5 Actionable Tips for Scaling Your Small Business

Do you know how to scale your business? Starting your business took a lot of hard work. Now that you’re ready for expansion, you will likely face an entirely new set of challenges.

Already, as part of your routine, you must serve customers, supervise your staff, keep the books and fill other administrative roles. With so much to do, scaling your business might seem impossible. Where do you start? How do you find the time?

Use the following actionable tips for scaling your small business to do the job without becoming overwhelmed or busting your budget.

Embrace Success

Already, you’ve overcome the odds by building a successful small business. You know what failure looks like and you probably don’t like it. So, as you scale your business, think big and approach everything you do with a “success” mentality.

You can probably find thousands of fantastic ideas that can help you scale. Prepare yourself right now to say “no” to most of them. You have limited amounts of time and money, so stay focused on the things that matter the most.

Always keep the big picture in mind. Make every decision with an eye for the future. If you don’t, you could incur unnecessary expenses. For example, if you skimp on your data network or software applications, you may have to replace them if they can’t grow with you.

So, when you invest in systems, make sure they can scale with your business. Take a similar approach while assembling your team.

Get Help

Find someone who can serve as your mentor and advisor. Such a person could be anyone with experience either in your industry or your type of business. An investor, business owner, or someone with similar experience can fill this role.

In addition to getting advice from peers, you should learn to depend on your team. Rather than trying to do everything yourself, try delegating responsibilities. By letting other people share the load, you can have more time to plan and execute your growth strategy.

Of course, as your business grows, you will need to expand your team. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts with your team. You need well-qualified people who can deliver a high level of performance. To do this, you’ll need to offer competitive wages, perks, educational opportunities, and other benefits.

Use Technology

As you scale, look for ways to work smarter rather than harder. Here, technology can play a vital role. For instance, you can use a cloud-based collaboration app to unify remote workers with your traditional employees.

When done right, your entire team can work together on documents, share files, and hold group brainstorming sessions. Tools that support instant messaging, live chat, video conferencing, and virtual whiteboards can also help your staff become more productive.

Automation offers you additional ways to scale your business. Thanks to technology, you can eliminate redundant data entry and automate many routine tasks. In the end, you can substantially improve productivity while eliminating opportunities for making errors.

Other opportunities for improving your business’ performance include analytics tools. These can collect and analyze multiple data points from your organization and provide insights into its performance.

Get Online

Your website and social networks are assets that you shouldn’t ignore. Spend time assessing their current state and then develop a plan for moving forward. Remember that a fresh and active online presence can grow your sales.

Now is a fantastic time to refresh your market research. First, identify the type of customers that need what you offer. Next, learn about the problems and challenges they face. You should also learn about their desires and aspirations.

Based on your research, create a persona that represents your ideal customer. As you create content, keep this person in mind. Create value by addressing the real-world issues that your persona faces.

Most of all, be consistent. On social media, share your brand’s personality. Socialize with your followers and share content. Do more than pitch sales. Become part of the community.

Encourage Feedback

In your quest for growth, never forget about your current customers. For starters, you can dramatically reduce your selling costs by closing repeat sales. In other words, by expanding your base, you can boost your profitability.

Your customers can also provide you with feedback that can support your ongoing success. They can provide you with answers to important questions:

● What new products and features should you sell?
● How can you create a better customer experience?
● What factors limit their frequency and volume of sales?
● How can you deliver more value to the marketplace?

Consider sending customers a survey after every sale. This gives them a chance to express their level of satisfaction and share their opinions. To encourage participation, keep your surveys short and simple. Additionally, offer an incentive such as a discount on a future purchase.

In conclusion, rest assured that you can successfully scale your business. However, to avoid the mistakes that have doomed other business, you should apply the above tips. Start by thinking big. your winning attitude will help you overcome failures and mistakes.

As you make progress, avoid distractions, get the help you need, leverage technology, and build your online presence. In the end, scaling your business requires a lot of work and some risk. What do you think about this topic? Share your comments or experiences that may help small business owners rise to the next level.

