According to stats published in 2019 by the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 20% of startups fail in the first year, while half go under within five years.
Here are some tips and tricks for keeping the lights on so you can avoid being just another statistic:
1) Be flexible with changes.
Agile businesses can quickly pivot in response to changing market conditions, while the slow movers struggle not to become obsolete. Lean into your data and be willing to change course. Listen to customer feedback and don’t be too wedded to your own opinions.
For example, let’s say you’ve conducted interviews with prospective customers and it turns out your product isn’t well-received or the market for it is too small. Don’t cling to a business idea that won’t float. Be willing to change your business model or pricing strategy if your current approach isn’t working for you.
If your website isn’t attracting enough traffic, you may need to ditch that outdated WordPress template you love and debut a more responsive design.
2) Automate processes
Automating repeatable tasks saves time and ensures small things don’t fall through the cracks. Recently met a prospective client at a networking event? Use your CRM tool to automatically follow up with new contacts within 24 hours or send emails to new leads who visit your website. Use accounting software to automate your day-to-day bookkeeping so you don’t waste time on data entry.
3) Keep your Human approach
Small businesses are uniquely positioned to offer a personal touch — especially if you have a small team or run the company yourself. Handwritten thank-you notes go a long way. Or, you can include a simple gift alongside the purchase or offer freebies in exchange for reviews.
4) Optimize your website
Your website is the seat of your operations — it’s how new leads discover your products, and, unless you run a physical store, the sole method for people to buy from you.
Treat it as sacrosanct. Keep the design clean and simple — limit colors, banner ads and pop-ups — and invest time in proper SEO. Before you build a website, put some serious thought into branding. Branding builds trust and differentiates you from your competitors.
Use high-quality images (stock images don’t build trust) and hire a professional to take photos of all your products. Also, write thorough product descriptions — focus on product benefits, highlight key features and, where possible, tell a story.
5 Share content of value and measure the results
Post unique photos of your business and your employees on social media — people prefer human faces and real, behind-the-scenes footage over stock photos or videos.
Web analytics, social media, CRM and financial analytics provide a readout on business performance.
For example, if your website is converting leads, how many potential customers you are attracting each month, whether or not people like your social media content and whether you’re spending more money than you’re bringing in.
If analytics intimidate you, here are a few starting points to get you going:
– Use your CRM data to understand your customers: What are their buying habits? What is the average order value? What are they likely to purchase next?
– Assess the health of your website: What is the overall website bounce rate? Which product pages generate the most/least conversions? Use heat maps to understand areas where people tend to hover on your web pages.
– Determine whether social media works for you: Which posts have the most/least engagement? If you use shoppable social media posts, what is the ROI?
5) Don’t forget the importance of Customer Support
In most industries — especially retail — businesses compete on the customer experience rather than the product. Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with a real human on social media, messaging apps, email or even by phone.
Remember, a small business should be accessible. There is no excuse to present like a faceless corporation. If orders take time to fill or you’re creating a custom item, keep your customers informed of the process and manage their expectations accordingly.
If customers do complain, use active listening to understand their pain points, investigate the root cause and offer a resolution that matters to them.
Business success looks different for every entrepreneur depending on the type of business you run. Business owners should set regular goals that evolve as the business grows. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Do it! and learn from them so that you and your company can evolve.