It’s easy to spot the differences between a small business and a larger corporation. From the number of employees to regional reach, marketing budgets, and revenue and expenses, there are many different factors that set the two categories of business apart.
Nevertheless, there are many lessons that small business owners can learn from big businesses, especially when it comes to increasing income, trimming the budget, staying efficient, and saving money, in general.
Listen to Your Customers
If you aren’t satisfying the needs of your customer consistently and effectively, you’ll eventually lose their business.
Big businesses tend to this critical aspect of success by actively looking for ways to listen to their customers. They provide phone lines and emails for customer support, use social media to answer questions, and utilize surveys to proactively set up feedback loops and improve products.
Small business owners can emulate this activity fairly easily these days, as technology has provided affordable access to things like email, social media, and even surveys. Garnering feedback from your customers is an essential way to improve your offerings, increase customer satisfaction, and ultimately generate more income regardless of the size of your business.
Leaders of big businesses are experts at activities like delegating responsibilities and outsourcing labor. Why? Because they know that they cannot do everything themselves.
Small business owners often struggle with this concept since, in practice, they often actually can do everything required to run their company in-house, or even by themselves. A survey of small business owners and outsourcing practices revealed that 49% were likely to manage payroll, 42% were heavily involved in sales, 40% were hands-on with marketing, and the list goes on.
If small business owners want to succeed and grow in an effective manner, they must take a page out of the big business playbook and consider how they can pass off various tasks in a cost-effective manner. At times, this can mean hiring an employee, although for smaller amounts of work, such as payroll or building maintenance, that can quickly become too expensive. When this is the case, you may want to consider outsourcing the labor to a professional. Hiring a freelancer to create website content or subcontracting building repairs to a licensed contractor with their own liability insurance is a great way to affordably and effectively get things done.
Invest in Technology
Many companies have invested millions of dollars into a variety of different tech tools, including:
- Cloud-based solutions: Collaborative platforms or contact center as a service software (CCaaS) help to streamline activity and increase employee productivity.
- Online marketing: Websites, social media, email, and other tech solutions have revolutionized marketing.
- Machine learning and AI: Chatbots are increasingly used on company websites to interact with customers and funnel them towards the best solution.
- Fintech: Direct deposit, accounting software, and payroll processing solutions are all increasingly used to cut costs and speed up accounting activity.
Many of these technologies used to be exclusively available to those with massive budgets and employees trained in very specific niches. However, over time, they have become both accessible and easy for small business owners to use as cost-saving measures in their own businesses.
The age of huge budgets being a requirement for market penetration is in the past. Online marketing has revolutionized the way that promotions and customer interactions take place. It has also leveled the playing field, as big business marketing tactics have come down to a level that is easily accessible to small business owners. For example, small businesses can use big business marketing tactics such as:
- Search engine marketing: Quality content, backlinks, pay per click advertising, and search engine optimization (SEO) are all readily available and can effectively adapt to practically any marketing budget.
- Email marketing: Massive email lists cost money to maintain, but many email hosts allow you to create a smaller list for pennies on the dollar — if not entirely for free.
- Social media marketing: Again, big businesses can pour money into social media marketing, but their basic goals — things like brand awareness, interacting with customers, and creating an online community for their brand — can be accomplished on a smaller scale with zero cost and still-impressive results.
All of these strategies aim to increase income at extremely affordable, often scalable rates. This makes online marketing a slam dunk big business tactic that small businesses can cash in on without trouble.
The cost of renting an office space can often be a huge item on a small business expense report. However, many big businesses are experimenting with 100% remote offices, especially in the wake of the coronavirus. Companies like Shopify, Twitter, and Upwork have committed to a fully virtual workspace, blazing the trail for small businesses to follow in their wake.
This telecommuting, remote-first approach to work can be a huge money saver for small and big businesses alike. It removes the need to pay for a physical space, saves on commuting costs, and even eliminates the effects of illnesses being spread at work.
Big companies have found that going green isn’t just a form of corporate social responsibility, it can also lead to a massive reduction in expenses. For instance, all the way back in 2001, when the world was still run by paper and technology was in its infancy, General Mills reported estimates that it planned on saving as much as $10 billion through digitizing its business processes.
Twenty years later, many of these digitization activities have become easily accessible to small businesses as well, such as:
- Going paperless.
- Embracing remote work.
- Using eco-friendly lighting.
- Recycling and reusing office furnishings.
By embracing a focus on green activity, your business can naturally save money. In addition, it can boost revenue by becoming more appealing to environmentally conscious consumers.
Take Care of Your Employees
Finally, remember to consider the impact that your employees have on your bottom line. Big businesses are constantly creating corporate initiatives for employee health and wellness, as they are well aware of the changes that come with a happy, healthy workforce. Employee happiness has been linked to increases in productivity, sales, and even stock prices.
This employee care can take many different forms. For instance, it can be as simple as encouraging your staff to take regular breaks. It can also manifest through more subtle activities, such as maintaining healthy communication and being transparent about things like employee benefits or workers comp.