January is often a slow time for many small businesses – a time to give yourself the 10,000-foot view of your business to evaluate honestly how 2018 was for you, what you can be doing better, and most importantly what you can do to grow your business in 2019. We get it because we’re a small business too!
Here are six ideas to help you build your small business in the New Year.
Research Your Market
What are the trends? What is your competition doing differently – and perhaps better? What could you be doing better? The best way to find out is to do your market research. Try to find the companies that are in direct competition with you first, as these will be the companies targeting the same customer base as you.
However, you can also go further afield to get new ideas. For example, if you are a skateboard shop in New York, see what they are doing in Los Angeles or Portland or Miami. You may be able to bring some of their ideas into your own shop that will seem fresh and new in your city.
Reach More Customers
Seems obvious, but the fact is that a surprising number of small businesses do not put much consideration into marketing. Part of it is that they are overworked, spending long hours just serving the customers they already have! (That’s important by the way – it’s much easier and less expensive to keep a current customer than to find a new one.)
The other part is that marketing intimidates them. That’s okay too, but you shouldn’t let it stop you. There are people out there who can help you with everything from new business cards and signage to websites, social media marketing, and event planning. You don’t have to go to the big marketing firms either. Just do a search for “marketing company” and the name of your city, and you’ll find several smaller companies you can partner with for short- or long-term marketing campaigns.
Learn Social Media
There are a wide variety of opinions when it comes to social media marketing. Our experience has been this: it works for smaller companies who are prepared to put some time into it. Facebook and Twitter may be confusing or even downright repulsive to you. But when done correctly, social media marketing can be one of the most cost-effective methods of reaching your market. If it is too overwhelming, there are social media marketing companies out there who can do it for you. Or, you can get the best of both worlds by hiring a firm to teach you (or one of your employees) how to do it right. It might be the best marketing investment you make!
Sponsor Local Charity Events
Supporting local charities through sponsorships of cash, prizes, or in-kind gifts is a great way to get your name out there. Often, these events promote their sponsors in their advertising and signage. There may also be opportunities to reach participants directly through coupons or gifts in swag bags or by leaving business cards on dinner tables, etc. These sponsorship opportunities help boost your own community AND they are usually tax deductible, so it’s a win-win-win for everyone. Just be sure to ask how your company will be recognized, how many people will be attending the event, and what opportunities there are to reach them directly to ensure it’s a good fit for you.
Improve the Customer Experience
A good way to ensure customers return tomorrow is to give them a great experience today. Take a look at where you might be able to improve the experience. For example, Tiffany’s has baby blue boxes and bags designed to be as meaningful as the diamond inside. David’s Teas lets you smell the aroma and their sales associates explain the blends in intricate, poetic detail making every tea hard to resist.
The best place to start is from your own customers’ feedback. Review comment cards and see if common themes come up. If you don’t have comment cards, you can print some or create an online comment card. You can also hire a marketing firm (see above) who specializes in small business to help give you that all-important outside perspective and problem-solve for you.
Find Time to Do It
Ah, that’s always the tricky one! The thing is, there is always time to be found. Part of being a small business owner is that you are left doing everything – “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” isn’t far from the truth! However, there are probably many tasks that you could outsource to another small business. Things like bookkeeping, writing business letters, even market research and marketing itself can be done by other people – professionals who in many cases can do it faster and better. This will free you up to concentrate on the things you want to do. Yes, it will be an expense, but it is also an investment in your business (and a tax write-off, to boot). It will pay dividends in the long run as you are able to grow your business.
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