no profit.
Think about the idea of providing an overpriced cup of coffee to someone for profit in a coffee shop. Where did this idea come from? What are people paying for? They are paying for more than a cup of coffee. They are paying for the ambiance of sitting in a nice shop with friends or business associates or clients. It is a relaxed place to open up and be you.
That is why you pay many times over for a cup of coffee or tea. You are paying for a benefit that you desire. So what about your business? Does it provide value?
By value here is what we mean. Value is the benefit, not the feature that a person or business receives when purchasing your product or service. So the real question becomes does your small business provide many times over in benefit the cost of your product or service. Maybe a good rule of thumb is a perceived 10 times in value over the cost.
If you can say that about your product or service, then you are going in the right direction to value. It is the value that you provide that will put you head and shoulders above the competition. Value comes not only from the product or service itself but the way you and your employees treat the customer.
One of the big problems small businesses have is acquiring new customers. So a lot of marketing goes into this endeavor. What if it could be shown that maintaining repeat customers is more cost-effective with your marketing dollars than always trying to get new clients?
Why not give existing clients rebates and special offers just for being a good customer? Many times we hear about the discounts new clients receive, but the existing clients never get good deals? Using your email or text marketing is a great way to give discounts and “Wow” your existing customers.
There has been much research on the profitability of existing clients over new clients. It is hands down more profitable to keep your existing clients happy than to go find new clients. Here is one example of this research in an article Nurturing Existing Clients[v] by Forbes. It is in your best interest to take care of your existing clients to grow your small business than to always look for new clients.
The next issue of growing your small business is to have a lean mean fighting machine. By this, we mean what are the internal operating systems and procedures you have in place that keeps the engine running so to speak.
Internal systems can be everything from standard operating procedures, time-management, clearly defined employee position description and responsibility to computer and phone systems. It is basically how your business runs daily.
If you have a haphazard approach to your daily business, then your employees will have the same attitude and that is transferred out to customer perception of your small business. You need to have a set of operating procedures so everyone knows the way things work in your business.
You will need to have a system in place that tracks all of your key performance indicators (KPI). These KPIs will be used to adjust your internal systems to keep your business running smoothly.
This is a big deal and cannot possibly be fully covered here. The issue of finding the right employees at the right job positions is a never-ending vigilance activity. This is a management art form and can make or break a small business.
Understand that a great salesperson does not always mean a great manager. Understand that a great technical person does not always make for your best Chief Financial Officer. Understand that you as a small business owner cannot be all positions to all clients all the time.
Take the time to find the right people to fill the right positions. Make sure that positions adapt to their makeup as a human being so they can be passionate about their working for you. It is a complicated venture but one well worth the time and effort.
Loving What You Do
At the end of the day, if you do not love what you do, you will burn out mentally and physically. So you need to take the time to ascertain why you are in this business and why do you love it. If you do not look forward to running your small business then you need to sell it or close it down.
For the sake of brevity, we have expanded on 9 things you can do to grow your small business. We did not include many other things about growing your business such as the additional three items. We will briefly describe them now for you to continue your journey of growing your small business.
Research And Development
You have to constantly have part of your team in this area. No matter how cool your widget was, it may be obsolete now and needs to be revamped or replaced. You have to constantly keep abreast of technological changes to your particular niche.
Sales are not marketing and marketing is not sales per se. Sales it the art of letting the customer make the decision. There are three issues when it comes to sales:
- People always buy with emotion and justify later with logic
- People never buy features, they buy benefits
- People never want to be sold something, they want to buy something
If you can dig deep down the details of these three issues you will start to truly grow your small business.
Taking A Break
You need to fully understand that taking a break is sharpening your business. This means that taking the hands off the wheel and letting a trusted employee handle it is a good thing. It can be stated that a great manager or leader is someone who can go on vacation and no one at the business knows that the owner is not there.
Give yourself and your employees the needed breaks they need with a great vacation and earned time off packages. You will grow your business by leaps and bounds with happy you and happy employees.
This brief article opened the door to things you can do to grow your small business. It is a practical assessment of things that any business owner can implement, achieve and feel great about. We trust you also can put them into your small business.