As a small business, one of the thousands delivering almost 50% of the UK’s GDP, you should resist the kneejerk reaction to slow down – because change can bring opportunity.
While others act cautiously, seize this moment as a chance to prosper. Now is the time to make positive shifts that will benefit your business later, position you for future success and see you come out the other side ahead of your (slower, more cautious) competition.
The rapid progression of technology brings with it huge opportunities to grow effectively. Why should small businesses miss out on the clear advantages that adopting new tech can give them?
From staying connected in the cloud to streamlining costly processes, the following seven tips will help you to survive and thrive. Keep going to keep growing.
Let’s dive in:
1. Strengthen relationships with existing customers
Whilst most think of growth as reaching new customers (and your competitors will probably be burning cash to reach them, too), research shows that it’s up to 13x easier to keep or sell to an existing one. They bought into your brand previously so will probably already trust and like you – it means half of the hard work’s been done already.
Email marketing - using platforms like MailChimp - and social media now mean it’s easier and more immediate than ever to stay connected with customers. Use social media to create personalised content targeted at your potential customers or to deliver offers to reactivate old customers, generating loyalty.
2. Streamline processes
Some processes might be costly and some might take up too much time. Use new tools and software to cut these down and make your business more agile for the future. Mobile apps like Sage and ExpenseIn can take the stress out of filing expenses or submitting invoices whilst platforms like ADP can help to organise, simplify, and streamline the way you manage your entire business, from onboarding new starters to HR admin. You could also try using faster, collaborative platforms like Office 365 for editing documents in the cloud, to increase online efficiency.
There’s an app or piece of software for almost everything. It’s time to explore.
3. Build your online presence
Getting your business online makes it easy to put it in front of people. A website gives potential customers access to you 24/7.
But make sure it’s fully optimised. Getting onto Google’s first page of search results is the pinnacle of online brand visibility: it’s the world’s largest traffic source for businesses. To get there, your SEO (search engine optimisation) needs to be exact and, with 5.4 billion searches happening every day, it’s worth investing in. There are some great resources out there like Moz and Backlinko that can help you get started yourself. And if you’re already steaming ahead with your SEO, data analytics tools, like Handle, can help you to assess how well you’re doing.
4. Be active on social media
Whilst people actively search for businesses on Google, they might stumble across them on social media. It’s free to set up a social media page, such as Facebook and Twitter, and often the fastest and easiest way for customers to communicate with you.
Most platforms are easy to use and get started – just make sure you decide on a strategy before you do. As part of this, crucially, you’ll need to be active on social because, well, we all know how it feels to be ignored, right? With word-of-mouth a huge new business driver for small businesses, generating a genuine connection (and, therefore, loyalty) with customers can really help.
5. Look abroad for growth
This 2016 report provides encouraging results, showing that top SMEs have increased their overseas sales by an average of 84% a year, over the last two years.
While it might sound like the impossible, technology can turn an overseas market into a local one. It opens up the global supply chain for small businesses. For example, eCommerce platforms are connecting foreign markets while payment platforms, like Worldpay, are reducing international transfers and payments from days to minutes.
6. Happy staff, healthy business
It’s important to keep staff happy. Flexible working increases productivity and improves work/life balance.
Switching to a cloud-based VoIP phone system provides greater flexibility, allowing employees to take calls and collaborate from wherever they can get an internet connection. You can share ideas and host meetings without the need to travel. And, although a faceless email can be quick and great for initial introductions, voice calls build trust which, in business (and an increasingly online marketplace), is crucially important.
7. Discover new funding
Why do we think of banks as the only source of funding?
There are other ways to raise money for your business if you get a little more digital with your approach. Try stating your case on crowdfunding platforms, like CrowdCube or Kickstarter, where friends, family and even people you’ve never met can donate money to become investors in return for rewards (rewards that you can choose, from free products to equity). There are also online networks, such as Entrepreneurial Spark, and Angels Den, that connect business angels with companies looking for investment.
These tips should help. Although times may be uncertain, the things you’d usually do are actually the things that will keep your business growing. While competitors tighten the purse strings, there may be an opportunity to innovate and broaden your reach to other markets or improve your offering. And, when things do settle down, you’ll want to make sure you’ve come out the other side ahead, with the advantage.
So what are you waiting for? Go thrive.
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