GROWING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
- by Tricia Scott
Its all about the Brand
Today's marketplace requires us to build positive associations and memories for our customer base. There is so much choice around with easy, worldwide reach now that if we don't get it right, customers will turn to a competitor looking for a better experience. A scalable business requires your customers to have an emotional link to your product. Master this and you're on your way to sustainable growth. More than 90% of customers are more likely to trust a brand recommended by a friend.
Put in the work at the beginning and know your audience - this is more crucial than I can tell you. The fastest way to fail is to try and be everything to everyone.
Choose a message for your brand to inspire your people - it's time to think differently. Instead of just highlighting what you do and what you sell think about how can you inspire your audience and give them an emotional attachment to your product or service.
Be the brand - You and the people you employ should all live the brand ethos. Make sure you are behaving in a way that reinforces your brand image and what you stand for.
Connect and collaborate - Can you tap into local partnerships? This can be a great way to work with new customers, remember 90% of customers are more likely to trust a brand recommended by a friend. This goes for other products and services they may already be using too. Look at the marketplace and see if you can tap into a customer base with similar interests. Can you offer a discount or a refer a friend scheme?
Its' temping (dare I say, easy?) to stick with the sale old marketing plan.
'Stick it on Social media, add a link and see what happens'
I get it. Its tried and tested but 'business as usual' isn't always best practise for your small business. Will this work? Probably, to an extent. Has it worked before? Likely. However, if you really want to grow you need to start thinking outside of what you've always done.
Technology is changing all the time. As business owners, we have to be ready to constantly evolve and learn whats new. Make the time, take the courses and research what works. Most social platforms have great tools for measuring engagement, know whats working and what isn't and go there. This doesn't mean you need to spend all of your time learning and not selling either. If you're a one-woman operation I understand you won't have time for that. There are so many tools out there now to streamline your processes which leads to reduced cost and increased exposure so, do it.
Networking, for me, used to conjure up images of people in suits, passing around business cards and not being allowed to have any fun. Sound familiar? I've networked a lot in my career and believe me, I've been to more than my fair share of those events but it really doesn't have to be like that. In fact, it's one of the reasons I started this community. There is another way and we are choosing it for ourselves.
Think of networking as a big old party for your business. It's all about connecting with people like you, who have similar interests, products and audiences. Talk to them! Don't be afraid to ask questions and connect via social media. Some of the best business connections I have ever made have come from linking to a Facebook group or two (hello ThatGirl). You no longer have to put on your suit and work a room with a pocket full of business cards (although face to face networking can be a lot of fun) you have an entire- freaking-digital- world at your fingertips! It's really never been easier. Use hashtags, Facebook events and join groups with similar interests to find out whats going on and when. Talk to our community, we're all in the same boat. Just being here is networking - and you're doing great.
Talking of face to face networking, look out for local events to attend. Meetup is great for this sort of thing and of course connecting with influential players in your industry is always a massive bonus. You'll usually find inspirational speakers and relevant products too #win. It's never wasted time talking to others about what you do and in return listening to their story. Collaboration is key. You'll likely find that they will have more connections to recommend for you too!
Connection not only gives you ideas and inspiration, connecting with a community such as ours will stretch you to new levels allowing you to expand your skills and services beyond what you thought possible, all you have to do is engage and ask!
be prepared to change
As a business owner, a lot will depend upon your level of ambition for growth. Many business owners want their business to better but not necessarily bigger, they want to make a living are aware that growth, especially large expansion, is going to require a level of pain and capital investment.
What do you want? There is no right or wrong answer here, its completely dependant on what you want from your business. Whatever you decide will determine your plan for moving forwards but whichever way you choose to go, change is inevitable. Whats right for your business on day one might not be right on day 365. The key is to monitor, adapt and wherever possible prepare for change. Strategise. Look at it as a positive thing. Change is often dependant on growth and one way or another you need to grow to survive so keep moving forward and be prepared to adjust and shuffle around a bit as you go. It's all part of your journey! Remember you can read all about others business and personal journeys over at In The Spotlight.
I don't say this to be all fluffy or woo woo so you can stop hovering over the 'close' button.
According to a report from The Bank Of America, Most small business owners consider managing the ongoing success of their business to be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing their own personal finances!*
So, you see where I'm coming from. Maintaining a healthy mind and body is not only important but crucial to ensuring that you are in the best possible shape to run a company. You need to create a positive customer experience and you can't authentically do this from a place of stress and sleep deprivation. It's true what they say - 'you can't pour from an empty cup' If you are running on empty, without a work-life balance everyone suffers, including your business. So take my advice and invest as much in you and your mental and physical health as you would for your business. Its one of the main reasons for the inclusion of The Retreat. I learned the hard way that you have to make time for downtime if you don't your body can literally stop you in your tracks. You can read more about my experience here.
Schedule time for you. Physically schedule it in your diary. You'll feel much better for it, I promise. Whatever it looks like for you personally, get it booked in. A trip to the gym, a walk along the beach or a couple of hours in the countryside, a cocktail with your best friend or try one of our guided meditations (they're great!) in The Retreat. Whatever works for you.