It’s no secret that many small businesses struggled throughout the majority of 2020, some more than others. As we leave 2020 behind, small businesses need to look forward and begin planning ways to make 2021 more successful than its predecessor. Embracing new trends such as remote work or putting a greater focus on digital marketing to better reach a larger and more diverse audience can help your small business succeed. Make this a successful year for your small business. With the proper attention and strategy, you’ll grow your business tremendously and set yourself up for a great future.
Embrace remote work
Remote work became one of the biggest headlines over the course of 2020 due to the changing realities required to protect everyone from the global pandemic. Many businesses, rather than rushing to return to centralized offices, embracing remote work along with all the benefits provided, including increased productivity and reduced real estate costs. IBM alone saved $50 million in real estate costs last year due to remote work. It’s not just the companies and businesses that experience benefits from more remote work, but the employees, as well.
According to a study from Buffer, when asked the question, “Would you like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of your career?”, 98% of respondents said yes. There are many benefits to having a remote workforce or, at the very least, a hybrid one, with some in the office and some working remotely, often on a rotating schedule. First and foremost, remote work means companies are typically paying less on office space and rental areas, which represents huge savings for almost any business. It also means you spend less on various amenities that offices require, such as security, cleaning, and other expenses like food.
For the employee, benefits range from the flexibility that accompanies a remote work lifestyle, in addition to the time saved when employees don’t face long commutes. Many workers appreciate the additional freedom a remote work environment offers. Offering valuable benefits such as the ability to make doctor’s appointments without taking time off from work and being able to experience special moments with your kids means some parents get to see their child’s first word or step, something they might miss if they worked in an office. Our pets also enjoy having us home with them full-time, creating a symbiotic relationship that similarly relieves much of the stress we all face during the pandemic.
In an article on FlexJobs, they estimate the average person saves approximately $4,000 per year by working remotely. This savings comes through a combination of various costs associated with commuting and car maintenance, work-appropriate clothing worn into the office, and the increase in eating out for lunches and coffee.
Focus on digital marketing
Digital marketing is an area of interest for many businesses in recent years and will continue to grow in importance, especially for small businesses, due to the affordability and opportunity to focus on highly targeted markets offered by digital marketing. Small business owners find digital marketing an affordable and effective strategy either by itself or in addition to more traditional marketing efforts. Many people spend increasing amounts of time at home and online recently, which means that now is a great time to invest in digital marketing services.
With the right digital marketing strategies, people will find your business from anywhere using their phone or computer. However, generating traffic to your website means more than simply building a website thinking that visitors will come. You need a sound SEO strategy that helps bring your links to the top of a user’s search since most clicks go to links that are in the top three positions in the search results. Certainly, not showing up on the first page of search results means you get relatively little traffic visiting your website.
Once you get traffic to your website, your job isn’t over. An effective website drives visitors through the website culminating in a purchase or other type of conversion by building content that encourages visitors down the conversion funnel.
Thus, in addition to building a website, you must build a sound content marketing strategy focused on lead generation and conversion. Next, you must build supporting platforms across social media and use email marketing. Remarketing campaigns as part of a digital ad strategy also support the effectiveness of your website in generating conversions.
As businesses strive to grow their audience, digital marketing helps open new doors and opportunities for your organization. If people are unable to find your offerings, they are unable to do business with you. By effectively using a digital marketing strategy, you gain the ability to reach the 4.66 billion people who use the internet.
Keep your finances on track
One essential task for any business, but especially small businesses, is to ensure you have your finances in order. Especially for startups, financial strategies can make or break growth and success. Although it sounds patently simple, more businesses fail due to poor cash flow than from any other reason. Ensuring you make enough money or plan for other financial inflows to pay your bills on a consistent basis goes a long way toward helping your small business succeed.
Diversification of your financial inputs is a great way to start, but it’s also important to know how much each activity necessary for your business costs, so you can build pro forma income statements that project incomes and expenses. You also need to monitor the performance of each activity within your business to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, dropping activities that don’t meet your goals.
Many small business owners Raise money from family and friends or put their own money into the business, since these are often the only financial options available, especially during startup. These financial options are also attractive because they allow the owner more flexibility and control while also featuring low-interest rates and flexible repayment terms.