Joe Peters

Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about the latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters

Unique Marketing: 5 Ways to Increase Sale for Your Business

Gone are the days when you could drum up business just by putting an ad in the paper. Today’s consumers expect a lot more flash and bang than the kind offered by old-school advertising. Here are just five ways to give it to them. 

Host a Challenge

Let your customers choose your new mascot by submitting pictures, videos and drawings. Ask them to snap selfies of themselves using your products or employing your services. See who can create the best hashtag for an annual event. Challenges are a fun way to engage your customers with your brand, and in addition to boosting your sales, they can also bring positive media attention to your company if they go viral. 

Participate in Social Media Trends 

Speaking of viral, you never know when that #ThrowbackThursday photo will get thousands of retweets. Don’t be afraid to hop on the bandwagon of whatever is currently trending. Businesses have gotten a lot of press from things like Gangnam Style parody videos, and the more that you put yourself out there, the more likely it is that you’ll strike a chord with the public someday. 

Hire Promotional Models 

You don’t have to run a clothing line to employ models for your brand. Promotional modeling can be a benefit in many different industries, and it’s something found at expos, conferences, trade shows and launch parties around the world. These men and women can do everything from promoting a specific product to bringing general attention to your brand. 

Offer Freebies 

Everyone loves a freebie, especially when it’s something valuable and not just a pen or key chain with your company’s logo on it. Think about offering doorbusters at your next big sale, or hand out high-quality gifts with the purchase of certain products. You might also choose to distribute prizes and rewards to completely random customers. Intermittent reinforcement is a powerful psychological tool. 

Consider Local Collaborations 

Sponsor a youth soccer league. Pair up with a non-competitor to offer mutual discounts on your services. You’ll find more customers by expanding your reach, and you’ll also establish yourself as a local, trusted brand by becoming a regular part of the community. People will think favorably of your business because they see your name every time that Junior hits a home run. 

Say goodbye to traditional marketing campaigns. Today’s businesses need to have innovative, forward-thinking ads that can capture hearts and minds despite the increasingly short attention span of society. Think outside of the box with your marketing efforts to ensure that people still notice you within the noise.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

4 Procurement Strategies for Small Business

Procurement in relation to small business takes on a much different meaning than it’s big biz counterpart. Sure, they both involve similar practices, but in small business, it’s generally approached by a single person or small group — the most pertinent being the business owner. Small businesses don’t have access to a team of interns or professionals to handle research, vetting and communication. Instead, they have to do it all themselves.

Already, a small business owner has many demands and challenges on their plate from staffing and inventory management to customer service. Procurement, then, tends to be a much lower priority. But it shouldn’t be this way. In fact, most small businesses spend between 45 and 65 percent of their sales revenue on the procurement of inputs. It’s a massive undertaking for any company, big or small, so it should be afforded the appropriate attention.

In light of all this, let’s explore some tips and strategies that small to mid-sized businesses can leverage during procurement.

1. Form a Business Consortium

As a small business, you just don’t have the same buying power and influence as a major organization, at least not by yourself. In some cases, this issue can mean that many potential suppliers and vendors are off-limits simply because they work only with larger outfits. It also means that when you do find a potential partner, you may not save as much because you can’t meet optimal quantity limits. Vendors and suppliers will often offer exclusive discounts and deals for ordering in bulk.

Much of this inconvenience can be remedied by forming a consortium between local or similar small businesses. By partnering with others who need the same supplies, you can instantly meet volume requirements for additional savings and hold much more potency when it comes to buying power. Even when volume discounts aren’t offered, you can still benefit from cost savings, because the total investment is split between multiple parties as opposed to remaining solely on your shoulders.

