There are about 30 million small businesses in America today and these companies are as diverse as the American economy as a whole. Ranging from restaurants and auto-body shops to construction and renovation firms, hair salons, and home repair businesses, they account for 48 percent of all U.S. jobs. You might say that small business IS big business. But even though they employ fewer workers and often focus on a local or regional customer base, small businesses are subject to the same forces as large corporations. Large businesses usually have an established customer base and steady cash flow to keep them afloat during periods of change. Small businesses often do not. They need to be nimble and responsive when it comes to marketing their company, developing customer relationships, and keeping records. Here are some of the best practices for small businesses entering 2020.
Move to Digital Records
Some small business owners take pride in embracing a lo-fi, “old-school” approach to managing their business. While old-fashioned business processes may feel easygoing and low-key to some, they can hurt entrepreneurs in the long run. This is especially true when it comes to record-keeping. Any business has to keep track of a ton of paperwork. This includes work orders, invoices, regulatory documents, training materials, and customer data. The costs of staying loyal to paper significantly outweigh the benefits. Relying on folders, file cabinets, and storage boxes is a recipe for slow response times and a lack of visibility. When all your records are stowed away on paper, it takes you longer to track down a specific document. That, in turn, eats into productivity in a recurring, cumulative way. Paper files also weaken your ability to build customer profiles and grasp clients’ backgrounds, preferences, and buying interests.
Moving to a digital model for records and paperwork is one of the single most transformative actions a small business can take to increase efficiency, transparency, and responsiveness. Business owners will also develop a more nuanced understanding of overhead, cash flow, and keeping a separation between the two. Further, digital record-keeping can serve as the foundation for building customer profiles. Investing in business software that includes data management can help your firm attain superior optimization and performance.
From files and invoices to regulatory documents, training materials, and client data, modern small businesses need to go digital. It’s substantially more efficient, easier to navigate, and makes a better impression on employees and customers.
Achieve Brand Consistency
Business marketing is more complex than ever, and there are almost too many channels business owners can use to reach customers. Websites, emails, and social media platforms are wonderful ways to reach people. Having such a variety of options can be exciting, but it can also cause confusion. You don’t want your Facebook page, your website, and your blog posts to look like three different businesses. Different voices, tones, or messages across different platforms can kill brand awareness and clutter your identity. In a marketing world defined by variety and differentiation, you certainly want to strive for consistency. This means creating a concise, compelling identity and projecting that on all of the channels you use. It means perfecting your message and communicating it with consistency from one platform to the next. Your tweets should reflect and promote your website, and your website should display your social media handles.
No matter how many channels you market your business on, the look, feel, and language of your brand should be exactly the same across the board.
Invest in Customer Experience (CX)
The customer experience (CX) is becoming an increasingly integral part of the overall business strategy for marketing and customer relationships. CX can be broadly defined as the customer’s collective experience across all interactions and touchpoints for a specific company. These primarily include two types of “encounters.” First, digital touchpoints like website visits, emails, and social media interactions. And second, in-person interactions over the phone, at a brick-and-mortar store, or through other person-to-person events.
Although CX can be hard to pin down because of how many different moments it rolls into one cohesive concept, it’s critical for small businesses. This is because small businesses struggle to compete with the low prices and convenience offered by national corporations. One of the best ways a smaller organization can counter this is through it’s CX. One example of how to develop a great CX is by perfecting the look, feel, and arrangement of your store. Another is making the most of in-person interactions with customers. You might also consider regularly offering exciting promotions. These are all CX strategies small business owners can leverage to give them a crucial edge on bigger companies that may sell similar goods and services at lower prices. Small businesses are inherently unique—one-of-a-kind. The customer experience they create is one of the best ways for them to demonstrate that.
Build a Modern Website
According to HubSpot, 97 percent of people learn about local small businesses online more often than they do anywhere else. That figure speaks to just how thoroughly search engines have replaced phone books, Rolodexes, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Small businesses that want to thrive today need to have a legitimate online presence that ranks on search engines. What’s the single most important way to do that? Your website. But in today’s marketplace, it’s not enough to set up a bare-bones URL with a few sparse pages and an address. (This halfway approach only works if you already have a firmly established business with a consistent stable of customers). Today, you need to impress and attract millennials and members of Generation Z. These consumers have a keen eye for exactly what a modern professional website should look like.
To get the kind of website that brings in those younger demographics aims for a home page that checks all the right boxes. It should be easy to navigate but still sophisticated in its animation, color scheme, and messaging. And if you’re a company offering specific products, clean and striking product images go a long way.
Rank on Google and Other Search Engines
Once you’ve built your website, you want people to find it. That’s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. There are a few steps you can take to help your site rank high in the billions of searches people do every day. The first is identifying the keywords that people would use when searching for your product or services. The more of these keywords you incorporate into your site, the more competitive it will be. Make sure that you’re including an updated address and contact information on every page. If Google’s algorithm can’t find contact info on your web page, that page will suffer, especially in searches. Lastly, entrepreneurs need to bear in mind that over two-thirds of searches conducted today are done through a mobile device, and because of this, the more mobile-friendly a website is, the higher it will rank in a search.
Service businesses looking to streamline their operations and transition to digital processes should take a look at WHERK. A new software platform designed for small businesses, WHERK offers a comprehensive suite of features including automatic billing and invoicing, personnel tracking, dashboard reporting, and an intuitive mobile application for field employees. WHERK was tailor-made for service businesses in industries ranging from HVAC and plumbing to renovations and home repairs. Visit the WHERK website to learn more.