Right now, it’s incredibly difficult for any small business owner to be as successful as they would perhaps like to be. The United States has spent the past year going through a deadly pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of deaths. Additionally, because of on and off lockdown periods in much of the country, millions of people have been either laid off or been forced to reduce their hours or take a reduced salary. Those that had recently st arted small businesses were particularly devastated by this chain of events. Not only were fewer people out and about and interested in buying goods and services that were not strictly necessary; there was also the reality that many of them lacked the excess money that they needed in order to make those purchases.
The results have been quite stark. It’s been reported by Yelp that over 100,000 American businesses on its platform have shut down since the pandemic began. While some of these businesses were already in bad condition prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, others were in relatively good shape and were laid low by the issues presented through the pandemic. What the pandemic has revealed is that people shouldn’t take for granted that their small businesses will survive whatever challenges are thrown their way. No matter what, you need to consider exactly what types of issues could be faced by your business, and then assume that there are problems that you will not be able to predict. Very few small businesses proved to be “pandemic proof”. While you may think that people would need to see their orthodontist no matter what, for example, the fear of catching the COVID-19 virus proved stronger than the need for largely cosmetic dental work in most cases. Additionally, many medical professionals were forced to donate their time and space to combating the pandemic, particularly at the height of the virus’s spread.
In turn, some small businesses are definitely going to suffer more than others for years due to the pandemic. For example, it might be hard for businesses that focused on planning private parties to make it through the pandemic. But the reality is that there are still options for people that are dedicated to keeping their small businesses alive through the pandemic. You may just need to refocus your business, or pivot it to a service or product that is more pandemic-friendly. That’s why we’re focusing on how to improve your small business without losing sight of its goals and focus. It’s not always easy to make these improvements. Some of them are both personally and financially taxing, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from doing what you need to do to keep your business alive. The more that you keep in mind that these changes are for the long term good of your small business, the easier it will be for you to make these alterations.
Evaluate Your Marketing
Right now, we need to consider how we are spending money on our small businesses. Your budget has likely been compressed due to the pandemic. Perhaps you’ve been forced to spend money on rent for an office space that hasn’t been properly utilized. Almost certainly, you’ve needed to invest more in cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment unless your business has been able to transition completely to remote work. But there are still regular expenses to consider, among them marketing expenses. As you seek to improve your small business, you need to ask yourself if the way you’re spending money is really worth it. Marketing small businesses is a constantly changing issue, and the reality is that what may have worked in terms of marketing small businesses years ago may not necessarily work now.
Much of the marketing that you choose to do when attempting to improve your small business is going to depend on the type of small business you’re running. For example, a commercial plumbing business is not necessarily going to need the same type of marketing work as a business more centered around art or pop culture. In a post-pandemic world, however, there need to be a major emphasis on marketing small businesses online. Many people are not going to be exploring the outside world the way they once did for some time, and during that time they will be doing much of their research online. By utilizing SEO strategies and optimizing their websites both aesthetically and informatively, small business owners will be able to capture the business of potential clients and customers casually browsing online. Additionally, email marketing campaigns and YouTube videos should perhaps be considered over old-fashioned mail campaigns and television commercials. A lot of people, for example, will be more swayed today by an instructional online video than they would be through a traditional commercial. Additionally, many people are now streaming their TV shows and foregoing the traditional strategies through which they watch television, which means that they aren’t catching ads in the way that they once did.
In addition to moving online, small business owners need to think about zeroing in on their target demographic rather than casting a wide net that appeals to a broader range of people. In today’s world, especially in a post-SEO world, it’s generally viewed as wasteful to spend money on targeting a massive, general audience. Instead, when attempting to improve your small business you should focus in on your ideal audience. Your ideal audience may be smaller, but they will be more likely to convert. Furthermore, you will need to spend less money to convert that audience into customers. Therefore, if you want to be efficient and conscious of your own limited budget, you should focus on converting that smaller audience rather than casting a wide net.
