No matter what size business, every company has to pay attention to numerous details to be successful. While each operation is different and priorities can vary significantly, there are four key components to growing any successful company. There is no magic formula, rather every entrepreneur should determine which to focus on and how many resources to dedicate, but make no mistake these four should be a part of the strategy.
Advertising. Some small business owners are quick to dismiss advertising as an important part of building a successful business. These objections typically revolve around the size of the business or a perception that advertising equals lots of money. The truth is advertising your business will have a cost but it does not necessarily mean it has to be expensive. New small businesses should look for very local opportunities rather than a vehicle that reaches a larger demographic than is likely to have a reason to visit your location. Advertising space such as bus stop shelters can be purchased for a set length of time and by specific locations. These ads give you an opportunity to focus your budget on just those potential customers that have local impact.
Another local opportunity that exists in many suburbs is a community paper. These are typically widely distributed and have only local interest stories. This is perfect for a well done advertisement targeting nearby customers. Similarly, community involvement should not be underestimated. If you can provide support – typically in the form of product or physical resources – your business can get very positive public perception and a chance to promote to a sympathetic audience. Community service is good regardless, but if you are looking at it from an advertising perspective, be sure that the likely participants are appropriate for your particular business.
Finally, partnering with another local business may give both opportunities that neither could afford otherwise. These can be as simple as advertising in one another’s establishments or handing out your partner’s flyers at every sale. This can be hugely beneficial. Look for partners that have a similar customer target and make sure you are getting the advertising promised.
Market Research. Many small businesses overlook market research as an important tool in their arsenal. Every business should regularly conduct research to ensure that they are staying abreast of their own place in the market. Often market research is mistaken for marketing. This is wrong. Market research is finding out who your core customers are so that you can then market more efficiently. Put even simpler – you need to know who you are selling to in order to either attract more of the same or focus harder on another segment of your potential customers.
How do you find out information about your key customers? Either you ask them for some demographic information or make some estimates about key demographic groupings. Every person that shops for your products has some obvious signs that places them in some group that, with enough of the same information from others, can provide insight. Things such as what kind of car she drives, what time of day he visited, broad estimate of age (“below 18”, “20 to 30’s”, “60 or older”), how much he spent, method of payment and so on. With enough of this data you might find some insight that would have escaped observation otherwise. With some caution the data can be useful to determining how best to spend advertising dollars.
Consistent Quality Product. This should be obvious but cannot be overlooked. Every poor product that leaves your door is a business killer. Your customers made a decision to establish a trade with you. Most likely they gave up money for your product or service. They should never think that they made a bad trade. Anyone who has ever purchased an expensive electronic gadget probably understands how frustrating it is when the device doesn’t work as intended. If you felt mislead or cheated, it impacts how you feel about the brand. Your customers are no different. When they discover that what they purchased doesn’t work/taste/look like they expect it to, they are justifiably frustrated. A frustrated consumer is one that looks harder for a replacement, is less likely to make a purchase decision and might not give you another opportunity. Make sure everything that is sold under your banner is as good as your customers expect and make it right if you discover otherwise.
Motivated Personnel. Closely related to a consistent quality product are the people who are making, selling and representing your product and company. Everyone, no matter if they have direct customer contact must be made to understand that their positive attitude is motivating to those around them and conversely, an unnecessarily negative perception is not beneficial to anyone. Employee motivation comes from a positive work environment first and foremost. There may be any number of other reasons why someone might have a negative day, but this should be the exception not the rule. If an employee doesn’t generally arrive to work happy, you can bet that they are not positively representing your company.
We are not attempting to promote a workplace where only flowers bloom and skies are never cloudy. It is however, very true that a positive experience for your customer translates into sales. Thus each employee should put forth the effort to ensure each customer is satisfied. You as business owner or manager ultimately have much to do with the motivation of your employees. Your attitude affects everyone else’s demeanor. It really does roll downhill.
Businesses large and small, regardless of location must always strive to be better than their competitor and the four tips above should be among the key pillars on which a successful, growing company can build or keep their advantage.