Making New Year's resolutions is a great way to improve your health and personal finances, but you shouldn’t stop with yourself. This year, give your small business the same attention to protect your competitive edge and keep sales flowing.
Start by acknowledging that time is going by, and look for areas that require updates, advises David A. Berkus, a consultant and mentor with SCORE, a nonprofit, nationwide organization sponsored in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration that gives free guidance to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Showrooms may require trendier designs and color schemes. Tired ad campaigns may need a makeover. Resolve to take a hard look at everything from prices to online strategies.
"We're a society of what's happening now," Berkus said. "You should re-evaluate your business in terms of every product and service."
Berkus recalled a shrewd men's clothier who noticed that handkerchiefs were selling poorly. He gave them greater cachet by making them more expensive. The boost in sales was nothing to sneeze at. Occasionally, a sweeping brand overhaul is the answer – witness Abercrombie & Fitch, a venerable New York brand founded in 1892. After filing for bankruptcy protection in 1976, the company pursued an entirely new demographic with a provocative marketing campaign to great success.
"Here was a staid, old-time clothing store that became hip for kids," Berkus said.
Here are five more resolutions you might consider for the year ahead.
1. Get Out and Connect Face-To-Face With Your Customers
Even in a world gone digital, nothing takes the place of authentic human interaction. A few meaningful moments with real customers or potential clients can result in insights and partnerships that may never come online, said Gwendolyn Wright, founder of The Wright Consultants, a San Francisco-based small-business management company. "You need to be there in person and meet people," Wright said. "How often are you getting out and about in the marketplace? Are you going to conferences? Direct, immediate feedback is so important today. That's different than reading a Yelp review."
2. Safeguard Your Online Reputation
Speaking of Yelp reviews, resolve to pay attention to them – and to set aside time to write reasoned responses. A poor review can fester and cause serious damage to a business unless it is handled appropriately, and that means without appearing bitter or defensive. Reply on the website and take the high road, Wright said. "Either apologize or say thank you for allowing us to do better," she said. Scott Steinberg, author of "The Business Expert's Guidebook," declared that a simple apology is not enough. "Try to make the situation right," he said. "If a customer has had a bad experience – if it's a customer in a restaurant, for example – invite them back in." Good reviews are like gold. Post copies to your website.
3. Tell Your Story on Video
"Videos are becoming critically important," Steinberg said. Why? Partly because the Google search algorithm gives high rankings to websites with videos. Customers will find you and see immediately what your business is all about. Although shooting them is easy, you might want to leave it to a professional unless you have the expertise to assure top-quality lighting and sound, said Berkus, the SCORE consultant. Don't turn off potential clients with shadowy images or voices that sound a million miles away.
4. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
Make sure your site translates to the small screen. More than ever, consumers are using their phones to look up products and services and complete transactions using their credit cards or mobile payments, Berkus said. Make it easy for them.
5. Set Yourself Apart
Try harder to define your brand. What makes you unique and worth choosing? "What psychological benefit do you give to buyers?" asked Berkus. For Sleep Number® mattresses, the answer is comfort. TOMS® shoes creates warm fuzzies with its charitable work. "People shouldn't be afraid, if they're a smaller company, to try something like that," Berkus said. "Branding is what you stand for. That's very, very big."
|City National Bank, as a matter of policy, does not give tax, accounting, regulatory or legal advice. The effectiveness of the strategies presented in this document will depend on the unique characteristics of your situation and on a number of complex factors. Rules in the areas of law, tax, and accounting are subject to change and open to varying interpretations. The strategies presented in this document were not intended to be used, and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties that may be imposed. The strategies were not written to support the promotion or marketing to another person of any transaction or matter addressed. Before implementation, you should consult with your other advisors on the tax, accounting and legal implications of the proposed strategies based on your particular circumstances.|