Keep Up Appearances
Right now, it might seem difficult to focus on keeping up appearances if your small business is struggling, and you have less money to spend on repairs in general. But the reality is that if you don’t keep up appearances, you may find it much harder to improve your small business in the long term. There are a lot of aesthetic issues that can turn consumers off of small businesses. Nobody wants to visit a brick and mortar store that appears out of shape and unattractive. Some consumers may even stay away from stores that are in need of repairs because they are worried about their own safety. Therefore, it’s worth it for you to invest in keeping up the appearance of your business. You’ll first want to assess any and all necessary repairs that need to be done before you spend more on actively improving appearances. For example, make sure that if you need a glass door repair done that it is executed, as well as any necessary window repairs. Move on from there to going over any painting, flooring, and ceiling issues that could be causing your store to look shabby.
From there, you’ll want to turn to aesthetic issues that you may need to improve upon. If your store sits on a lawn that is constantly dry and patchy, you may want to to replace it with artificial turf. While this maybe a somewhat bigger investment in the moment, in the long term you will actually save money as you won’t need to pay as much or as often for its upkeep. Moving on from that, you may want to consider how your parking lot looks. Are there any potholes and unsightly cracks? If your shop is on a sidewalk that is suffering from severe damage, you may want to extend your renewal efforts to that as well, if you can get the permits to do so. A commercial concrete restoration can go a long way towards ensuring that your business looks its best.
Don’t forget to keep your website up to date as well. An outdated website generally won’t be seen as trustworthy or reliable in comparison to more updated, modern sites. Additionally, a good social media presence will help you not only improve your small business but ensure that it is properly branded as well.
Make Customer Service A Top Priority
If you want to improve your small business, you need to look at the customer service that you and your employees have been offering and ask yourself if it has truly been adequate. There are a lot of issues that can come up when small business owners take the time to really audit their customer service procedures. Employees may feel that they are offering great customer service, but are they really? Are they offering the best possible customer service that they can? Not all businesses are customer-facing, but all will need to have employees interact with customers at one point or the other. Even if a business specializes in outdoor pest control services, there needs to be a consistent level of professionalism and client service coming from employees, from those handling the main tasks in question to those booking appointments over the phone or online. In a lot of ways, customer service can be seen as a part of branding strategy.
Part of the reason why customer service is so key to improving your small business is that it is a part of getting referrals and ensuring repeat business from clients. A lot of clients will actually help you grow your business, because when they are happy they will refer friends and business associates to your company. Furthermore, repeat business i considered the backbone of success for many different types of small businesses. A company that offers a commercial air conditioner service will not only provide repair services but installation and replacement services, as well as various maintenance services. One customer can turn into years of business if they are happy with the customer service they received. If they are not, you may end up with not only a loss of business, but potentially dissatisfaction problems on your hands.
Know Your Competition
There is nothing wrong with scouting out the competition as you attempt to improve your small business. In fact, you really should make it a habit of seeing what your competitors offer, and noting whether or not you can offer their clientele something better for less money or with a better experience. Your competitors should be seen not only as companies taking business away from you, but companies that you can learn from. This doesn’t mean stealing proprietary information; there is a fine line between scouting out their tactics and taking from them. But it does mean being vigilant. You may want to do some secret shopping, which is when you have your employees pretend to be potential customers and have them check out what the competition is offering from that perspective. Secret shopping is relatively simple, and you can learn a lot from it. Additionally, you do need to be aware of the fact that the competition may very well be secret shopping around your business as well.
There is also the art of wooing the competition’s clients to think about. If you have access to the names of the competition’s clients, why not call them up and see if they’re open to shopping around? A lot of people are not as loyal as you would think, and are willing to consider competitors if they think it will get them a better deal. If you have a business that offers the services of commercial painters, you may want to have your marketing and sales department simply make a few calls around to see why customers like your competition, and what would make them willing to leave. That can make a huge difference in the long term.
Get Involved in the Community
A great way of making your small business known in your community is giving back. Host a fundraiser, take up volunteering, or sponsor an event that gives back to the community, like a charitable marathon. This will actually sponsor a lot of goodwill in your community, and make people more likely to support your small business in turn. Additionally, this can be hugely beneficial for employees, giving them a sense that they are doing something good with their time, and working for a good company.
There are a lot of ways in which you can improve your small business. But what improving any small business requires, more than an unlimited budget, is dedicated and time. Make sure that you are doing what you can to push your small business into the future, and survive the pandemic.