20 Small Business Tips and Tricks to Help Make Your Store Thrive
Once you obtain the necessary permits and licenses, get incorporated and offer a legitimate product or service, you’re a business owner — on paper, at least. But keeping a successful business up and running is a different story.
You’ll run into roadblocks that can threaten business viability if you overlook critical administrative tasks like bookkeeping or maintaining relationships with high-quality suppliers. In fact, the top reasons for new business failure include a lack of marketing strategy, having no plan for how to scale the business to meet growing demand, or offering a poorly conceived product or service with a too-small total addressable market (TAM).
20 Tips for Small Business Owners
1. Stay organized.
- Keep accurate records of business finances: Record every transaction (customer billings and vendor payments) into the proper account at least once weekly and keep an eye on the bottom line. Keep copies of all invoices, cash receipts and cash payments for bookkeeping and tax purposes.
- Set (and keep) deadlines: Stay on top of administrative tasks using project management software — this lets you set deadlines, assign tasks to employees and upload documentation to a central repository.
- Plan ahead: Plan your social media campaigns in advance using social media scheduling software. Use email marketing automation to follow up with new leads. Use Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams for quick communication with your team. If something can be explained in an email, you don’t need to have a meeting about it.
2. Learn to be flexible.
Agile businesses can quickly pivot in response to changing market conditions, while the slow movers struggle not to become obsolete. Lean into your data and be willing to change course. Listen to customer feedback and don’t be too wedded to your own opinions.
For example, let’s say you’ve conducted interviews with prospective customers and it turns out your product isn’t well-received or the market for it is too small. Don’t cling to a business idea that won’t float. Be willing to change your business model or pricing strategy if your current approach isn’t working for you.
3. Automate as many things as possible.
Automating repeatable tasks saves time and ensures small things don’t fall through the cracks. Recently met a prospective client at a networking event? Use your CRM tool to automatically follow up with new contacts within 24 hours or send emails to new leads who visit your website. Use accounting software to automate your day-to-day bookkeeping so you don’t waste time on data entry.
Salvage abandoned shopping carts by sending an automated email to nudge shoppers to complete their purchases. If you don’t use payroll software, learn how to automate payroll management in Excel.
4. Maintain a personal touch.
Small businesses are uniquely positioned to offer a personal touch — especially if you have a small team or run the company yourself. Handwritten thank-you notes go a long way. Or, you can include a simple gift alongside the purchase or offer freebies in exchange for reviews.
Use your CRM tool to make notes of personal details for each customer so you can offer more high-touch personalizations. For example, say you’re a jeweler who recently sold a custom engagement ring. You can send a simple wedding gift and a discount offer for a future purchase after the couple marries.
5. Protect your intellectual property.
For a small business, this means protecting things like designs, business ideas and trade secrets. If a competitor tries to copy your product, they can erode your market share and damage your reputation. If you decide to register a trademark or apply for a patent, it’s best to seek an attorney’s help to make sense of the legalese and avoid making minor mistakes (eg: omissions in descriptions or drawings, missing deadlines) that can result in your request being denied.
6. Have a great website.
Treat it as sacrosanct. Keep the design clean and simple — limit colors, banner ads and pop-ups — and invest time in proper SEO. Before you build a website, put some serious thought into branding. Branding builds trust and differentiates you from your competitors.
State your brand’s value proposition upfront so first-time visitors understand your offer. Take it from the search engine DuckDuckGo. Its homepage states simply: “Search the web without being tracked” — a worthy appeal to today’s consumers who are concerned about data privacy.
Use high-quality images (stock images don’t build trust) and hire a professional to take photos of all your products. Also, write thorough product descriptions — focus on product benefits, highlight key features and, where possible, tell a story.
7. Create unique content.
Say you run a bakery. Find a way to bring people into the kitchen by filming your process. If you run a clothing label, create unique lookbooks featuring your female friends as models to show a variety of body shapes and skin tones, rather than hiring models from an agency.
If you’re an interior designer specializing in small spaces, upload videos on YouTube or start a podcast to share DIY tips for renters. Find ways to be authentic, share your expertise and tell the story of your business.
Make Time for Family
You can’t be afraid to employ the latest technology because if you don’t, your business will always be left behind.
Contracts do more than keep us honest; they make it possible to preserve the rights of everyone who is involved.
In a competitive market, finding a differentiator is vital to gaining an advantage over your competitors, and by using originality in every aspect of your business, you can gain a distinctive edge.
In case you haven’t figured this out already, let me assure you that if your website is not mobile-optimized, then a great number of your would-be customers are passing right over your business.
Any good business owner knows that you’ve got to listen to your customers, but not only is this a good practice—it is necessary if you want to find out what the market is doing next.
There are just some products with that special something that seems to cater to a consumer’s every desire. It’s like comfort food. Many times, there isn’t anything complicated about it—it just tastes good, and you always want more.
Good UX design is a central element of a high-quality website, but the principles of UX are not confined to web design. Every aspect of a small business can be improved by paying attention to how easily your customers can find the product they need and access information, whether through a website, or in a store.