Here are a few options available for newer entrepreneurs:
- Save up over time- While there are four basic types of investments, for many individuals looking to grow their money, starting with a basic individual brokerage account makes sense. An individual broker brokerage account allows prospective business owners to invest in various types of stocks or bonds, and better customize their financial needs depending on their timelines and unique situations.
- Consider setting up a GoFundMe for businesses– The popular crowdfunding platform features a specific area where businesses place their requests and hopefully gain the funding they need to get their business off the ground. Go fund me crowdfunding works best when you offer a physical product or something else as an incentive for investors to provide startup funding. Once you reached the funding goal, you receive the funds minus an administrative fee due to the platform.
- Reduce Outside Costs-When it comes to finances for your business, every penny matters. Many people turn to a budgeting platform to find different ways to reduce costs and keep their spending on track. Consider other options to save money, like refinancing your mortgage or simply eating out less, which helps you reach your financial goals faster.
Financials heavily influence the trajectory of many businesses; ensuring that you have a handle on the basics is a great way to plan for the future and the growth of your business. The Small Business Administration offers a collection of resources to help you manage your finances.
Although some of this is more rudimentary, resulting, unfortunately, in extremely costly mistakes in the long run. Ensuring that you have a stable financial base ensures your company is set and ready to grow and branch out as necessary.
Put your customers first
This might sound like an obvious point, but an ever-growing movement of supporting local and small businesses continues to pick up steam. Shopping local was always something many people try to do, but with the uncertain future and permanent closure of many local businesses, concentrate even harder to purchase goods and services locally. Although there are a few trade-offs when buying local, many people willingly support their local communities through tough times, especially when those local businesses or owners supported the community in good times. But, you can’t expect people to support your business if you failed to provide good quality service to customers in the past.
Customer retention is a key part of ensuring that your business continuously operates in the black. Hubspot shows that a 5% increase in customer retention increases company revenue by 25-95%. In addition, it’s often easier to retain current customers than it is to bring in new ones, so make sure that you focus on keeping your existing customer base before branching out and looking for new opportunities to help your small business succeed.
Find new customers
We spoke earlier about finding new customers using your website and SEO to get found online. There are lots of other options available to find new customers, including lead nurturing, networking, and building partnerships.
Email marketing is an effective tool for lead nurturing, especially when you employ list segmentation and personalize your email messages to individual subscribers based on their needs. According to Google data, “61% of people expect brands to tailor experiences based on their preferences.” Ensuring you give your customers the most tailored and unique experience is one key advantage that many small businesses have over the larger companies that struggle to personalize their offerings and interactions.
Networking and building relationships with other build businesses and influencers also help your small business succeed.
Invest in technology
As technology continues to evolve, there are fewer reasons for businesses and organizations to avoid new-and-improved offerings and enhanced business processes that support the customer experience. Although some businesses have certain traditions or are used to operating in specific ways, there are always areas where technology can improve quality or efficiency without distracting from the business and its core values. For instance, offering customer service through social platforms or employing chatbots to offer 24/7 customer service improves your performance and helps your small business succeed.
In addition, one of the fastest-growing technological industries is cloud computing, which, when simplified, allows businesses and employees to access data and information from anywhere over the internet. A Gartner study revealed that
up to 60% of organizations will use an external service provider’s cloud-managed service offering,
which is over double the number in 2018. The cloud offers savings in terms of lower equipment and maintenance costs, automatically acts as emergency backups in case of loss or damage, is easy to scale up and down given the organization’s current needs, and, through services such as AWS from Amazon, very cost-effective for data storage.
There are many pros to being a small business, one of the most influential ones being the agility offered by your ability to make decisions quickly without consulting many people and the wasted time that ensues. Utilizing this advantage to employ new ways of doing business, such as remote work for employees or various ways that you can use to put your customers first and ensure that you are retaining your loyal client base helps your small business succeed. Investing in digital marketing helps you find brand new customers at a very affordable rate, and the customers you find often represent those more likely to do business with you than through traditional marketing methods.
Financial stability is something that many businesses struggle with, especially in recent times. Only through a strong and stable financial foundation can you help your small business succeed. Optimizing your use of technology, finding the “goldilocks” point for your business, helps improve productivity and provides customers with better services than before. Although there are many avenues to help your small business succeed in 2021, it’s important to identify the roads that are best suited for your business and strive toward a strong year.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.