It’s good news/bad news for the small business owner this year. Many small businesses expect to see revenues grow in 2013, but many are also finding it harder to run a business than five years ago according to a survey by Constant Contact. Top concerns among these business decision-makers are the stalled economy and keeping pace with technology. Overcoming these challenges is important to all of us as small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs and account for 54 percent of all US sales.
Responses from the survey reflect what many of us already know: it’s tough doing business these days. In addition to the economy and keeping pace with technology, 40 percent of small business owners are concerned about direct competition. Fortunately social sites, online tools and a go local attitude are positive trends that are easily utilized by small businesses to increase revenue and create customer loyalty.
Get busy with these 5 activities:
Get Social – social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest can be a great way to engage customers and share photos and events. You don’t have to be a superstore to post daily and gather a following. To encourage more participation, hold an online contest or invite customers to your page to see daily “pop-up” specials.
Check out Online Tools – There are all kinds of online tools available that can help you connect with your customers, and many are free. Use Survey Monkey to create and distribute a survey to your customers. Survey Monkey offers templates and easy to follow instructions and in minutes you’ll have a link to email out to your contacts. A survey can help you identity what you’re doing right…and what needs improvement. There’s no charge for the basic service.
A blog is a great way to generate leads. Use Wordpress web software (free download!) to create a professional looking website or blog to bring attention to your business. Offer informative articles, links or recipes to keep your audience coming back.
Google has several tools to assist businesses and an important one is Google Places. Help customers find your business by submitting your business' contact information and being included in Google’s online business listing directory.
Go Local – The survey found that over half of the respondents felt that being locally owned and operated is a major reason why customers supported their business. Media events such as Small Business Saturday are bringing more attention to locally owned businesses and shine a light on how these businesses impact a community. Consider working with other local business to spread the word. Volunteering or sponsoring local events and charities is another way to increase awareness right in your neighborhood and can result in lasting business relationships.
Keep Informed – Taking the time to stay current on trends, technology and current events can translate into increased sales. If the weather channel is forecasting a long hot spell, set up a display of sunglasses or beach ware. If trends indicate your customers are shopping online, optimize your website for ecommerce.
Keeping informed also means keeping your customers informed. Set up a customer email list to let them know when sales are on or when new seasonal merchandise is available.
Differentiate Your Business – Do something your competitor doesn’t, such as extended hours of operation, a concierge service, delivery or payment options such as Multiple Check. See about offering onsite demonstrations or online videos that let you share your expertise and distinguish your business as an expert provider. Use your size to your advantage; less can be more for customers who want personalized service from a well-trained staff or the owner. Something as simple as complementary gift-wrapping, a customer newsletter or a free consultation can make your business stand out.
Looking for more information? The Internet is a great source for tips, forums, blogs and videos, to help your business grow. Be sure to check out these links to get started.
How’s your business going? If you have tips, challenges or advice to share, please let us know in the comments box below.