As a business owner, you have to be committed to constantly evaluating your business practices and making necessary changes if you want to see growth. If your small business is stagnant or not as profitable as it should be, sitting on your thumbs waiting for things to improve won't help.
You have to make strategic moves to build brand awareness, improve customer service and bolster social engagement to help it grow. Here are three simple changes you can make that can help you continue to grow your business.
Make doing business easy. Whether you run an online or a brick-and-mortar company, strive to make each customer's experience as simple as possible. Buyers have more choices than ever, so all it takes is one bad experience to send them running into the arms of the competition. Once they leave, they are not likely to come back. What's worse is you can count on them to spread the word about your shoddy service to their friends, family and acquaintances. They may even go so far as to blast your business on popular review sites.
Think about your buying process from start to finish. Is it easy or does it make customers want to bang their heads against the wall? If you're not sure what customers think about your services, ask them via an online survey. It's an easy and convenient way to encourage buyers to give you useful feedback about your business. Read over the feedback and take notes. If a lot of people are complaining about the same things, it may be time to improve efficiency in those areas.
You can improve customer experience by:
- making products easy to find
- updating payment systems to prevent hiccups during transactions
- being more responsive to emails, phone calls and requests
- being consistent with the products you offer
- keeping billing simple and accurate
- keeping popular items in stock
- making your website user-friendly
If your products or services are of the same or better quality than your competitors, a seamless experience can create customer loyalty and improve the frequency of repeat customers.
Add social media to your marketing mix. Thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others, marketing is more interactive than ever. Consumers enjoy engaging on social media and getting to know the companies they buy from. If you're not making use of this inexpensive advertising medium, you're missing out on potential revenue.
When social media first hit the scene, the idea of using it for marketing was laughable to business owners. Now that vendors realize what an effective platform it is, they are jumping on the boat in droves to get a piece of the action.
When social media is used appropriately, it can reach new markets, help maintain a connection to existing customers and make every buyer feel valued.
To make the most of your social media marketing experience:
- Keep it strictly business. Avoid commenting on controversial issues that might push your current or prospective customers away. Be cautious when sharing about personal experiences, especially when they are negative in nature. Divulging too much personal information can tarnish your reputation and make people think twice about doing business with you.
- Post often. The lifespan of a social media post is short. So to prevent sending your followers on a snooze-fest, update your posts daily.
- Vary material across platforms. If people see the same information posted on all of your accounts, they will get bored and move on to something more interesting. Consider what each of your chosen platforms is designed to accomplish and tailor your content to match.
- Don’t post offensive comments. Posting nasty comments about someone’s gender, culture, sexual orientation or religion can alienate customers and ruin your reputation as a business owner. Many company heads have suffered from “foot in mouth disease” because they tweeted without thinking, and many of them have regretted the damage it caused to their organizations.
- Engage your followers. One of the reasons people hang out on social media is to interact with others. Encourage interaction by answering questions and responding to others’ comments. You can also put up polls and ask questions of your own.
If the idea of participating on social media scares you, start with one platform and work with it for a while before you add more. Or hire someone with more experience to help show you the ropes.
Show some social responsibility. Consumers love do-gooders and they are itching to purchase goods and services from enterprises that are socially responsible. Any visibility you gain from giving back to the community will double as advertising for your business.
Here are some simple ideas to get you started:
- Go green. Make your business as green as possible and encourage others to do the same. You can change the light bulbs, set up recycling bins and use email receipts (unless customers prefer otherwise). Let all of your customers know that your business is environmentally friendly by blasting it on their emailed or printed receipts.
- Partner with a cause. If there is a cause near and dear to your heart, partner with the organization to collect money for some of their events. When the organization puts out their monthly newsletter, make sure they mention your business.
- Serve meals at shelters. Twice a year, gather up your employees and head down to the local homeless shelter to serve meals. This is something you can mention on your social media platforms.
- Have a coat drive. Use all of your advertising mediums to let the community know you are collecting gently used coats for the needy. People will race to gather coats and bring them to your business to donate.
The list of things you can do to show social responsibility are endless, and many of them cost almost nothing to get started. Opting for causes that require help from the community is a good way to engage customers and build trust.
If your goal is to help your small business reach its full potential, you have to make the necessary changes so it can grow. When you use social media marketing, simplify your business dealings and show social responsibility, it helps push your business in a positive direction.
Chad Halvorson is the CEO of When I Work, an employee scheduling app that nearly half a million people in over 50 countries rely on for employee scheduling, time clock, and communication.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.