Why Growth can Destroy your Small Business

Chart going through the floor

 

Small Businesses have a desire to grow – grow their sales, customer numbers and enter new markets. However unless you have adequate resources and a clearly defined strategy, then growth can lead to the demise of your small business.

There are many fine examples of small businesses that’ve exploded in size as they possess high growth potential. Angels invest, banks lend, crowds fund and external resources are ploughed into helping those companies achieve their growth potential – but not every small business has such significant growth potential. So before you contemplate growing your company, consider the following advice.

Resources

Resources are one of the key factors to consider when growing a small business which include:

  • Money
  • Manpower
  • Skills
  • Premises
  • Machinery & Technology

The obvious considerations are money, manpower, premises and equipment – but one factor often overlooked is the skills required to achieve growth. As a company grows the hierarchy, management and positions change so you need to consider if you have the staff with the right skill set to take on new roles. What skills do you need?  Can you train existing staff? Where can you find the staff with these skills and how much will it cost you?

Draw a list of all the above 5 key resource areas and calculate what resources you need if you achieve a certain level of growth – you’ll often find that right now you simply don’t have the resources available to facilitate your growth plans.

Existing Customers

Remember where you come from and who helped your company get to where it is – your existing customers. As a small business you can afford to dedicate more time and attention on each individual customer, but as you grow your time will be spent elsewhere.

To achieve growth you might want to explore new markets and offer new products in an attempt to grow your customer base. Stop and think about why you won those customers in the first place, what attracted them to you and why do they continue to be loyal customers?

Launching new products to new markets leads to a fundamental shift in your business model, so be mindful not to alienate your core customers at the expense of obtaining new ones.

Sustainable Growth

Grow too big too quick and you’re gone – you must grow sustainably. If that means it takes you longer to achieve your growth objectives then so be it.

To borrow or not to borrow? I have this romantic notion that commerce would be far more sustainable if companies didn’t borrow, but the reality of the situation often slaps me in the face. Borrowing is often the only way small businesses can fund new machinery, employ new talent or make essential repairs. However if you can avoid borrowing and achieve the finances you need over a longer time period, always choose sustainable organic growth.

You need to pay interest – every month and on time which increases the overall amount you pay to achieve the same results. An element of borrowing is outside your control. Interest rates may be at a record low but they will increase in the next year or 2 – yet again increasing the risk and cost of borrowing.

Do you think my advice hinders or helps growth?

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4 Reasons Why Social Media is Perfect for Competitions

sm contest

Small businesses can choose to spend their small Marketing budgets in a number of areas – Print, Digital, Radio, Advertising, Directories, Outdoor and many more. It can be a confusing web of options. Which method reaps the highest return on my investment? – Discard all those options and organise a competition.

Social Media is a perfect platform for running competitions – your competition is the magic bean and Social Media is the beanstalk. With careful organising you can get the competition entrants to grow your company’s Marketing, boost brand visibility and increase sales – here’s 4 ways your Small Business can leverage the benefits running a successful competition.

1)      Free Marketing

Firstly ensure that the topic of the competition compliments your own strategy – If you’re a hairdresser, then offer a pair of GHD straighteners, if you’re an Accountant offer a year’s free advice and so on. And of course you’ll need to promote the competition to the relevant audience – just make sure your prize is appealing.

Once you’ve decided on the finalists, run a voting system then watch Social Media explode! It’s amazing to see finalists of a competition embark on their own campaigns to get votes from their followers, meaning your company can leverage ALL connections from ALL their Social Media networks. Every time a finalist posts on Social Media – your company is included in the links resulting in driving traffic to your website. Once they’re on your website, enquiries and sales are a cert.

2)      Build a Database

When collecting votes for the finalists of the competition – make the voters enter their email addresses so you can build a database of relevant prospects.  Once you have built the email list you then need to align this with collecting Social Media details to build a complete profile of prospects.

Run a special voting day on Facebook, whereby people can simply click LIKE to place their votes. Now you can match the names and email addresses collected earlier to the Social Media profiles. With access to more in depth information about individuals you can build a picture of your ideal customer profile resulting in improved segmentation and targeting.

3)      Build Authority

Running a competition with a reasonably high cash value (or cash) will help to build credibility in your field allowing you to become a trusted company in your field.  Linking back to my initial advice, ensure you align the competition with your own company strategy. For example if you’re an Accountant who specialises in small business, then run a competition for the “UK’s Best Small Business” or something similar.

By making your company synonymous with a specialist area, you can build authority and become trusted and credible in your area of expertise.

4)      Integrate

When you launch your competition a key element in your strategy needs to be integration. Although Social Media is the key channel, ensure you adopt a multi-channel strategy. Place ads in relevant newspapers, advertise digitally and raise awareness of your competition – you need to lead people toward Social Media by integration.

