Managing your own small business or becoming an entrepreneur is not an easy task. Small companies often face a lot of challenges in the starting few years. While some manage to survive, other crumble down with the stress. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 20% of small businesses fail at the end of their first year. This number increases to 50% by the fifth year of operation and touches almost 80% in the tenth year of operation.
However, don’t let the statistics dishearten you. No challenge is unbeatable. Simply take a step back, understand the customer pain points, and aim to improve the customer experience. In this blog post, we help you in understanding why your small business is struggling and share tips on how you can fix them to grow your business.
Your marketing efforts are not in the right place
When your business is in trouble, and you’re not sure where to start your investigation, we recommend starting by inspecting your marketing efforts. Marketing is one of the most important aspects of your business. When you’re confident about your product/service, then you simply need to find the right audience who’s looking for it.
Please note there is no universal strategy that will work for your business because no two businesses are alike, and we will not suggest to you any quick fixes. But we will equip you with the right tools and give you a starting direction to help you focus your efforts:
You don’t know how to reach customers beyond your local community
You have set up your business, your office and your team in place. You also have a few customers to start with, but your business is still expanding in a limited way. It’s time to focus your efforts on increasing the visibility of your business both online and offline. Try to get more visibility for your small business with activities like creating your own business website, investing time in growing your network, starting social media marketing, and focusing on content marketing.
Your business is limited to offline activities so you do not have any digital presence
It’s possible that your business has a physical location outlet or you sell tangible products. You may believe that you do not need to spend any time/efforts in creating a website or adding your business online but you would be wrong in this case. Nowadays, customers spend a lot of their time online on their laptops and mobile devices and are often looking for recommendations for which products/services can solve their problems.
You can start your digital marketing setup by claiming your free websites on business directory portals like Yelp, Google My Business, etc. Next, acquaint yourself with the basics of digital marketing with the help of some free online marketing courses. These courses will spark new ideas and give purpose to your previously haphazard marketing efforts. Since one size fits all doesn’t work in marketing, choose the ideas that are most relevant to your business & industry.
You have completed the basic steps but still not getting enough traffic
When you have an established business which has been around for years, creating a website or claiming some free listings may be something you have already done a few years ago. At this stage, you should consider exploring search engine optimization techniques to make it easier for search engines to find your business. SEO may sound like a difficult technical concept, but it’s simply a process of creating content that is easily understood by the search engines and content relevant to what your customers are searching for. If you’re new to SEO, then you can get started easily with the free SEO guide by Backlinko. This guide gives you a step-by-step process of how you can improve the website content and how to reach out to a bigger audience by optimizing your content.
- Leverage your community
Once you have started optimizing your content, focus on leveraging your community and networking with more people from your community. Find out about local meetups and networking opportunities and connect with people to spread a word about your business product/service. Don’t forget to follow-up in order to build long-term relationships with the people you meet.
Your product/service doesn’t serve a need
You need to tailor your marketing efforts to suit your customer’s requirements, but do you even know who your customers are and what they need? Conduct market research, talk to your customers, find out their pain points and understand your customer’s needs. If you’re offering a new technology or product, it’s possible that the customers don’t yet realize the need for your product/service.
Don’t worry, you do not need to spend a lot of money to conduct focus groups, but there are easier ways to find out about what your customers need via platforms like Quora, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc. When you explore the kind of questions your customers are asking, and understand the challenges they’re facing, you can better cater your product/service and your marketing efforts to their particular needs.
Once you know what your customers are looking for, create your buyer personas. Buyer persona is essentially a semi-fictional character of your ideal customer. Creating a buyer persona will help you define your strategy in terms of which platforms to choose, what kind of content to create and so on. Once you have a clear idea of your buyer’s character, find out about their journey of decision-making to buy your product/service and focus your marketing efforts to meet their needs at every touchpoint.
Your sales process is disorganized
Irrespective of how talented your sales team is, without a clear roadmap and structured processes, they won’t be able to deliver at their maximum capacity. Organizations which have processes in place and have a structured approach to converting leads perform 18% better than companies that don’t. You’re wondering that if you have a small sales team of only a few people, do you really need to spend time in processes and creating a roadmap? The answer is an astounding yes! Everyone can perform better when they know where to go next and what they’re trying to achieve. Here are some quick tips to organize your sales processes better:
- Start by focusing on delivering a better customer experience: When a new visitor lands on your website and expresses interest in your business, urge them to connect with your sales team or reach out to you at a time convenient to them and to you. You can do this by integrating an appointment booking system into your website. A free system like SuperSaaS can help you get started if you’re a small business and not looking to spend a lot of money to use a booking system.
