Feeling like you’re treading water with your small business and not making progress towards your goals?
Or are you having trouble choosing business goals to work towards this year in the first place? We all want to be successful owners of profitable small businesses, but how do you get there from where you are?
If you want your small business to be more profitable than ever before, here are some suggestions for how to make it happen. You can pick and apply 3 to 5 of these – the difference will be so positive that you will want the rest. And remember; building a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint!
According to a survey conducted by American Express, 78% of consumers have cancelled or not made an intended purchase due to poor customer service. Other studies have shown that it takes several positive customer experiences to make up for one negative one.
Given that loyal customers are much easier to sell to, make good customer service a priority. Examine your current customer service and make the changes that need to be made to ensure that your small business is providing service superior to that of your competitors, whether it be investing in staff training, revamping your return policy, or basic improvements such as responding promptly to voice mail or email from customers.
Whether you operate your business in a small community or in a large city, word of mouth is more important than ever for businesses. Most consumers turn to the net to search for reviews of businesses before deciding where to shop, so building a good reputation is vital to the success of your business.
How do you get positive word of mouth?
• By providing good, professional service,
• Building and monitoring your local (and online) reputation,
• Gaining publicity by giving back to your community by supporting/sponsoring local organisations and charities,
• Consistently asking your customers to share their positive experiences from you with those they care about.
Effective marketing is key to increasing your sales, but you don't have to break the bank to promote your business. There are many inexpensive ways to market your products and services, including:
• Creating and using a promotion kit.
• Sending out promotions with your invoices.
• Joining professional and/or business organisations.
• Involving the newspapers in your grand openings, moves, or charity events.
• Giving free workshops or classes related to your products/services.
• Developing business partnerships and doing cross-promotion with complementary businesses.
• Cold calling (yes it can still work!).
• Advertising your business on your vehicle with a vehicle wrap.
Creating a professional looking website can be quick and easy nowadays and your small business needs to be in the online space; Surveys by Ipsos MediaCT and Accenture indicate that more than 70 percent of consumers research purchases online before buying in a store (The Globe and Mail).
A simple website that describes who you are, what you do, and how to contact you will suffice for many small businesses. At a minimum, your site should contain:
• Your logo
• Your business name
• A summary of what you do - your products and services
• Your contact information
• Your address, including a Google Map link
• Your mission, e.g. "We make the best pizza in town...."
• Testimonials from customers
• Depending on your target market, social media can be a great way to promote your business.
Despite government claims of "low inflation", business costs for everything from office space to vehicle expenses seem to be always on the rise, so keeping expenses in check is a crucial task for business owners.
Keeping track of expenses is time-consuming and tedious, so wherever possible use technology to make the job as easy as possible. For example, there are a number of mobile apps for expense tracking, including some of the newer cloud-based accounting applications that allow you to automatically add expense information into your accounting system by snapping pictures of receipts with your mobile device.
Annually or semi-annually review your major costs, such as office space, business insurance, staffing, and vehicle expenses. If you are in an area with abundant available commercial space, think about relocating, or if you don't need a storefront convert to a home-based business.
Review your major supply costs regularly and always look for discounts or ways to pool supply purchases with other businesses to save money. Make reducing expenses part of your job description, and involve your employees.
If you do nothing else mobile-wise this year, you need to make sure that your online presence, including your business website, is mobile friendly, as ever-increasing numbers of people are surfing and searching with their phones – even when they’re at home.
But there are two other trends that your small business could really profit from.
• The first is mobile marketing. There’s a whole range of mobile-specific strategies you could be using to reach your target market with great effect, from text message advertising and mobile display ads through having an app designed for your own business.
• The second is mobile payment systems. The choices for your small business are really expanding as Apple Pay and Google Wallet join the field previously dominated by Square, Intuit GoPayment, and PayPal. Even car repair garages are getting into mobile payments. Using phones to pay is a significant convenience to customers but your small business could also realise considerable savings from being able to use a mobile POS system.
You did make a business strategy plan before starting your business, right? And you do update it every 3 to 6 months? Right? A business strategy plan is vital for start-up and established businesses for many reasons, including testing the viability of your business idea or processes as well as for securing debt or equity financing.
If you haven't made a business strategy plan it is not too late. Successful established businesses update their business plan annually to review every 3 to 6 months for accomplishments (or lack thereof) and decide on new goals or directions.
The financial health of your business is summarised by the annual accounts and the balance sheet. But the Business health is summarised and measured by the business strategic plan and diagnostics. From there you can determine ways to make your business more profitable by implementing the right strategies at the right time to increase sales and/or reducing losses or cutting expenses. If you want your business to be more successful you need a strategic plan for how to get there.
No one goes to the grave wishing they had spent more time in the office. Too many business owners sacrifice their mental and physical health, family relationships, and friends in pursuit of their business goals.
Don't be one of them - find an acceptable level of work-life balance. Getting enough sleep, taking time for family and friends, and getting regular exercise will help you stay healthy and allow you and your business to prosper over the long term.
Learn to manage your time better so that 20% of the input serves 80% of the demand.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s this; success is not a given. If you want your small business to be more successful, you need to make the necessary changes to bring that about.
That work may be as simple as investing in a new tool or as difficult as changing your thinking about some of your business processes. But you haven’t brought your business this far to just let it stagnate, have you?
Here’s to Your Success!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Antonina loves a big and bold challenge. An innovative problem solver and leader, she provides a critical overview of project management and business development. Antonina is an experienced and versatile business strategist, consultant, coach and mentor with a proven track record. She has extensive experience in driving growth, cost management, and profits growth for small businesses in the service industry & market.