In my seemingly bustling town of Brownsburg, Indiana, I’ve seen many businesses close up shop in the last year or so. Some were service businesses, and others were retail establishments. I don’t know the details of each individual situation and why they made the decision to close, but as a marketer, I can’t help but say to myself, “I wish I could’ve done something…” or “they should have done this…”
I know the reality that half of all new/small businesses fail. Some are swallowed up by competiton with greater marketing dollars. Some just don’t provide great customer service or have a product that people want to buy. Some were born from great ideas, but didn’t gain enough of a following to sustain the business.
As a small business owner or professional, how do you keep your company from becoming a part of this statistic?
1. Listen to your customers. Survey your potential customers and make sure there is a need in the marketplace for your product or service, or if they are happy with your company, and why or why not. This could be as simple as asking your current customers in a quick email or phone call, or even asking family or friends. Doing a little market research will help you understand the market needs and how to tailor your business offerings and/or service for success. Remember – needs change, so do this every once and a while, especially if you’ve been in business a while. You may discover an unmet need that you can use to expand your product offering or extend your brand. And if you’re doing something terribly wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it? So Ask!
2. Get your name out there. If your customers or potential customers don’t know you exist, how are they going to buy from you? It seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen many companies just open up a store and rely on drive-by traffic to get people in the door. How much business are you leaving on the table because you are not promoting yourself? Yes, marketing is an investment, but you should consider this a monthly expense, just like your office lease or supplies, to keep you in business. Just as in personal finances, despite the risks, if you don’t make the investment in your business, you won’t see the returns.
3. Find more than one way to promote yourself. Along this same line, don’t simply rely on one tactic, such as referrals or advertising in one coupon book, to get new business. With websites, SEO, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, email marketing, direct mail, tradeshows, workshops, Google AdWords, newspaper advertising, magazine advertising and more, if you choose at least three or four tactics and create an integrated marketing campaign, I guarantee you’ll see greater results than you would with just one of these tactics alone.
4. Do the right kind of marketing. Many businesses think that throwing a bunch of money into advertising will get them the results they seek, without putting much thought into the ideal places to market, or the right message to market. Put together a list of all of your advertising and marketing options, determine which tactics best fit your target audience, your budget and your time commitment, and go from there. Then adjust your spend and your message based on results so that you’re not wasting your efforts.
5. Learn from others’ mistakes (and your own). Doing the research before starting a business, or expanding your business, or investing in a new marketing tactic, may prevent you from regretting it later. The Internet is a great resource for information, but you can rely on friends and colleagues, a business coach, a consultant or an industry thought leader to give you feedback and advice. If you’ve made a mistake, try to adjust your course and keep on sailing.
Business is cut-throat, and there are no guarantees of success. In some cases, it’s necessary to cut your losses and move on. But my hope is that your business can survive if you use a little intuition, a little guidance from others, and some smart marketing tactics.