2. Maintain Supplier and Vendor Relationships

Long-lasting relationships, especially with suppliers and vendors, tend to come with many benefits. It can save a lot of time and resources, for one, that you would otherwise waste looking for additional support. There’s also something to be said for the buildup of trust between loyal partners, as you can generally speak more freely and openly with a strategic partner you’ve dealt with over an extended period.

Perhaps even more relevant is the point that you’ll likely be evolving and scaling your operations as time goes on. This process will come naturally as your business grows, of course, but eventually, you’ll make an effort to improve efficiencies or output or just look for potential improvements to make. Having a strong bond or relationship with your vendors and suppliers means that you can include them in this process as well. You might even be able to stretch more enhancements out of helping them achieve optimizations too.

Indirect spending can also be reduced or mitigated by working with a single or small selection of vendors. The money you would spend on research, placing bids or seeking partners — and even varying prices from working with separate parties — can be outright eliminated. In fact, improving your procurement process can result in cost savings of 25 percent or more from indirect spending.

3. Consider Outsourcing

Outsourcing — in its many forms — may not be for everyone. However, if there’s one area of the business world where it can offer incredible benefits, it’s for small to mid-sized businesses. Generally, these operations don’t have access to extended resources, staff or equipment, so it’s difficult to keep up with the current state of the market and scale accordingly for more demanding customers.

Outsourcing involves balancing the work and operations so that a more qualified, capable party handles the tasks that your small business could not. There are many opportunities, service possibilities and providers out there, including outsourcing companies for finances, strategic analysis, IT, security and cloud computing solutions. Even supply and vendor management companies are available and will handle all duties related to logistics and inventory management.

Taking advantage of outsourcing also frees up the time of your limited staff so that you can handle more important or pressing matters. Taking into account the sheer number of responsibilities you have on your plate, that benefit in and of itself might be worth the investment.

4. Employ the Right Technologies

When researching potential suppliers, having access to the right software and systems can be instrumental. Even beyond that initial phase, software solutions can help create job postings and handle bidding processes, reference qualifications, submit and process payments and cover general vendor management duties. Not only will this assistance significantly cut costs associated with time and resource investments, but it will also simplify the entire process, eliminating most of the manual activities you’d otherwise have to follow.

Out of 200 businesses surveyed, 50.72 percent said their biggest tech adoption challenge was cost, being that the solutions they might be interested in are too expensive. A further 40.58 percent said that they didn’t have enough time to invest into finding or testing proper solutions, while 26.09 percent said the tech is too complicated.

If those businesses actually invested time into finding proper tech-based solutions, they’d also find cost savings, more free time — which could be used in better ways — and much easier process management. The reality is almost exactly the opposite of what many claimed in the survey.

When considering all these tips and potential procurement strategies, it becomes much easier to see how a business owner or small team could handle their duties. More importantly, it’s not just about getting the work done, but doing so efficiently and accurately. You need the proper time to research, trial and build a relationship with potential vendors, if only to improve the quality of your own products and services.

Procurement should never be an afterthought, even for small business.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

Attention Grabbers: How to Make Your Business Stand out to Potential Customers

As a business-owner, you have the need to reach an audience and catch the eye of potential customers. If your business does not stand out, this can be a huge marketing nightmare. When you find new ways to grab the attention of consumers, this is when you have an opportunity to coax them into transacting with you for products and services. Consequently, your marketing efforts always need to be centered on how to grab your customer’s attention so that these transactions can become a natural part of doing business.

Paint Your Store

When it comes to grabbing the attention of potential customers, you really want your store to look different than all the other stores and buildings in your region of the market. By daring to paint your store a different color scheme than other retail outfits are employing, you will stick out in a huge way to passing traffic. It will also make your business hard to miss, because people will immediately see that your store looks unique.

Light up Your Parking Lot

A lot of times people are out shopping late at night, but they cannot easily identify entrances and parking areas. Overly dark parking lots are not only hard to navigate, but they are not inviting to customers who fear for their safety. By shedding adequate light on the situation, you make your location easier to navigate and safer for late shoppers too.

