10 Tips That Will Make Your Small Business Successful
Owning a small business is no picnic. According to SCORE, a non-profit business counseling organization, only about half of small businesses survive beyond 5 years. You can help your small business be part of the successful half with these 10 tips we’ve collected:
1. Offer promotions and specials.
These are good ways to draw in new customers and to get current customers in for something they might not have considered. For example, Adika, an online fashion shop from Israel, offered 15%-off on their new boys’ department items when you purchase something from the girls department. This not only brought in new male customers, it got existing female customers which were only using the website for purchasing items for themselves, to purchase items for their boyfriends too! Such offers are great when you want to promote a new line of products or increase the sales of an existing one.
2. Branding is critical.
Your logo should be simple, readily identifiable, and scalable. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as Nike’s famous “Swoosh” proves, but it should reflect or suggest your business. Even if you forgo a graphic and stay with just text, the font you use will tell potential customers a lot about your business, so make sure it conveys the right message. A divorce attorney won’t get much business if he uses a cartoonish font, and a day-care center with an overly ornate font might be seen as being too expensive and not “in tune” with children. But whether you use graphics, fonts, or both, they need to look equally good and legible on your store windows, letterhead, website, and business cards.
3. Outsource things you can’t do.
Not everybody can design an eye-catching web page, and that’s ok. We aren’t all IT professionals. While you may think that hiring someone else to do a task is a waste of money, the truth is that “you have to spend money to make money”. Your goal is to have a product or a presence that makes customers want to come back. Be sure, however, to research who you outsource to. The cheapest one may be tempting, but with your business’s reputation on the line, you want to make sure you’re getting the best quality you can afford.
4. Rub elbows with other small businesses.
Even competitors can be allies. Networking is a powerful tool. While every business is different, the challenges small businesses face are pretty common. By networking with other small business owners you can share resources, establish business relationships for outsourcing, and increase your customer base.
5. Don’t neglect your mobile presence.
Some people question whether it’s worth it for a small business to invest in a mobile app. Yes, it is! A Mobile app is an effective and low-cost marketing tool that helps you build your brand and increase your visibility. Also, as a mobile app never sleeps, you’ll have a 24/7 connection to your app users and they will have all your information readily available.
6. Maintain a social media presence.
Here is where small businesses have an advantage over larger businesses. A small business can decide on a promotion in the morning and announce it over social media sites by the afternoon. A larger company has to go through so many tiers of approval that it can take days before they can get their message out. With social media, you can dial in your target audience for a greater chance at bringing in customers for your specials.
7. Get a blog.
Blogs are not just places for inner-company newsletters and funny stories. They are places to engage your customers and keep them up to date on what your business is doing and what specials or deals you have coming up. Feedback on a blog can put your finger right on the pulse of your customers and help you be more responsive to what they want.
8. Don’t limit your promotions to on-line.
Print media is alive and well and amazingly affordable. Visit trade shows or get a booth at one if you can. Get your message out as directly to your audience as you can. Talk to people and hand them a business card or other small, easily carried promotional item such as a pen, key-fob, or even a small flash drive. Many of these items are easily affordable to a small business but can have a tremendous impact on getting your name and message out there.
9. Don’t rely too heavily on loans.
Many people start a business without any savings. They borrow the start-up money from banks, friends and family expecting to be able to pay it back with the profits. What they don’t realize is that it can sometimes take a few years to start showing that profit. When lenders don’t see their return as quickly as anticipated, they usually refuse to loan any more money. This puts the small business owner in the position of having to take out a loan against their home or else use their credit cards to pay off loans, putting their homes and credit at risk. Use as much of your own money as possible, remembering to account for your own living expenses for at least a couple of years.
10. Start small.
Don’t rent your own shop if you can use space in someone else’s shop. By starting small, you allow yourself the room to make mistakes that won’t cripple you like it would if you went big at the start. Don’t underestimate the potential of starting in a garage. After all, that’s where industry giant Hewlett-Packard started.
Starting a small business is not an easy task, and if you already have a small business- you can still benefit from the advices provided here. You can look for signposts and benchmarks that will give you an idea of how well your business is doing and what to look out for or anticipate. By staying alert and educating yourself on the risks and rewards of owning a small business, you can help make sure that your business is part of the successful half.