Starting a business is a process. From coming up with a great business idea that will attract customers, to planning your finances and marketing strategy, it takes a lot to grow a successful small business. Once your business is up and running, there are a few things you can do to ensure its success.
1. Start with a Viable Business Plan
Even the best small business advice won’t help you if your business plan isn’t viable. A lot of small business owners start off with the idea to grow a business in a market that is already too saturated.
Starting a business in a market that over-saturated will inevitably lead to more competition, which will drive down the cost of your products or services.
There are still, however, many ways to break into saturated markets by simply adding a personal twist that makes your business different.
For instance, if you started a cleaning business, only to find that there isn’t a high demand for cleaning services in your area, consider changing the focus of your cleaning business. By using eco-friendly and natural cleaning products, you could market yourself as an environmentally friendly cleaning company, which could help you justify higher rates. A lot of people nowadays are conscious about protecting the environment, so joining this growing trend could help your business stand out.
The same holds true for any other industry. Your business plan might be catering to a market that’s already full, but tweaking your strategy can help you stand out among the crowd.
2. Identify and Find Potential Customers
Every product is aimed at a certain kind of person or business. When thinking about your potential customers, there are two things you should keep in mind. Firstly, you should ask yourself the basic question, who would be interested in buying this product or service?
After identifying what kind of customers your business will most likely attract, also consider what kind of customer would be the most profitable for your small business.
As an example, if you have a small business focused on selling healthy snacks, your target customers would most likely be people who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle. However, selling your snacks one at a time to the end consumer will make it challenging for you to grow your business.
Rather than selling your snacks one at a time, consider taking your snacks to health shops. Some offices provide snacks to their employees, so pitching your product to businesses as a healthy snack that will keep employee energy levels and productivity high could also help you sell more.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Pitch
A lot of small business owners fail because they are too shy or reserved to pitch their product to anyone. Conversely, some business owners pitch their product to everyone and anything, but fail to build meaningful business relationships.
As mentioned above, it’s important to identify potential customers that will help you sell more of your product or service. Pitching your business to friends, family members and other people you know just won’t have the same results as pitching to the right people.
When pitching your product or service, it’s important to have a rough script that you can follow. Your script will just be intended to help you remember the important benefits that your company offers.
Once your business is off the ground, you can rely on conventional advertising and marketing, but in the early stages, pitching is often what makes the difference, and can get you your first big breakthrough.
4. Offer Exceptional Customer Service
Customer service is what will help you to retain the customers you already have. Happy customers will often send referrals your way, so it’s a win-win situation.
According to statistics it’s much easier to sell to a customer you already have than to a new prospect. You can expect a success rate of about 60-70% when selling to existing customers, but this number usually drops to about 5-20% when selling to a new lead.
Another statistic states that it costs up to 5 times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one.
Great customer service is one of the best and most reliable forms of marketing, seeing as word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective forms of growing your business.
5. Balance Between Simplicity and Novelty
When you’re in the stage of growing your new business, it can be tempting to add more products and services too soon. In many cases, this is a big mistake. A lot of the world’s biggest, most successful businesses started with a simple product – think about Coca-Cola, for example.
On the other hand, it’s also important to think about new ways you can develop and expand your business. Nowadays, the Coca-Cola company sells a whole range or soft drinks, not just their original soda.
When looking to expand your business, the important thing to consider is whether or not you can handle the marketing and extra labor that will need to go into a new product or service. When you’re still in the process of growing a customer base for your current product or service, you shouldn’t be too eager to take on new projects. Of course, if a brilliant business idea that you’re very enthusiastic about presents itself, you should take the opportunity with both hands!
6. Make Sure You Have a Basic Marketing Strategy
There are a few basic things that every business needs to market itself. Nowadays, a website and social media presence are crucial, and can help your business get found online. You don’t need to have the most impressive website or social media pages, as long as your business is online, there’s a chance that potential customers can find you through searches.
Sometimes, however, placing an ad in your local newspaper or magazine can be a better way to bring in a few customers, even if your business doesn’t really have an online presence yet.
7. Overcome Obstacles Through Innovating
Whether you started your business yesterday, or already over a year ago, at some point you’re bound to face some challenges. Often overcoming these challenges will determine whether your business will ultimately fail or succeed.
Almost every successful small business owner will be able to tell a story of when they needed to innovate to stay in business. To overcome these challenges, businesses owners often have to come up with unique solutions that customers enjoy.
Sometimes, the challenges faced by a business will be as a result of certain rules and regulations imposed by landlords or other authorities, for instance. Perhaps rent for the business premises is too high, or the landlord owns a shop in the same shopping center that’ sells a product that’s similar to one you want to sell in the future, and so you’ve been banned from selling it.
The solution could be as easy as to move your business premises elsewhere, but if you’re already doing good business where you are, there could be a workaround that will help you grow despite certain challenges.
8. Plan Your Finances
Managing finances is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks when starting a small business. Ironically, finances is also one of the most important parts of running your business (after all, the ultimate goal of your business is to make a profit).
In the early stages of growing your small business, you have to be very careful about how you spend your money. Some investments are worthwhile and will help your business flourish, while other expenses might be unnecessary and eat into your profits.
A lot of online business software tools, such as productivity trackers, financial software and marketing campaign management software exist nowadays. Some of these online tools can be great for your business, but some just won’t be necessary when you’re business is still very small. At the same time, a lot of online tools, such as Hootsuite and Mailchimp offer free accounts with less (but often more than enough) functionality, which can help you get off the ground.
The important thing isn’t to limit your expenses to a minimum, but to limit your expenses to only things that show a good return on your investment.
Another pain point for many new business owners is figuring out taxes and bookkeeping. By hiring a qualified bookkeeping firm to help with all your financial administrative work, you’ll be freeing up a lot of time to focus on your growing your small business.