It’s been a year since you’ve opened your small business’ doors and things are going well. Sales are good, and you’ve already built a loyal customer base. That’s fantastic when you consider the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 20 percent of businesses on average fail in their first year. This cannot become you, but you also cannot become complacent. Yes, you’ve worked harder than you ever imagined, but now is not the time for a vacation. Rather, it’s time to grow your business just a little. Slow growth is wise, as it’s more stable and if you don’t have the operating capital to invest back into your venture, consider these four freebies to help you expand.
1. Don’t Expand Your Product or Service Just Yet
You might be tempted to go a little bit nuts since you’ve tasted success, but don’t go too far. Yes, you may have exceeded your first-year sales and profit projections, but you shouldn’t turn that success into failure by suddenly mixing it up. Avoid the temptation to add 20 more products or services to your business’ repertoire. What you’ve been doing thus far is working, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Growing a small business this way might look good on paper, but consider this: How many businesses rocket into the stratosphere only to crash and burn a few years later? Believe it or not, it’s wise to exercise complacency now to avoid complacency in the future.
If you grow too fast, you will burn yourself, your employees, and your customers out. Yes, strike while the iron’s hot, but you nor your employees can do it all. Burnout will send your profit and loss statements into the red, and too much product or service, i.e. TMI, will send your customers flying out the door. Keep a singular product or service focus and smaller growth goals in the beginning. This gives you time to master running your business, its offerings, and your customer base without minimal burnout and financial damage. Better yet, it gives you room for error from which you can recover. You can recover from one failed product; you cannot recover from 20 failed products.
2. Take Advantage of Free Marketing Tools
Old-fashioned marketing plans cost businesses plenty, but today there are plenty of ways you can get the word out about your venture at little to no cost. The internet is filled with digital platforms ready to host your pages, so hit the social media platforms and start tooting your own horn. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare, YouTube and many other platforms offer free basic business pages. This is a good start. Once your business grows even more, you can pay for additional services on all platforms. Link your business website to your social networking platforms for expanded cyberspace reach.
Reach out to your customers electronically, too, via email or text messaging. Ask each customer who walks through your doors or orders online whether they’d like to be added to an email or text messaging list. Give them incentives to hand over their contact information, such as newsletters, special deals, coupons, email or text-only offers, or even a club membership for added discounts if that suits your business. Ask customers how frequently they desire to receive your solicitations and set your bulk email and bulk messaging settings to the appropriate duration. Make sure you stick to CAN-SPAM rules, as well; otherwise, you’ll find customers unsubscribing right away.
3. Network With Others to Promote
Even though you live in a virtual world with everyone’s noses stuck to their screens, word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the most effective free marketing tools for your business. Yes, you will have customers who leave reviews on your social media platforms and website, but you should also encourage your customers to tell their family and friends about you. Give them an incentive to do so, such as discounts for customer referrals. Write their names on cards to give to people they know. Store the cards at the register when referred customers turn them in at purchase. The next time the customers come in, see how many discount cards they have on file.
Network with other small business owners, too, and scratch each other’s backs. For example, assume you own a day spa that offers several massage techniques except Swedish massage. You meet another day spa owner at an annual convention, and her spa is a few miles from yours. She offers Swedish massage but doesn’t offer Shiatsu, at which you’re an expert. The two of you can come to an agreement that you’ll refer every client who asks for a Swedish massage to her if she’ll refer every client who asks for a Shiatsu massage to you. When small business owners work together, all businesses benefit. Network with other business owners to see how you can help each other.
4. Get Active in Your Community
Word-of-mouth is great, but you shouldn’t stop there. If your business becomes active in its community, you can enjoy the benefits of free PR. Sponsorships cost money, so hold off on sponsoring events until you can afford it. Free ways to get involved in your community is to volunteer for local nonprofits or other organizations that host community gatherings. This gives you the opportunity to meet people in your community and tell them about your business. Most nonprofits list the names of their volunteers on event information, so your business name will be included on virtual and paper materials. Ask the nonprofit if you can wear clothing with your business’ name on it at the event.
You can also offer free seminars or workshops locally and online to encourage people to learn more about your business. Using the spa example from above, put videos on your website and video sharing platforms that show how to perform certain types of massage. Also teach watchers about the benefits of massage for illness, pregnancy and stress. Don’t stop there. Teach viewers about skincare and overall wellness, and host seminars in your spa for people to attend. You can also teach at your local community college or offer to give demonstrations at other salons. This promotes both businesses.
The bottom line is this: When you focus on and master one thing at the start, you develop crucial management and marketing strategies. You’ve learned how to manage a product or service and successfully market it to a customer base using free or cost-effective tools. It’s now safe to add another product or service to your repertoire. This grows your business slowly and safely, which protects your bottom line. And, the added bonus is the more you use free marketing to promote your business, the better you become at it.
If you have any questions, our team would be more than happy to help. Call us today at (215)-393-9787.