Therefore by integrating your competition marketing and integrating the way you collect information from entrants and voters you can build a fully comprehensive database of prospective clients. Only 1 company can win your competition, so everyone else is a potential sale.

Have you ever run a competition on Social Media? Any horror or success stories?

Social Media Couch Potatoes

couch-potato

Social Media and the technology we use to access it is contributing to the creation of the Social Media Couch Potato. Staying in, sitting down facing the screen of a Smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC people are laughing, sharing and living their lives – all without talking, touching and intimacy.

Communicating through Social Media changes our habits and daily routines which impacts how consumers browse and buy products and services. Therefore as a small business if you understand how your prospects and customers are using Social Media, then you can connect with them when they want where they want.

Timing

When are your followers online?

7.30 in the evening are they sitting down to watch Coronation Street or Eastenders? 12.30 on a Saturday afternoon are they watching the football game on Sky TV?

When the 1st TV ad break appears or half time at the game, people will check their Social Media accounts – and you should send posts on Social Media at these exact times. You can use auto scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer or Social Sprout to schedule posts for you at certain times of the day/week.

You might even be watching the same TV show or game as your audience, so find common ground and connect with them. If you’re a hairdresser you could mention a famous player’s hairstyle and promote a special offer for that style.  Has someone died in Coronation Street? Post about it to encourage your followers to comment – make real life connections, just don’t make everything you post about you and your company – be real and BE SOCIAL.

Turn Browsing into Sales

Shopping habits have changed with the birth of smart technology and Social Media fuelling a shift from Retail to E-Tail breeding a generation of armchair shoppers. What’s the point in going shopping in the rain, fighting for space in the car park in high streets with the same shops, brands and products as every other high street in the country?

Armchair shoppers are canny as they conduct research to shop around for the best deals available. Often people visit Retail premises, find something they like then go online to look for a better deal.  Social Media plays a significant role in purchasing decisions as potential customers ask their friends & family where to find X product, best prices and best websites. Regardless of how fancy and snazzy your marketing is, people trust their peers ahead of any brand in the world, so use this fact to your advantage.

Consumers will connect with their peers on Social Media and your Small Business needs to be heard to be part of that buying process. Use Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel, offer specific ranges only and offer special deals that consumers can’t find anywhere else.

Tap into your customer’s peer network by offering say a 10% discount if they share your “special offer post”. This way you’re getting the customer to do your Marketing for you.

Find out when your followers are on Social Media to get your timing right, marry this with using Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel and you’ve tapped into a market of Social Media Couch Potatoes itching to spend, spend and spend.

Are you a Retailer who struggles to compete with online competitors? Are you struggling to increase sales on Social Media? Tell me about any success stories or problems you’ve faced when selling on Social Media 🙂

Pinterest for Small Business

Pinterest smallbiz

What’s the next big thing on Social Media? Google+, Instagram and Snapchat are all being tipped to become the platforms to watch in 2014, but for me I’m tipping Pinterest. Visually stimulating, easy to use and highly effective for generating sales – here’s why Pinterest should be included in your Small Business Social Media strategy.

It’s all about the Visuals

Social Media is full of passers by who are all potential shoppers for your small business products. In the blink of an eye you can be lost or found, depending on how visually appealing you make your company and products.

Posting on Twitter is all about the text in the Heading, with Pinterest it’s all about the visuals. Headings are important, but it’s the visuals you use which are more important to succeed on Pinterest.

You can search for free images on Google images, make sure you select “advanced search” from the settings menu then select “usage rights” to ensure you can legally use the images you wish to use.

Pinterest Gets Results

Statistics show that Pinerest drives 50% more traffic than other Social Media sites. This figure may be a wee bit excessive and vary from country to country, but the fact remains that Pinterest leads to sales – If you have a strategy and commit your time to it.

Certain industries perform very well on Pinterest such as Food, Interior Design, Fashion and any physical product which is visually appealing.

Let your product do the talking by posting high quality images onto Pinterest and always include a URL link back to your company website – make sure it’s the full URL and not a shortened one as Pinterest will flag your posts as spam otherwise.

Be Yourself

Tread this line very carefully, be yourself and reveal your and your company’s personality – but always remain professional. Customers have been exposed to decades of corporate stiffness, politician-like smarminess and advertising saturation – they want something more REAL.

As a sole trader, when people buy my services they’re also buying into me – my way of thinking and my personality. There are hundreds of thousands of other competitors around the world all offering very similar services me – your small business is exactly the same. Products and services in any industry are becoming homogenised, there’s very little difference between the end product the customer receives – but you can make that difference by showing customers the real you.

Create boards and post pictures of places you’ve visited, cars and clothes you like, your favourite food or even some cute kittens and bunnies. Not only will you become more approachable but you have the opportunity to open up dialogue with potential customers by leveraging your interests to forge 1:2:1 relationships.

Remember that people buy from people.

