Monday, 28th March 2022 | Sales,Marketing,Management
10 ways to prepare for expanding your small business
Small businesses start out small but they don't have to stay that way. If you'd like to grow in size and/or scope, here are 10 ideas on how to expand your small business.
Is your small business feeling cramped? Perhaps it's time to consider expanding. Expansion can bring new markets, increased sales, and broader reach—but it’s not a shift to take lightly. If you’re looking to expand your small business, consider these strategies.
Research, research, research
Once you’ve made the decision to expand your business it might be tempting to just jump in with both feet but the first, and arguably most important, step is to do your research. Among the topics you’ll want to explore are:
- Your current customers and what works (and doesn’t) for them
- Your competitors
- Where future opportunities might lie
Perhaps you want to expand your business by conquering new markets, exporting internationally, creating licensing agreements or acquiring other businesses. Any of those strategies require a lot of preliminary research.
Recapture existing customers by strengthening your retention methods
Small business owners know it costs more to attract new customers than to keep existing ones. Research from Bain & Company puts a number on it: “A 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit.” If you’re looking to expand your business, now is the time to focus on your existing customers.
Prioritize customer service
Before you make any moves to expand, make sure your customer service is the very best it can be. Customers should look forward to interacting with your company and transactions should be stress-free.
Increase brand equity with a customer loyalty program
Loyalty programs bring customers back and that’s exactly what you want when you’re considering expanding. Strategic loyalty programs can foster goodwill with returning customers and bring in new ones—and they can help get the word out about your products or services.
Build brand presence and engage with customers on social media
Put simply, your brand needs to be on social media. It’s one of the best ways to attract customers, build loyalty, and engage and grow your presence. Even better, social media knows no geographical boundaries so it’s an effective way to get into new markets. Treat your social media like any other part of your marketing strategy by making a plan and using the tools at your disposal to get the results you want. Make sure you post engaging and relevant content regularly. Also, test other new marketing and sales tactics, and make sure you measure what works so you can refine your strategy.
Ask for referrals, reviews, testimonials
Nobody knows how you do business quite like your existing customers, which makes reviews and testimonials a natural (and free!) marketing tool. Make sure you’re harnessing the power of past successful relationships to bring in new leads by asking for Google Reviews of your business. These are particularly effective because they’re unbiased and can boost your brand. They can also help you identify where there’s room for improvement.
Consider a franchise model
Franchising, where you license your business operations, is a way to gain market share with minimal capital output. A franchise is a joint venture between the franchisor (you) and the franchisee where you license your existing products, branding, and operations. The franchisee pays you a fee in exchange. It’s a way to monetize your proven idea and expand your business without taking on 100% of the burdens.
Improve your lead generation
To fill your sales funnel, you need leads—and this goes double when you’re looking to expand. Start by building an email list and launch an email campaign. Then manage your lead nurturing using a customer relations management (CRM) system. These systems not only help you generate leads but also let you store your data, manage customer relationships, and identify sales opportunities all in one secured place.
Participate in networking events, conferences and trade shows
Now is the time to make the most of face-to-face and hybrid networking events including conferences and trade shows. Especially for a business looking to expand, these events are critical to building brand awareness, engaging with others in your industry, nurturing leads and, ultimately, driving sales.
Consider taking out a loan
Business loans are made for expanding businesses. They’re designed to help you take your good business model to the next level, covering expenses like advertising, real estate, maintenance, supplies, and salaries for new employees. Growth comes at a cost, and a small business loan is a far better source for that capital than your existing operating cash.
Marketing, customer relations, lead generation, and capital: Expanding your business relies on the same strengths that starting your business did. Consider these 10 approaches to increase your chances of success.
Customer retention best practices for your small business
In 2023, the business landscape will be more dynamic, with constantly evolving trends and changing customer demands. You can keep your customers engaged and returning for more with the right strategies. Here are some invaluable customer retention best practices to help you stand out from the crowd and keep your customers coming back for more:
Embrace Omnichannel Sales
The pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping, and customers are now more comfortable than ever buying online. This means providing a seamless experience across all channels, from your website to social media platforms, mobile apps, and online marketplaces. Investing in innovative technologies such as AI and automation can deliver personalized and efficient products that set you apart from the competition.
Use Social Media to Build Relationships
Social media is a powerful tool for building relationships with your customers. You must use social media to build a community around your brand, engage with your customers, and create meaningful relationships. By actively listening to your customers and responding to their queries, feedback, and concerns, you can show that you care and establish trust. Furthermore, social media allows you to showcase your brand's unique personality and values, which can help you stand out from the competition. Sharing customer stories, testimonials, and reviews can also be an effective way to humanize your brand and build social proof.
Leverage Data Analytics
Data analytics can help you understand your customers better and identify opportunities to improve customer retention. You can identify opportunities to improve customer retention and create personalized experiences by tracking customer behaviour, preferences, and feedback. Investing in data analytics tools can help you make data-driven decisions and optimize your marketing and sales strategies to meet your needs.
Be Transparent and Authentic
Customers are increasingly demanding transparency and authenticity from the brands they do business with. Customers are looking for open and honest businesses about their practices, policies, and values. This requires being transparent about pricing, shipping, and returns policies and using authentic and inclusive marketing messages. Doing so can build trust with your customers, which is essential for long-term loyalty. Customers are also more likely to recommend businesses they perceive as transparent and authentic.
