If you have a unique product, excellent customer service and visions for expansion, your small business is heading in the right direction. However, if you're having trouble achieving that expansion and your numbers have stalled, it may be time to re-evaluate your situation. Every business has room for improvement, but not every business owner knows where to look for improvement strategies.
If you feel like your business is stuck in a rut, before spending more money on marketing or investing more capital into your business, consider these four common problems that often stall a company's success. Implementing some of the solutions below may be just what your business needs.
1. Under-Developed Branding
This is a very common pitfall for new and growing businesses. Many business owners think that once they have come up with the perfect business name and an eye-catching logo, they are done with their branding. However, if you look at some of the most successful businesses like Starbucks, Apple or Microsoft, they all have a common thread: Their brand distinguishes them.
While these companies are industry behemoths now, it's important to remember they weren't always the giants they've become. They created a culture that was centered on their product and associated their now-iconic brand with things that matter most to their target audience.
The solution to this problem is two-fold. First, you need to decide on your target audience. Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, focus on a few demographics that would benefit most from the product you have to offer.
Once you've decided on your target demographic, you can begin crafting your brand. Find out what matters most to these people and figure out exactly why they would benefit most from your product. Doing this can dramatically increase the perceived value of your product and thus increase demand.
2. Lack of Collaboration
Another stumbling block that business owners face is a fear of collaboration and hesitance to release control. It's understandable; your business is your baby, and you feel as if you're the only one who can "do it right." However, this mindset will lead to burnout and stalled numbers very quickly.
Collaboration is actually a great way to increase your traffic over the long run. By partnering with businesses that complement your own, you are freeing yourself to focus on specializing in one specific area. Creating that market niche for yourself is another way to drastically increase both the perceived and actual value of your product. In addition, collaboration allows for shared clientele, which will give both you and your partner a short-term boost.
3. Inefficient or Impractical Business Processes
As your business grows, so does the complexity of your business operations and the data you need to track. In the beginning, it may have been okay to keep paper ledgers or handle your accounting with Excel spreadsheets, or to use Outlook for all customer communications, or to use a white board or paper lists to keep track of inventory. But if you don't automate routine and detailed tasks once business starts rolling in, you'll limit your growth and profitability.
Industry publications and articles about apps and productivity can help you find tools to automate and/or simplify business processes. If you don't have much of a budget for software solutions, search Bing or Google for terms such as "Small business customer service app" or "low cost project management software". Ask other business people in your network about productivity solutions they use, too.
If you are a sole proprietor or have a very small staff, another solution to consider is hiring a virtual assistant who is skilled in handling administrative functions. Releasing the day-to-day responsibilities to someone else will free you up to focus on the big picture goals for the future of your business.
4. Lack of Realistic Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Every new business is born from a grand vision. All entrepreneurs start their companies with dreams of long-term success, but unfortunately, these dreams are not always enough to sustain positive growth. A common problem that new business owners run into is a lack of specific planning. In order to experience continued progress and expansion, you need short-term as well as long-term ideas about how to achieve the success you're envisioning.
The best solution for this is to sit down and write your long-term goals for your business. Once you have a concrete list in front of you, prioritize these goals by deciding which ones need to be accomplished first and begin with those.
You can use your long-term goals as an outline for determining short-term goals. For each long-term goal, you will need several steps to reach it; those steps will be your short-term goals. By sitting down and planning out both the day-to-day and the year-to-year activities, you are setting yourself on track to be constantly moving forward and growing.
The first step to growing your small business is recognizing the stumbling blocks you are facing. Once you know what your problem areas are, you can implement these suggestions to help reinvigorate your business and reach your potential.
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