As the masses flock away from Facebook (especially teenagers) and customers become more proficient in using multiple Social Media platforms, Pinterest is one to watch in 2014.

Is Pinterest just for fun or do you think that you can generate sales from it?

Why Should I Learn Social Media When I Can Do It?

job education pic

Social Media is easy right? You just set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all the other Social Media platforms start posting and you’re away – wrong!

You can’t simply read a few articles about being a Lawyer, Accountant or Business Professional and simply become an expert, so why is Social Media any different? So many people think that gaining certificates or learning Social Media courses isn’t necessary – well that’s a slap in the face for the Social Media industry and the professionals within. In fact it’s an insult to the entire concept of education.

Let’s explore why learning Social Media helps to compliment on the job experience.

Decision Making

Whether you’re a Marketing Professional or Business Owner you must avoid making mistakes at all costs. Whilst it’s true that people learn by making mistakes it should be noted that making mistakes on Social Media negatively impacts your customers and business. Why would you risk gambling with your clients business by refusing to learn about Social Media? – that’s just arrogant and dangerous.

Mistakes can be prevented and decision making improved if people take the time to learn about Social Media from accrediting bodies and companies.  Trial and error isn’t an effective or advisable method of decision making.

Timeless Fundamentals of Social Media

Social Media isn’t a stand-alone discipline, it incorporates SEO, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Sales, HR, Customer Service, Advertising, Marketing Integration and so much more.  To understand the multi-functional use of Social Media one must firstly learn the basic fundamentals.

The most common complaint about learning Social Media is that the design of courses can’t keep up with the rapidly changing pace of Social Media. Yes platforms change, new ones appear and older ones evolve but there remains a set of fundamentals which can stand the test of time.

Social Media is a place to connect and engage with human beings, building relationships and being social is the key to success on Social Media.  Once you’ve formed relationships with your target audience the concept of sharing relevant, useful and informative information will always be an area of importance regardless of how fast Social Media changes.

Analysing your Social Media activity and customer responses require the use of on-site or 3rd party tools making the concept of testing and measuring timeless. New tools and apps are constantly being created, you don’t need to know them all – simply how they should be used and the benefits they reap.

The fact that Social Media changes so frequently, this should encourage educators to provide fresh material and certainly cannot be accused on being static or out of date.

Experience

I spent the 1st 30 years of my life with a somewhat anti-academic approach to work and my career until I realised that I couldn’t gain the experience I needed so much as I lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. It’s a classic example of the chicken and egg, how can you gain experience unless my skills are in demand?

Of course you need experience to prove you can apply what you’ve learned, but you need to learn 1st.

Do you think Social Media certificates and courses are a waste of time?

The Dissection of Social Media

smedia

To understand what Social Media is, you must firstly separate and analyse those 2 words – Social and Media. The star of the show in Social Media has to be the Social element, it’s all about people. People drive, develop and ultimately control what Social Media is and will shape the future of how it looks and how we use it.

Social

Social Media gathers individuals into groups and communities of likeminded people with shared interests and cultures – In Social Media terms it’s all about connecting, engaging and sharing.

Regardless of your age, Social Media is used by all, young and old. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is 55-64, whilst on Facebook and Google+ it’s the 45-54 age group. Such statistics demonstrate that Social Media isn’t just for the young ones.

Younger generations adapt much quicker to Social Media, they’ve been doing it since they were born and will be leaders in future Social Media trends. It’s common knowledge that younger Facebook users have been switching to new platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest. They’re the trendsetters and will be the driving force in how Social Media evolves in the future.

The volume of information on Social Media excites me but how we learn and communicate scares me.  As a recent graduate I know how much studying is required, reading, reading and more reading – but can the Social Media generations learn anything other than fast moving smaller bursts of information? Can they/we concentrate on more substantial methods of learning? Does Social Media enhance or hinder human communication?

Social Media surely improves access to information, friends and family but does it make us less sociable and lose focus when learning? Whatever the answers are, it’s the people who use Social Media we must understand to adapt to their preferences.

Media

Media simply facilitates communication and our consumption of information. The internet enables us to communicate and consume information but Social Media has spread onto multiple media channels. Watch the news on TV and you can contribute via Twitter, Newspapers, Billboards and Radio encourages us to “Find Us on Facebook” which demonstrates how Social Media functions across a multi-media network – not just the internet.

More niche interests will be accommodated in Social Media in the near future resulting in the Social element of Social Media shaping the media we use to communicate. As Social Media evolves the larger generic platforms like Facebook will make room for niche platforms based on the varying interests of smaller groups and geographical locations. More regional platforms and groups will be born to accommodate people’s interest in specialist products/services and preferences – Small is the new big.

Social Media may comprise of 2 core elements, but we must remember that understanding the Social element will enable us to understand the entirety of Social Media and its future.

What’s your opinion? Does Social Media make us dumb and hinder how we communicate?