Using Banners

Signage is an important part of helping customers recognize your company both inside and out. One way to get your brand and enticing images before customers is to use vinyl banners. These banners will be attention grabbers outside, because they will wave about in the wind. They will also be eye catching on the inside of your store, because they can serve as a means to alerting customers to important products or deals. This can translate to a lot more revenue being generated too.

When doing business in this modern age, it is important to be clever in how you grab a potential customer’s attention. Your store must be made visible among all the competition. Additionally, customers must be able to find what they are looking for with ease. These marketing strategies will help any business become appealing to a broader portion of the market being addressed. This is one time when sticking out like a sore thumb to get noticed is a great idea. It is a tactic that makes businesses the object of consumer attention.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Seven Marketing Tips That Will Make Your Company Stand Out

Marketing tips for your business could be applied in any way that you want. You might try a few things that seem different and/or new age, and you could go for something that you think would be perfect for you. You could try something that allows you to engage with more customers, and you could create a new part of your business that will reach more people. You must be certain that you have uncovered a way to make your business better.

1. Start Your Own Video Channel

You must start your own video channel when you want to post something that reads like a commercial, and you could continue to make videos that will help explain how your products or services should be used. You will find that you have a number of people who come to your video channel because they like to keep in touch with your business. This is the easiest and fastest way for them to keep up with your company, and you could get very creative when making these videos. Moreover, YouTube is the most desired platform for both companies and the users. Utilize it to showcase your products and services by creating your own channel. Take an example of Youi’s YouTube channel and build yours to post interactive videos.

2. Sell In Marketplaces

You could sell in marketplaces where you are selling a product that is used by sports teams. You must find places to sell that will be the easiest for other people to find, and you will notice that using the marketplaces is a quick way to get people to come to your site exclusively. Do not be afraid to compete with other companies. Customers will abandon them when they call in love with your products.

3. Start A Blog

You must start a blog for your business, and you will find that the blog for your business is much easier to keep up because it is nothing but articles you have written for your customers. They could respond to your articles, and they will learn things that they did not know when they started using your products or services. You could start real conversations with your customers, and you might want to share your blog posts on social media so that people are coming back to your site.

4. Use Social Media

You must use as much social media as you possibly can to market your company. Everyone could find your company on one form of social media or another. You might not be familiar with places like Snapchat or Instagram, but you could hire someone to run the accounts that you have. You could reach a young audience with these forms of social media, and you could use a Facebook page as a way to build up information on your company. You must use social media to start contests, to make your business seem younger, and to avoid problems that people have with reaching younger demographics. If you start with a young person now, they will be your loyal customers decades from now if your company has progressed.

5. Purchase Ads That Target Customers

The ads that you have purchased will be targeted at the people that you know will buy from you. You could purchase ads that will find customers who will buy, and you could get the people to come to your site. You must create a landing page that will welcome these people when they come to the site. They could click through these ads to buy something, and someone who has your affiliate ads will make a commission on the sales. You are using affiliate ads that get other companies to try to sell your products, and everyone wins.

6. Create A Music Channel For Your Customers To Listen To

Your customers could listen to a music channel that you created because that channel allows you to give them something to listen to when they are using your products. You could build a channel as a lifestyle move for your customers, or you might choose to use the music channel as a way to share the personality of your business while you are creating new things. The people that follow your company might be interested in what inspires you, and they could listen to that channel all day every day because they are so invested in your company.

7. Use Local SEO

You must use local SEO to reach as many customers as you possibly can. You will find that local SEO is very easy to use when you are setting up tagging on your site. The tags that you put on the site should be used to show that you serve certain areas, and you must have your business page on Google completed. People are more likely to contact your company when they know that you are close by, and they might use your company if they know that you can come out to their area. You must be certain that your local SEO is done by an expert, and you must update any time your company gets bigger.

