Trying to keep a small business in the black with revenues coming in on a regular basis takes a lot of work. Startups and small businesses know this fact intimately, living and dying on making it through the month with sufficient sales to pay the bills and keep the business afloat for another quarter until the next big customer comes in.
The cycle of feast and famine can take a toll on a business owner quickly, affecting both mental outlook as well as the business itself in terms of performance. So where there are opportunities to generate interim income between big jobs, they should be taken. This provides a regular, steady stream of revenue that can be relied on for business needs between big projects and sales. It also provides stability for the business financially so the owner can begin to think about long-term strategy and growing the business.
A number of tools are available, fortunately, for small businesses, and many are free or low-cost, which keeps marketing costs down (another benefit during hard times). These include:
• Social media – Yes, you’ve probably heard getting a Facebook page or Twitter account is a need for every business, but it’s not clear how doing so produces business. A successful approach needs a direct message that brings customers in via social media and gets them to buy or at least ask for direct communication about a service or product. Done right, this approach can improve small sales and provide steady transactions, but its hands-on intensive as social media requires lots of interaction.
• Diversifying – Many businesses focus on one particular task or product, but diversifying opens multiple, new revenue streams. There’s nothing wrong with selling automotive parts by day and car how-to-repair articles for websites by night. Thinking about what additional services or products can be built around a core business opens additional sales and more ways to connect different customers to the same business.
• Network, network, network – Many businesses provide some of the best customers to each other. A sale doesn’t always have to come from a private customer. Business owners who connect with each other on a personal level are more likely to order product and services from each other, building long-term relationships and repeat business.
• Use the Internet – Business sales can come from anywhere as long as a customer has a way to reach a business and feels safe doing so electronically. A business website with a secure ordering and payment system provides this opportunity, and sells a lot of static product, which can be openers for better-paying customized work later on with the same customers via up-selling.
• Building awareness – A number of cheap website tools exist by which to send out electronic newsletters, providing bits of free information to potential customers regularly. This creates ongoing awareness and generates cold orders from readers who connect the dots and realize a solution for their needs.
* Comment below if you want to share your advice on keeping small businesses afloat. We welcome your feedback!