You know what they say about doing things the right way? It usually ends up being the easiest way too! Though this may not seem immediately obvious, it’s true — especially when you’re running your own small business.
Create a marketing plan
Even if you're starting your business solo, it's important to formalize a plan—ideally, in writing. One of your main priorities should be creating a marketing plan that outlines how you'll attract new customers.
This doesn't have to be complicated or extensive; in fact, a simple one-page document works best. Before launching any promotional campaigns, add them to your plan so you know how they fit into an overall strategy. If there are things outside of your control (e.g., social media algorithms), then outline contingencies and potential outcomes.
Use Business Software
Are you looking to run your business smoothly? Are you tired of spending hours and hours creating spreadsheets, writing invoices, and monitoring orders? If so, it’s time to move your business into the 21st century.
Most small businesses are able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year by using apps, websites, or other software designed specifically for them. You don’t have to hire a full-time employee—and can use technology instead.
It's often said that systems beat skill sets, and nowhere is that more true than in small businesses. Having solid, standard processes (or best practices) can make your business run smoothly and help you identify and eliminate inefficiencies.
Start by writing down everything you do in a given day—and then figure out how to automate at least two of those tasks. Not only will you be more productive, but your business will run more efficiently, too.
Hire great employees
Finding and hiring great employees is one of your most important jobs as a business owner. If you can’t find or attract talented workers, your business won’t succeed, no matter how brilliant your strategy or tactics.
It doesn’t matter if you run a global corporation or a corner store; finding great employees means attracting talent that fits with your company culture and then convincing them to join—and it all starts with an effective job listing.
Get customers in the door
If you’re looking to build a new business from scratch, it helps to have customers lined up. To make sure you don’t scare them away or lose them in your first week, follow these best practices.
Start small: It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s often easier to get going with a smaller customer base than a larger one. If you start off small and take care of your customers well, they’ll come back—and they might bring their friends with them!
Monitor your competition
It’s smart to keep an eye on your competition—but you don’t have to obsess over it. In fact, obsessing over what your competitors are doing can even be detrimental; they may simply be going after a similar audience in a different way.
Instead of worrying about why your competitor is succeeding, just do what you do best and make sure that you’re offering customers something better than anyone else.
Measure your success
Before investing a lot of time, money, and energy into your business idea, get a sense of how you’ll measure success. Without knowing where you’re going and how you’ll know when you arrive, it’s easy to feel lost along the way. When starting out as an entrepreneur, it can be all too easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and forget about your end goal: What does success look like? How will you define it? How will you track it? These are just some of the questions that should be addressed before forging ahead.
Remember, if there’s no clear indicator for success or failure—or at least a good plan for measuring each—you run the risk of wandering around aimlessly without really knowing whether or not you’re making progress toward your goals.
Follow up with clients
In business, relationships with existing clients are everything. These customers have already placed their trust in you and have developed a level of familiarity with your company; they’re also willing to recommend you to other people.
For these reasons and more, it’s crucial that small businesses follow up with past clients on a regular basis. Aim to touch base with your best clients at least twice per year—once after placing an order, once during off-season—and ask if there are additional products or services they might need in addition to what you currently offer.
Whether they need help addressing a particular problem or opening an additional location, making yourself available provides another opportunity for repeat business down the road. You may even be able to grow sales beyond current levels simply by recognizing that something is missing from their operation and offering assistance.
Stay focused on growth
With so many things to do, it’s easy to get sidetracked or focused on one area of your business to the exclusion of others. But if you don’t keep an eye on all aspects of your business, you could end up seeing some negative effects over time. To grow properly and make sure that each aspect of your business is as healthy as possible, you should ensure that you focus on these best practices:
1. Balance short-term growth with long-term stability
2. Give customers more than they expect
3. Develop a high-quality product or service offering
4. Make a name for yourself by offering stellar customer service
5. Pay attention to customer needs
Ask for referrals
One of the easiest and most effective ways to grow your business is by encouraging existing customers to refer their friends, family members, and colleagues. Referral marketing has been around for a long time; it’s just that some businesses forget about it or don’t use it as often as they should.
Instead of assuming people know you exist or why they should choose you over competitors, ask your customers directly—or reward them with discounts if they refer someone who becomes a client.