Business success is a tricky thing, with a lot of influential factors involved. As Sage’s latest global small business survey found, businesses feel threatened by all sorts of obstacles: elections, currency fluctuations, international markets, and even changes in tourism.
Luckily, there is a lot that’s still under your control to ensure your business succeeds. Here are some of our top survival tips for small businesses.
#1: Rank customers on key attributes
Possibly you know your best customers by name, especially if you are a small business with few customers or sell mainly to businesses rather than the general public. If you can, rank these customers on one attribute (let’s say “spend the most”), then generate a list so you can contact them for reorders. If you use accounting software, then it’s easy to sort all your customers quickly.
#2: Create brand advocates
Happy, loyal customers will go on to tell their friends. They will post about you on social media, which is free advertising. People trust their friends’ opinions over a company’s marketing efforts.
#3: Use targeted Facebook ads
Facebook advertising offers look-alike audience targeting. Using your existing customer database, Facebook looks through its database and finds people who match the profile of your existing customers. You can then create ads that are targeted at this look-alike audience.
#4: Refine your social-marketing advertising
Targeting is the number-one benefit of using social media, because when you are setting up your ads, you can request criteria such as education, financial status, ethnic affinity, and life events. You may get fewer people seeing your ad when you narrow your criteria, but lower numbers are outweighed by the benefits of reaching more of the people you most want to learn about your business.
#5: Diversify the markets you serve
If your traditional market is struggling, can you try other markets? For example, you might find success in the next town or by changing your marketing focus. If your market is too broad (for example, people living within a one-hour drive), it may be better to narrow it to “female accountants who own condos in the downtown core.” You may discover a new market.
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#6: Sync with customer budget cycles
If you’re dealing with a government department or large corporation, it can help to find out when they plan their budgets for the next year so you can make your sales pitch when they are deciding what to spend their money on in the future.
#7: Maintain financial confidentiality
Be careful with who knows about your financial situation. You may not want your employees, customers and suppliers knowing that the business needs an injection of cash because it could affect their confidence in your company. Maintain confidentiality as you seek financing solutions.
#8: Get your business valued
If you sell your business’ shares to investors, your business will need to be valued, though this is not often as easy as it sounds. The National Federation of Independent Business has more information on valuing your business. You can also speak to your accountant for help in this area.
#9: Ask for feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask your staff, or even friends and family questions on what they think is going wrong. Often employees are instinctively aware of issues (and solutions) in the business.
#10: Be better than the competition
It’s much easier to be competitive if you solve a customer’s problem better than the competition. Focus on the benefits you provide, not the features. If you were selling electric drills, it’s not the drill you are selling – it’s the hole.
#11: Don’t charge less, offer more
Lowering your price in order to compete is a losing proposition – especially against larger competitors with deeper pockets. Instead, beat them using superior service, product mix, product knowledge, or post-sale support.
There are smart people out there ready to support you. Be open to listening to others and accepting their advice.