Looking to expand your business in 2014? The new year is a great time to plan your small business's expansion.
"In my opinion, the first step that needs to be taken is preparing a plan and growth strategy for the New Year. A target must be identified to create a strategy and plan around. This gives you a focus for the entire year," says business consultant Brian Ford of BlessedWithBusinessGrowth. "Then, systems need to be checked to make sure that they can handle the expected growth efficiently and with the least amount of moving parts possible. Next, you want to make sure the sales process/funnel is also running smoothly. Once your systems are in place, you can make sure that the team can rally around the vision for 2014."
Continue to utilize social media to promote your company. "I believe social media will still be a great marketing tool in 2014, if it is harnessed properly and you use it as part of your overall strategy. Time is always going to be one of your greatest assets. I know many times the first question that small business owners ask is if social media is worth the time. I think it is if you use it strategically. I believe you can do this in two ways," notes Ford.
First, says Ford, invest in some software. "Leverage your time on social media with software that can help. Bufferapp.com is great for small businesses that need to leverage their time. It has a free service as well as paid options. I personally like the ease of use and the short amount of time I need to spend on social media. It schedules tweets, posts and other forms of communication on social media," he suggests.
Also, to get the most bang out of your social media usage, narrow your social media to a select number of outlets. "Social media is very powerful and can be a great benefit for you and your business. Select two or three social media options that work best for your business. There are great options out there for many types of businesses," Ford points out. "Do a little research and keep in mind that you want your target market to be using the same type of social media that you are using. It makes it easier for them to follow you and connect with your business. Make sure to create content that people will be drawn to when you post on your outlet. Also, make sure that it shows your brand as trustworthy and you as an expert in your market."
This coming year could bring some new opportunities for small businesses. So you need to be ready to take advantage of them. "I think there are a couple of unique opportunities for small businesses in 2014," he adds.
"Consumerbarometer.com estimates that 82 percent of North America still purchases products offline. They also report that about 23 percent of North America does research online and offline before they make a purchase while another 23 percent don’t really do any research at all before purchasing offline," explains Ford. "I believe that if small businesses really streamline their systems and sales processes, they can have some good growth this year. The best way to do this is to make marketing about connection instead of conversion. View it from the customers’ perspective. Whether you provide marketing online or offline, make sure that it is trustworthy and reliable."
So what makes consumers purchase items? "They are purchasing something to fill a need or solve a problem. Or they are purchasing something they want. (An emotional purchase.)," explains Ford. "Line your marketing up with one of these reasons and there is a good chance you will see growth in 2014."
And for 2014, don't make the mistake of overlooking tools that can help you grow your business. "Small businesses overlook the power of local searches for their business. Yelp! is a great tool if you want to break into your local market for your business," says Ford. "Another report from Consumberbarometer.com estimates that about 79 percent of people in North America think local information in searches is more relevant. While having a business online is important, the local searches are neglected by many business owners. This is what people are looking for, so the business owners that utilize this opportunity can establish a connection with current and new clients out there."
Make sure to have your sales process and system completely set up. "This means that marketing, front-end selling of a product/service and the back-end selling all need to be in place so that potential customers don’t leak out. The smoother the system and sales process, the easier it is to keep it up and keep the customer happy," Ford points out.
According to Ford, many small businesses also overlook retention. It is great to attract new customers, but you also want to have loyal customers. "There is so much focus on getting new people in the doors and none on keeping the people that have already voted with their money that they like your product or service," observes Ford. "A customer that has already purchased something from you has established trust with you and is more likely to purchase again. Invest some time and money into retention. Yes, you need new customers, but you also need to spend time on the ones you already have."
So now are you ready to build your brand in 2014?