Small businesses should always ask questions of themselves. You might ask how you can increase your profit margin. You might ask how you can communicate better with your customers. You may try to find new customers. There are always ways to boost the bottom line and asking questions about your goals, your customers and challenges your company faces is a great place to start.
What challenges are you facing?
With 4 out of 5 new businesses failing within the first 5 years, I think it’s safe to say that we all face challenges on a day-to-day basis. Major challenges many small businesses face include competing with large corporations, standing out from the competition and remaining profitable in a down economy. There are also smaller challenges businesses must overcome on a day-to-day basis like staffing the right number of workers, determining the most profitable hours of operation, keeping the right amount of product in stock, reducing overhead and increasing profits.
Truly understanding your customers and their buying behavior can help you with many of these challenges. By communicating with your customers you can find out what kinds of problems they have, what they think of your product, what they would like to see from you in the future, how often they buy your product and much more. Listening to your customers and learning from them can help make you one of the 1 in 5 that makes it.
What goals do you have?
Every business should set goals, especially for surviving your early years. You may want to establish a strong staff. You may want to expand into other states or countries. You may want to increase your product line. You may want to improve your customer rating. Think beyond just setting a dollar amount, but set goals to improve and grow your business that will actually help you achieve that dollar amount in the long run.
How can you stay fresh?
We all want to put more money in the bank. And with more and more products on the market every day, it’s important to stay up to date and fresh. You may try marketing a completely new product or simply an updated version. Either way it’s important to improve on past models. You might sell a candy with a nut in it instead of solid chocolate. You may design new computer cases that are more visually appealing. Or sometimes you don’t have to change the product at all. Sometimes simply changing the design, logo or packaging, like Coca-Cola has done over the years is enough to keep your product fresh.
How can you help customers?
The ultimate goal of any product or service is to solve a problem. You want to help your customers and become indispensable to them. Seth Godin, world famous marketer, always touts of how you should become indispensable to customers. If you are indispensable, you are worth more. Companies who give less value to customers do not survive economic downturns. Sony, for example, entertains customers with TVs and PlayStation and a variety of other electronics. IBM designs computers. Ford makes cars and trucks. Oil companies keep cars moving on the road. On the other hand, if 10 companies copied everything Ford or IBM did, the market would be glutted. The point is you have to be unique in what you do in some way. Even cookie companies find ways to differentiate themselves from others.
Can you expand?
Most small businesses want to expand, but the question is can you afford to. What will it really take? Think in terms of time and money. Will you need more space, more workers, additional stores or warehouses? Are you looking to expand into new regions, new states, new countries or are you looking to offer new products and services? What will you need and how will you accomplish these things? You will want to create leadership in your work force so you can focus on the bottom line.
Many of these questions are obvious ones. What is less obvious is the strategy needed behind them. In order to be successful, make it through the first few years or expand your business, you’ll need a unique marketing plan. Certain risks are of course involved; you just have to ask yourself, is it worth it in the long run and hopefully you will make it long enough to find out.