Starting a business takes commitment, tenacity, and hard work as you strive to become one of the third of businesses that ultimately survives and thrives.
If you’re a business owner that is currently launching or has already launched a small business, here are a few crucial tips to help you keep your eyes on the prize.
Prioritize Customer Service
No matter what industry, size, or stage of business you’re in, it’s always important to put the customer first. This doesn’t just apply to one part of the sales process, either. It’s wise to strive to maintain a customer-centric view throughout all of your business endeavors — including your customer service.
On the one hand, quality customer service can have a huge impact on your business’s success. Good service can lead to:
- Positive customer reviews.
- Satisfied customers that provide repeat business.
- Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.
- Improved brand awareness and a better brand image.
On the other hand, poor customer service can have a variety of negative impacts on your company, such as:
- Discouraging customers from patronizing your company in the future (or even for the first time if they haven’t made a purchase yet.)
- Negative reviews that deter other potential customers.
- A tarnished brand reputation.
With all of this in mind, it’s essential that you craft the highest-quality customer service experience possible.
This starts with setting clear, company-wide customer service standards. This should address things like brand voice and tone, access to helpful resources, and formulas for how to handle customer requests, complaints, and feedback with consistency.
In addition, it should address the necessary need for continual learning amongst your customer service staff. This should include training on new products and procedures. It should also invest in proper certification and licensing for any customer service representatives.
For instance, if you provide a general contracting service, you want to have a system in place to keep employee training and licensing up to date and predictably consistent. This will help to ensure that your customers are always offered the highest quality service possible.
Create Buzz About Your Business
While small businesses may lack the multi-million dollar budgets that larger corporations possess, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of making a marketing splash. In fact, in the 21st-century there are plenty of ways for smaller operations to create a buzz.
For instance, if you’re a contractor, start a program that offers discounts or rebates for word-of-mouth referrals from previous customers. You can also look into options like radio ads or billboards in your local region.
It’s also a good idea to create an online presence, as well. This is important for local, regional, national, and international businesses alike. For geographically limited businesses and contractors, use tools like your website content, local business listings, and online directories to dominate local search engine optimization (SEO) searches within your industry.
If you have a bigger customer focus, you can still utilize the same online marketing tools with a larger scope. For instance, 49% of the global population has a social media account, making it a prime online location to cultivate a national or even a global community of existing and potential clientele. In addition, SEO can still be powerfully effective even if you’re chasing visitors from all over the nation or the world.
Concerns like customer acquisition and brand awareness are clearly priorities as you attempt to grow your business. However, no matter how successful you are in finding and attracting customers, you won’t be able to do very much to meet their needs if you don’t have an organized, efficient, and productive company with which to do so.
Organization can be immensely challenging for small business owners, especially as they attempt to attend to a myriad of different tasks and responsibilities. A few suggestions for ways to bring order to the chaos include:
- Utilizing technology in the form of workflow platforms, scheduling apps, and even spreadsheets to track income, expenses, meetings, and so on.
- Keeping a careful record of all of your documentation, such as certificates of insurance, legal forms, professional licenses, and other paperwork all in an easy-to-access location.
- Delegating menial tasks to employees and hiring contractors to provide professional expertise when necessary.
By remaining organized, you can prevent wasting time and resources as you go about your daily business activities.
Hire the Right Employees
Building a great team is much harder than it sounds. The hiring process can be a grueling, exhausting, and expensive affair — the average hire costs over $4,000.
If you want to affordably find and hire the right employees, it’s important that you go about the process the right way:
- Create a hiring strategy that considers what you need to accomplish and what an ideal candidate would look like. This includes qualifications, such as ensuring that a tradesman is licensed, bonded, and insured and is appropriately licensed to perform their trade. It also requires considering how each new hire would best fit into your workplace culture).
- Create a benefits package that balances what you can afford as a business while also enticing qualified applicants — don’t be afraid to lean on affordable perks like remote work and flexible hours in your job descriptions.
- Strive to prioritize a quality work environment, employee health and wellness, and opportunities for professional development in order to retain quality talent.
By taking the time to hire the right employees, you can reduce turnover rates, attract quality talent, and cultivate a workforce that is invested, empowered, and effective.
Understand Risks and Rewards
Every business venture has its own risks and rewards. Some are commonplace, such as the potential to make a lot of money or go bankrupt. Others are specific to each industry. A general contractor, for instance, must take on physical risks and jump through hoops to remain licensed, insured, and bonded if they want to continue to operate as a business.
While it may seem trivial, if you want to succeed in your field over the long-term, it’s crucial that you slow down and consider the risk and reward factors at stake as you go forward.
Analyze Your Competition
Finally, never overlook the competition. If you have a competitor in your industry or region, the worst thing that you can do is ignore them. Instead, take the time to study and analyze their operations. While you likely won’t be able to see many of the details, you can make two primary observations:
- What are they doing that seems to be succeeding?
- What activities have they tried that have clearly led to sub-par results?
These two perspectives can be applied to everything from a rival’s product offerings to their website and even their customer service. Look for the lessons that can be gleaned and then apply them to your own business.