Create a Scalable Business Model
Bootstrapping is always good, but even if you didn’t bootstrap your business in the beginning, you need some rainy-day money, and a lot of it—like enough to carry the business for at least a year.
You can always dial it back down if necessary, but chances are, what you believe to be the true right price, is the right price.
Why Do Businesses Fail?
Running a company isn’t for the faint of heart. Starting a business is risky by its nature. To make sure you understand how to run a business, it’s crucial to know what can go wrong and how to avoid it.
1. Unclear Differentiation
Novice entrepreneurs — perhaps even experienced ones — sometimes overlook how their business competes in a crowded marketplace. Failing to address competition and how to offer something different in a local market can lead to getting pushed out of business altogether.
Have something unique to offer — perhaps it’s better product quality or greater service. This always sets a company apart from its alternatives in the market. Capture your share of the market by making yourself irreplaceable. Creating a strong business plan and understanding your customers with research will help create a strong strategy and make sure you know where you fit.
2. Poor Management
Business owners need strong management skills to oversee their employees. They must ensure that all aspects of the business, including hiring and culture, are priorities. If these aren’t kept in check, high employee turnover is likely.
Every member of the team should want to be a part of your work environment. Your company culture should be healthy and motivate your workforce. The immediate benefits of this kind of workplace dynamic between management and workers are reduced employee turnover and heightened productivity.
3. Weak Marketing Efforts
Business owners must know their target audience, how to reach potential customers, and how to get the most out of their marketing budgets. You should consider learning from guides for SEO, social media, paid advertising, and traditional marketing to get an understanding of what you want. Sometimes, hiring the right experts and technology can help ensure marketing runs smoothly when business owners have too much on their hands.
12 Pro Tips on How To Run a Business
1. Stay on Your Customers’ Minds
Most businesses that survived last year’s chaos were those that had a solid presence in their customers’ minds. If you’re a small business and you’re still unable to operate normally because of lockdowns and occupancy restrictions, don’t let that hamper your marketing efforts.
If budgets are tight, create valuable content that your potential customers will engage with. This can be a DIY blog or instructional video that you can post for free on your website or YouTube.
2. Understand Your Lead Management
Do you fully understand why leads don’t become paying customers? Diving into your leads list and investigating why they don’t convert can help you refine your process so you earn more customers.
Review your leads with your customer team at least once a month and account for all the reasons they may not be turning into customers. Make a plan on how to address any concerns or issues. Having a lead management plan will help you know what good looks like and understand where your leads are coming from. When you know where your leads are coming from you will be better able to know where to spend more money.
3. Keep Tabs on Your Competitors
Knowing who your competitors are and what they’re doing is a great way to learn in business. Don’t copy what they’re doing, of course — but monitoring your competition will give you a better idea of what’s helping them succeed, allowing you to adapt these insights to your specific circumstances.
Create a spreadsheet of your competitors and keep tabs once a month on what they’re doing. Follow their website and social media to see what’s new, what they’re promoting, and how their social audiences are growing and engaging. Understanding your competition will help you know when to update some of your marketing, what benefits you should focus on, and when you may want to consider adding products or services.
4. Provide Great Service
Forgetting this step might be the primary cause of your company’s demise, even when everything else seems to be running smoothly. Your clients will be quick to walk out the door, leave you bad reviews online, and tell their friends and family to steer clear if you don’t treat them excellently.
Give yourself a weekly deadline to respond to reviews, both positive and negative. Potential customers often don’t mind an occasional bad review, but they want to know how you’re approaching it and what you’ll do to address an issue.
5. Stay Consistent
Find the strategy that works for your business and keep at it. This will ultimately create positive habits that will translate into more revenue. Remember — consistency is key to making your business work and make money.
Understand your key performance indicators that grow your business and review them regularly so you can gain insight into how your business is doing season over season and year after year. Many companies will abandon a strategy before it has a chance to even work. Search engine optimization for example can take a long time to start seeing results. Staying committed can be a key to success.
6. Focus on Your Core Customer
Build ideal profiles from your best customers and understand their habits so you know how to best reach them. Younger customers may best be reached through social media and review platforms while older clients may like email newsletters more.
7. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
These days, social media is crucial to growing a business. Roughly 4.48 billion people use social media worldwide, and the numbers are only increasing. Create appealing content that will make your core audience want to share what you do online. This will put you in the eyes of their friends and family, ultimately leading to more customers for your business.
Make sure your social media profiles are set up correctly with the right address, phone, and operating hours information. Check-in at least several times a week to respond to questions and comments from customers.
8. Create Direct Connections With Your Clients
Keep the conversation running to create a bond with your target audience. Even if you decide to automate your social media posting, make sure to give it a human touch by asking questions and answering your followers’ comments and inquiries.
Give your customers more ways to get in touch with you. Adding live chat and text messaging to your communication tools provides your customers with more flexibility to connect with you when they’re thinking of your services. Being accessible when you’re top of mind with a customer is worth more than gold.