Even at the best of times, small businesses can be threatened by a broad range of obstacles. But a global pandemic has made everything that much trickier.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak uncertainty for many small business owners. But there are reasons for optimism. According to Business Insider, the US economy will grow 3.5%% this quarter and might even return to pre-crisis levels of output in the second quarter.
In short, all is not lost. CEO Magazine presents 12 tips to help your small business thrive in 2021:
As a small business, you may know your best customers by name. If you can, rank them by attribute (e.g. those who spend the most), and then make a list through which they can be contacted for reorders. Are there specific products they tend to buy more? With the right accounting software, it’s easy to browse a database of customers and their purchases.
- Nurture word-of-mouth recommendations
Loyal customers will spread the news. They will recommend you via channels such as social media and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. It’s well documented, for example, that people trust their friends’ opinions over company marketing. To nurture their support, comment on the reviews they post online to show interest in their opinions. Also consider offering them a referral discount on their next purchase.
- Make agility part of your small business culture
The year 2020 really taught us the importance of a business being able to roll with the punches and being prepared for anything. Simply put, nobody saw COVID-19 coming and many organizations, large and small, struggled to deal with the aftershocks. Agility means a number of things: revisiting your business plan, preparing for a worst-case scenario, and adopting practices that make your business more efficient. Tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can free up management from routine tasks and save you time and money.
- Targeted use of social media advertising
Be creative, and make use of the online tools available. Facebook offers lookalike audience targeting, helping you find the people who match the profile of your existing customers. Facebook ads are also seamlessly converted to Instagram ads. Targeting is the primary benefit of social media advertising because you can request criteria such as education, financial status, ethnic affinity, and life events, among others.
If your traditional market is struggling because of the pandemic or other factors, are there other potential markets you could try? Have you tried expanding your geographical reach beyond your town or city? Conversely, if your market is too bread, it may be better to narrow it.
- Automate business processes
Today there is an increasingly wide range of apps available to lighten the burden of paperwork within your business. For example, are you struggling to keep up with paper receipts? Get a receipt app.
- Lean on your accountant for support
You may not want your employees, customers, or partners knowing the financial risks present in your business, so lean on a trusted accountant. A good accountant can really help you navigate the rocky road ahead, so have one on speed dial to make sense of what can often be confusing applications and updates to legislation.
- Set up subscription-paid services for customers
Depending on your business model, set up recurring subscription-based services for your customers which make it easier for both parties to get their goods on a regular cycle. To incentivize them, is there a small discount you could offer for recurring purchases?
Never be afraid to ask both staff and friends and family for their opinion on what you could do better. Employees can be a particularly rich source of feedback on issues and solutions within a business.
Lowering your prices in order to become more competitive can mean losses—especially when you’re up against larger competitors with more resources. So beat them using superior service, product mix, product knowledge, or post-sale support. Your customers will thank you for it.