With the system, you add individual schedules of each staff member, allow them to manage their schedules and sync their personal calendars to avoid clashes with personal commitments. Next, connect the individual schedules together into a single integrated schedule to allow end customers to book a time slot. Adding an appointment booking schedule can help you attract more qualified leads at a time when those leads are really interested in knowing about your product/service.
In the next stage, configure the system to either automatically assign a team member to a customer. You can also choose to share more information of your team members to allow the customers to choose the person they like the most. Define the default length of the time slots taking into consideration the time to cover the product/service demo and the time to answer a few of the customer’s questions. Don’t forget to automatically add buffer time between appointments, so your sales team doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
Go a step further in understanding your customer’s requirements by requesting more details using custom forms. This will also allow your sales team to have a better understanding of the customers demands, and they can be prepared accordingly. The system sends automated email/SMS reminders so the customer or the sales team member doesn’t forget about the appointment. You can use a text messaging service for business to set up these. Automate the process of connecting with customers and show them that you’re dedicated to delivering a great customer experience to them across all touchpoints.
- Automate smaller tasks for your sales leads: You managed to get a lot of visitors on your website, but does more traffic always results in more sales leads and increased revenue? Not necessarily. You first need to assess if your lead generation process is effective or in vain. Take steps to identify which leads are more relevant and give them more attention to help them in becoming a paying customer sooner.
You can use free tools like the Hubspot CRM (to track which stage your leads are in and to automatically follow-up with them), Slack (for internal communication), MailChimp (to automate your emails), Hootsuite (to automatically share content on social media) and so on.
- Learn from experiences, document the learnings and reiterate: Successful sales teams continuously learn from their experiences and refine their processes to improve their conversion rates. Encourage your sales team to look at measurable data and help them to understand the factors that are needed for success.
Everytime you convert a new customer, identify the top 5 factors that helped you win the deal and list down at least 3 areas for a scope of improvement. Encourage the team to deliver a better customer experience in these areas of weakness. Learning and reiterating the process will help you achieve success faster and at a much faster pace.
- Share feedback from existing customers to motivate your team: Returning customers are always more powerful and less expensive than new customers. Request feedback from customers and improve on weak areas wherever possible. Share customer testimonials with your sales team and motivate them with incentives and awards. Even if you do not offer a lot of monetary benefits, encourage your sales team in front of other employees so they always feel uplifted and motivated.
You’re not listening to your customers
You may believe your product/service is superior to others available in the marketplace, but do your customers think so too? You need to tell your customers why you’re different from the other product/services in the market and why they should buy your products over others.
Often customers are habitual of buying some particular brands, but if you tell them how your product/service is superior to others you’re giving them a reason to try your services. Here’s a quick list of 101 marketing ideas you can adapt for your business. There’a a lot of stuff you can do, but only you will know better what works for your business and what not. Use the guide to decide which combination of marketing activities including branding, content marketing, online marketing, advertising, networking, teaching, customer service, etc. you want to undertake for your business.
Your customers don’t see the difference between you & your customers
You decided to start your business after identifying a gap in the market, and because you believed your product/service can deliver a better customer experience and fill this gap. You’re confident about your product, but you’re still struggling to expand your market. This may be because your customers do not see your unique selling points or understand what makes you stand apart from your competitors.
Identify your customer’s biggest challenges and focus your marketing communications in explaining them how your product/service solves these challenges and how your solution is different from others in the market. In order to create a strong USP (unique selling point) also research the unique selling point of your competitors. No customers is looking to change their product/service but if they see a better solution which fits their needs and matches their use case then they would at least be willing to give your product/service a try.
Create a differentiation and amplify the differentiating points in all your interactions with external customers as well. When you proudly present your company the potential customers also tend to build more trust in your business.
Don’t forget that the most important USP of your business is you. You are the core differentiator of your business and you do things differently. Continue to put in your best efforts and never lose sight of the long-term goal in all your efforts. Your business may be struggling now, but tides do not stay the same forever. Believe in yourself and continue to put in your best efforts to grow your business, and you’re bound to succeed. Power to you!