8. Honourable Mention: Write Guest Posts

Guest posts are a good way for you to post things to the Internet that are not on your website. It is much easier for you to use the guest posts to reach customers when you have a partnership with a company that will post on your site. You both can share some space, and you will both send customers in the other’s direction. You are generating goodwill with other companies, and you are getting free ad space just for writing an article.

Conclusion

There are many people who want to learn how to market their companies better, and they are hoping to use as many new age marketing advantages as they can find. Someone who is trying to have a better business must do all that they can to make it popular, and they should use the tips that are listed above. You could deploy one of these tips at a time, or you could make these changes here and there depending on what you have the resources to accomplish right now.

PR Is Essential For SME Firms – Big Business Shows Why

A public relations fiasco will sometimes feel like the death knell for a company. However, for digital business, poor publicity can provide more of a boon than you’d expect. Digital-based cab company Uber provide excellent evidence of this. Despite blow after blow in the media, Uber made $7.4bn in revenue last year. How does a company absorb wide scale negative publicity and turn it into benefits – and how does digital business prosper even further?

When expectations are at rock bottom, your options are unrestricted. Outside of the digital sphere, Volkswagen showed this; the very green friendly $25bn electric car scheme did the trick, as did generous compensation. For SME, there’s lessons to be learned here; even a crisis can be turned into a positive.

Setting the tone

Despite being confined to a screen, digital business isn’t excepted from having a tone of voice. In fact, it’s more important than ever, and is referred to as brand voice. Behind the brand voice is an established science behind it, and it forms a key part of your PR approach. According to Contently, up to 61% of customers are minded more towards engaging with a company that has a positive tone. Your tone is elicited through all of the mediums you use, as a business, to communicate – whether that’s face-to-face, email, or standard webpages.

How, then, does tone translate to transforming bad PR? To return to Uber’s example, their fortunes noticeably increased once a conciliatory tone. Not every customer can be happy – even if your service is perfect, it’s likely there will at some point be an issue. Adopting a positive business voice regardless of outcomes, and regardless of the message you are delivering, will have a twofold benefit: one, it can turn the unhappy customer around  and make them less likely to leave negative reviews, or, in some cases, they become the customer. Two, it can attract new customers to the company who are enthused by your manner.

Managing crisis solutions

All good plans are laid bare when crisis hits. For small businesses, this can be a raft of bad reviews. This is where PR really is crucial, as history has shown time and time again. The first step is to establish the threat – if the reviews are bogus, it can be beneficial to meet them with positivity and to continue showcasing your restaurant’s benefits. When the content is a legitimate, real cause for concern, the best option is honesty and gratuity. Another huge digital business that suffered from a PR scandal, Facebook, climbed back up the stock index following the adoption of a honest tone from their embattled CEO.

Examples of an honest and dedicated voice returning the business to prosperity are found through history. Take, for example, the 1994 Texaco racial discrimination lawsuit. This brought adverse attention from across the country, but with it the attention and expectation that that level of attention garners. The result was that Texaco were able to make honest and sweeping changes to their business, weighting continued productivity against the hit taken from settlement. In the modern day, take a look at the McDonalds Szechuan sauce fiasco last year; as a result, sales were generated and the business was associated positively with a new group of influencers associated with digital communities.

PR is applicable across all levels of business. From huge conglomerates to SME, it really is of benefit to closely consider the voice of your company and your response to disasters. Having a cogent strategy and the tools to implement it will ensure you make the best out of any bad situation.

Guest Author, Jenny Holt, is a former HR executive turned freelance writer, who now spends more time with her young family and ageing, but ever eager Labrador, Rover.

Why Does Content Work For Some And Not For Others?

The online space is witnessing increasing deployment of focused content by companies to drive better user engagement and build awareness of one’s brand. The reason is obvious. Content marketing is proving to be a profitable proposition for creating brand appeal among niche users and reaping rich dividends.  The creation and distribution of meaningful, relevant, informative, easy to understand and implement, consistent and purposeful content can turbocharge your brand’s scalability index.

content1

Source

Content marketing done in right perspective not only attracts and retains customers but also triggers word of mouth promotion by satisfied evangelists. With content, you are actually making the potential buyers more empowered and intelligent which motivates them to make informed and conscious purchasing decision in your brand’s favour. The underlying theme is that, if you keep providing your prospects with valuable and actionable information, it would get reflected in the form of steady traffic to your site and higher conversions.

