Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, and the path can have its share of obstacles. Your personal vision for success may be centered on growing revenue, increasing your physical footprint by opening a new location, or simply expanding your staff so you can redirect your energy and focus elsewhere. Knowing how to run a successful business starts with applying some tried and true strategies.
- Taking a customer-focused approach that targets the right audience can help small businesses be more successful.
- Online and digital marketing can help to increase visibility if you’re focused on social media channels where your target customers spend time.
- Upgrading technology and making sure your website is up-to-date can ensure a better customer experience, which may lead to increased sales.
Focus on Your Customers
Successful small businesses are customer-focused, which means they understand the needs of their current customer bases. Satisfied customers can drive profits through repeat business and referrals.
The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index shows an overall downtrend in satisfaction, which means that businesses who understand the needs of their customers have an advantage. Between 2010 and 2019, around 70% of the companies that ACSI tracked had flat or declining customer satisfaction scores, and things have only gotten worse. By the fourth quarter of 2021, nearly 80% of these companies had failed to increase the satisfaction of their customers since 2010.1 The good news is that there are numerous ways to turn the focus back to your customers to retain their business.
Possible solutions include:
- Starting a loyalty program that rewards customers with discounts or other incentives
- Launching a referral program to encourage existing customers to spread the word about your business to friends and family
- Hosting exclusive events to engage with new and existing customers
- Asking customers to complete a survey to help you better understand their needs
- Training staff members on how to provide quality customer service
Bottom line? Customers want to feel as though they’re valued and important to your business so they’ll come back.2
If you set up a customer loyalty program, you’ll be able to collect a lot of data on your customers. As a result, it’s important to understand the applicable federal and state laws regarding the collection of personal data.
Expand Marketing and Advertising
One of the most important aspects of how to run a successful business centers on marketing. Your advertising strategy can make or break you since it can determine how visible you are to your target audience and whether your business’s message is conveyed clearly.
Online and digital marketing are particularly important as more people shop online. Americans spent almost $250 billion online in the first quarter of 2022, according to Census Bureau estimates.3
Some of the ways you can expand your marketing footprint include:
- Running digital ads on social media platforms where your target audience is likely to spend time
- Partnering with social media influencers to leverage their following
- Developing partnerships and doing cross-promotion with complementary businesses
- Marketing to your email list (or starting an email list if you haven’t yet)
- Participating in highly visible promotions, such as Small Business Saturday
- Content marketing with a blog or website
- Offering free workshops or classes, if applicable to your business products and services
- Using nontraditional methods of advertising, such as vehicle wrapping
- Running giveaways or contests
If you’re paying influencers to endorse your products, or giving them free or discounted products or services to promote, FTC rules require influencers to make that clear to potential customers.4
Analyze Your Social Media and Website
Your business’s social media accounts and website may be the first impression that a potential customer has, so it’s important to make it a good one. Conducting an audit of your social media accounts and website can ensure you’re providing the best experience possible for your customers.
Here are some key questions to ask:
- Is the website mobile-friendly?
- Are the website and mobile site easy to navigate?
- How streamlined is the checkout process?
- Does your social media and website branding reflect what the business is about?
- Is branding inclusive and does it promote diversity?
- Does the content you promote on social media spark conversation or attract positive reactions?
- Is the content on your website easily shared?
- Does your content rank well in search engine results?
It may be worth investing in a website audit to find areas for improvement. You may also choose to outsource social media and website content to a social media management or freelance copywriter, if that could significantly increase your sales or clients.
Cut Unnecessary Costs
Another common characteristic of successful small businesses lies in how they manage cash flow. To make your business thrive, you’ll need to stick to your budget, keep cash in reserve, and make sure your business only takes on “good” debt.
If you haven’t reviewed your business budget lately, consider what you can cut. For example, you might be able to eliminate unnecessary subscription services or find a cheaper supplier for product materials. Downsizing to a smaller space can be more drastic, but it could be a significant money-saver.
Also, consider how you can improve your cash flow. For example, if you have customers who frequently pay late, you might consider imposing a late-payment penalty to encourage them to pay on time. You could also expand the range of payment options you accept to make it easier for customers to pay so you’re not waiting around for money to arrive.
You may be able to reduce costs by consolidating existing business loans into one new loan with a lower interest rate.
Level Up Your Tech
Technology can save you time and money when trying to grow a successful small business. The more of your business operations you can streamline, the easier it becomes to focus on tasks that can promote growth.
For example, a customer relationship management (CRM) system allows you to store customer information, which you can then use to identify sales opportunities or fine-tune your marketing efforts. Investing in cloud accounting software programs can simplify file management and financial management for your business.
You may also consider replacing outdated tech to improve the customer experience and potentially boost sales. Updating your point-of-sale systems, for example, could make the checkout process faster.
Hire and Retain Talent
Having the right employees can make a difference to your success. A rude or poorly trained individual can turn off customers and give your business a bad reputation. But an employee who treats customers well and goes above and beyond to meet their needs can drive repeat business.
Finding the right employees starts with setting clear expectations for the role or roles you’re hiring for. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can create and promote job listings to attract talent that fits your list of ideals.
Here are some other tips for attracting talent:
- Offer a competitive salary for your area and industry
- Offer paid time off or tuition assistance
- Make it clear what your business’s mission is and why someone would want to work for you
- If possible, post your job listing on job boards targeted at your industry
- Use social media to get job seekers’ attention and engage them
Once you’ve hired employees, make sure you can keep them around. That could mean offering raises that keep up with the cost of living, increasing benefits over time, instituting a flexible work schedule, fostering career development, or simply providing constructive feedback to help them grow.