A New Year, equals new opportunity.
On a quick personal note, when I owned and operated a brick and mortar small business location in NY, I always believed the New Year to not only be a time for “personal resolutions” but also a clean slate for “business resolutions” as well.
With that in mind, another year is here and I presume that many entrepreneurs, small business owners, CEOs, self employed contractors or any business oriented individual that sees everyday as an opportunity towards growth are looking at this year as another clean slate to build their dreams into a evolving and profitable business .
So what does it take to improve your business for online growth and beyond? How will you grow it? What habits will you let go? And most of all, how will you be successful?
Despite my focus being online marketing and development in recent years, these recommendations can be applied (and should be applied) to both online business and off.
1st Way to Improve Your Business Small Business
STOP BEING COMFORTABLE
I see this alot in business owners that have “an established business” that customers “know them already”. But this mindset is not only dangerous, but potentially lethal. Mainly because the business owner “thinks they have a lockdown”. However the state of affairs in today’s market is that it’s like the wild west now. You can source just about any product or service from anywhere. You may have “the customers” but it only takes 1 newcomer to rattle your cages with better services, prices and usability. And when I mean useability, I am talking about whether it’s the ease of placing an order with a modern and easy to use B2B e-commerce website interface or your sales force not properly connecting with clients that perhaps have different buyers, owners or new decision makers in town.
Even the slightest of disconnection or friction can open the door to your “existing customers” running astray to a potential other company for their products or services that have their act up to speed for the current year and beyond.
I’ve seen companies with “power clients” shut their doors or downsize because they were comfortable with their business and sought not to search and destroy new business, opportunities or enhancements to their daily business operations.
2nd Way to Improve Your Business Online
EMBRACE YOUR ONLINE PROFILE
Now I say “online profile” because depending on your type of business product or service, your online marketing efforts may be different to achieve what you want. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you want “more customers”.
At this point, if you aren’t doing some type of online or digital marketing, then I can guarantee you that you are losing business to your competition that has embraced their “online profile” by doing social marketing, seo optimization on their website, video marketing, or even targeted email communication to their already existing customer base (something I see brick and mortar stores totally bypass).
And most of all… OWN YOUR BRAND! And when I say own your brand, I am talking about having a full stranglehold on your online profile. Because those that don’t “own their brand” will be at the mercy of aggregators like Yelp, Yellow Pages and other local directory companies controlling your potential clients that are already looking for you. I’ve seen this way too often where because a brand that with just 2 or 3 locations did not embrace their online profile, then needed some heavy online reputation repair for a handful of customers out of the 1000’s that they served without friction. And in the long run, even just 1 or 2 negative opinions can stray a potential customer from even calling you.
3rd Way to Improve your Business Online
CREATE EXCITEMENT or COMMUNITY
People love experiences. And your brand needs to create excitement or community. Now you might be thinking that “community” is just for the online space, or “excitement” is just for bars or clubs. But really, it’s not.
I remember when I had a lull in retail store sales due to a shift in the economy, and another competitor (a large brand by the way) opened up literally down the street. We couldn’t compete on price of our products, and our competitors even had exclusive products we could not get our hands on. But we had one thing that they never had.
We had Community and Excitement!
When the sales were low we decided to snail mail all of our customers to let them know we were having a “customer appreciation BBQ”. That’s right! We had live music, small BBQ’s and a sale with about 20% off. That day, we did as much in sales as a holiday sales rush. We had people not even interested in what we were selling, but wanted to stop by to see what all the “excitement” was about, and it led to people talking about our “customer party” for months! This shindig costs us less than a half page ad in a local paper, and had longevity to boot! Therefore every time someone wanted something, they came to our store first because it gave us the “community cool factor”.
So get creative, and build some excitement into your business. Because if you aren’t excited about your company, how do you expect others to be?
Final Way to Improve Your Business Online (But Not Really Final)
Learn Delegation & Learn to Do it Well
This is an art that can be perfected to no end. When I was in retail, delegation was me trying to effectively train people to handle things that “only I thought I could handle”, now it’s become even tougher. Mainly due to all the distractions in our day to day lives, doing something so simple as picking up lunch for the office can ride off the rails.
Everything now has to be delegated. From checking your email, to “making your important calls”. If I didn’t delegate a specific time frame and allot a set amount of time to check emails, then I would literally spend 1/3 of the day responding to emails with no forward momentum. I know in the back of my mind that “people want a timely response”, but a back and forth email may not result for a meeting of the minds for a few days anyway. So why spend a whole day to “make it another day”.
Whether it’s checking your social media or responding to that text message, you will need to continue to hone your attention and delegate time for yourself (or others) to handle these tasks. As the proverbial “inbox” can lead to an ultimate distraction of continual “life updates” that may lead those astray in trying to grow your business.
Just because your “used to doing it” does not mean you need to keep doing it. Just like a good online marketer does A/B testing, don’t be afraid to A/B test your delegation duties.
As another year passes, so can your potential for more business. Make an action plan now for improving your small business both online and off.