Have Companies Benefited from Investment in Content Marketing?

Yes.

Stats from various studies show that the lead generation for content is 3x more compared to outbound marketing whereas the money pumped in for content generation and deployment is 62% lesser.

Additionally, content works because it is in demand. This demand for content can be seen in the online audience – a vast majority of people in the demographic class of 18-50 years prefer online news and content to secure the latest information. As a result, the growth in leads for SMEs which have their own blogs has been reported to be 126% more than those counterparts which don’t believe in blogging. In the USA alone, about 61% of online customers have made their purchasing decisions after going through fact-driven recommendations in blogs.

What Makes Content A Successful Strategy For Brands?

If you go by market-based insights, the reasons would be quite straightforward but many:

  • Good content has the right balance of short and long tail keywords which prompts the search engine crawler to index the related sites for all relevant search queries.
  • Quality content must be posted at frequent intervals; delayed or staggered posts are perfect catalysts for driving away your prospective buyers.
  • Content shouldn’t just be limited to your own blog. To make it work, target high authority sites and build your authority through guest posting.
  • Believable content has to be relatable and authoritative so that readers can rely on the information shared and become experts in navigating problems.
  • Exciting content never lets the focus of readers stray and grasps the short attention span through shorter paragraphs and extensive use of visual creatives.
  • Strong content is never overwhelmed with unnecessary words just for fulfilling the expected length.
  • Readable content uses easy to comprehend words and simple sentence constructs. Good content also eliminates the use of jargon.
  • Marketable content does not repeat ideas and never sports cookie-cutter characteristics.
  • Unique content is plagiarism free; even if ideas have to be borrowed, they are presented with a fresh perspective.
  • Engaging content allows sufficient scope to gauge the sentiments of readers and measures the resonance of ideas shared through user polls, reviews, social media shares etc.
  • Compelling content needs to be interactive and addressed to the readers in a manner that they find it more personal than advertising-centric.
  • Content works more effectively when you give your audience the choice to pick from different formats. This means videos, podcasts, blogs, infographics etc.
  • Updated content always gives reflection to activities of importance that have happened for your brand. And is attuned to the current industry trends.

content2

Source

Why does Content fail to Deliver for Some?

If your brand fails to leverage the potential of content optimally for rich returns, it must be suffering from one or more of the problems outlined below:

  • The content might be pushy and/or advertising-centric.
  • It might not be working because it offers no real value to readers.
  • If the content is outdated, irrelevant and inconsistent with your brand’s vision- it won’t get you any engagement.
  • Your content could not be working because it might have plagiarism issues. Such content invites penalties from search engines.
  • When content lacks strong and catchy headlines, it fails to catch the reader’s interest. So even if your content is giving really valuable information, it might get skipped because it lacks an engaging structure.
  • Content containing spelling and grammatical errors doesn’t work for the audience.
  • When statements are not backed by facts, they harm your credibility. To make this work, you should link your content to high-authority and reliable sources.
  • When content does not have relevant keywords that would help the search engines categorize it properly, it fails to gain visibility.
  • Content that lacks any thought-provoking characteristics is also bound to fail.

Now that you have realized the apparent bottlenecks that are withholding your content from producing that killer’ effect, it is time to give your content strategy the much-deserved facelift. Skip the don’ts and work on the dos to get the most out of your content strategy.

Matthew Booth is the Global Marketing & Operations Director at SMEGoWeb, a global brand which has helped more than a thousand businesses achieve their online goals. With a decade of agency experience, he is now set out to share his marketing knowledge to help companies refine their digital strategies.