Focus on Customer Experience
Customer experience will be a major differentiator for small businesses. As a small business owner, providing exceptional customer experience across all touchpoints should be a top priority. This means investing in customer service training for your staff, optimizing your website for usability, and gathering customer feedback to improve your products and services continuously.
These customer retention best practices can help your small business to stand out from the competition, improve customer loyalty, and grow your business. By embracing omnichannel sales, using social media to build relationships, leveraging data analytics, being transparent and authentic, and focusing on customer experience, you can create a loyal customer base that will continue to do business with you and recommend your brand to others.
Sales ,Marketing ,Management
7 ways how AI empowers small businesses to achieve more in less time
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI is a revolutionary technology that enables SMBs to automate tasks, predict trends, forecast demand, improve decision-making, streamline operations, and scale up. With advanced AI models like Stable Diffusion, DALL-E 2, and GPT-3, and the emergence of AI-powered products like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot, we can now utilize technology that was once considered exclusively human.
In this blog, we will explore the benefits of AI for SMBs and how you can gain a competitive advantage in your respective markets by optimizing operations and maximizing output with minimal resources.
1. Automating Repetitive Tasks
AI-powered tools can automate time-consuming tasks such as data entry, invoicing, and email management. This frees up valuable resources that can be redirected toward high-value activities, such as strategic planning, customer engagement, and product development.
2. Improving Customer Experience
Chatbots and virtual assistants can provide customers with quick and accurate responses to their inquiries, improving their overall experience with your business. Additionally, it can analyze customer behaviour and preferences to personalize marketing efforts and provide targeted recommendations, further enhancing the customer experience.
3. Improving Decision-Making
SMBs are frequently required to make critical decisions that impact the trajectory of their business. AI-powered tools can enhance your decision-making by providing real-time insights and analytics. For example, an AI tool can analyze sales data and identify trends, empowering owners to make data-driven pricing, promotions, and product development decisions.
4. Predicting Trends and Forecasting Demand
AI-powered tools can help you predict trends and forecast demand. By analyzing data from various sources, including social media, sales history, and online reviews, AI has allowed you to identify emerging trends and help your SMB adjust strategies accordingly.
5. Enhancing Marketing Efforts
AI can also help enhance marketing efforts. Analyzing customer data that will identify the target audience, create personalized marketing campaigns, and predict which marketing strategies will most likely be effective.
6. Enhancing Cybersecurity
With the rise of cyber threats, SMBs can use AI to strengthen their cybersecurity measures. AI-powered tools can detect and prevent cyber attacks, identify vulnerabilities in systems and networks, and provide real-time alerts to potential threats. This helps SMBs protect their sensitive information and prevent costly data breaches.
7. Improving Decision Making
Lastly, AI can help improve decision-making by providing data-driven insights. AI-powered tools can assist you, and your managers in making well-informed decisions regarding crucial aspects such as hiring, resource allocation, product development, and pricing.
What is a bad debt expense, and how to calculate it?
What is a bad debt expense?
When a buyer doesn’t pay in full, you can make a note of the amount you’re unable to recover in your business’ financial record. This is a bad debt expense.
Unfortunately, dealing with non-paying buyers is a common problem among small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada. The best way to protect yourself is to accurately record your losses to contain the damage.
Why should I keep track of bad debt expenses?
When you invoice a buyer for their purchase, it’s recorded as a sale in your books. If you’re not paid for that transaction, your overall revenue is actually less than indicated by your accounts–and you have to pay tax on your revenue. When you record unrecovered income as a bad debt expense, you officially remove all or part of that sale from your revenue which means that you won’t have to pay tax on it. This is entirely fair and legal–you don’t pay tax on income earnings you never received.
How to calculate your bad debt expenses
There are two ways to calculate bad debt expenses: the direct write-off method and the allowance method.
With the direct write-off method, you simply charge the amount of the unpaid invoice to the bad debt expense. This removes the amount from your accounts receivable, reducing your taxable income. This is the simpler method and the most commonly used by Canadian businesses.
5 Strategies for Growing your Business
What can I do to start developing a plan for growth?
Deciding to grow your business is a big step, so take a moment to congratulate yourself. Now, let’s get to work. The first thing to do is to develop a plan, and these five strategies can help.
1. Take care of your cash flow
Just for everyday operations, businesses need to have a steady flow of capital coming in and going out, but the importance of your cash flow intensifies when you’re planning to expand.
Survey your income and expense reports to determine your current cash flow, and identify trends so you can estimate how much you’ll have in the future. Don’t stop there. Make sure that you return to this information regularly to ensure you remain on the right path.
Should you find yourself in a cash flow crunch, you can consider a business line of credit so you can continue to take care of your responsibilities. Alternatively, you can take out a small business loan.
2. Invest in marketing and sales
It’s common for sales and marketing costs to fall to the bottom of a small business’ priority list, but they’re an absolutely crucial investment, especially if you’re expanding. Bear in mind that marketing and sales strategies and tactics can be tailored to your business’ unique needs, so you’ve got a variety of options to choose from–all with different budgets. Consider your audience, sales goals, and business forecast to build regular (think monthly) marketing efforts into your long-term plan. Marketing your business is an investment in its success.
3. Attend to your core audience while attracting new customers
Expansion often involves courting new customers, weather from different market segments or simply additional regions. It’s important that during the growth process resources and attention aren’t stolen from your core customers. They’re the ones who got you here, after all.
One way to give everyone the attention they deserve is to break your audience (and marketing dollars) into distinct segments and sell each according to their wants. Be open to different configurations. For example, depending on the situation you might want to serve everyone under a single brand, or develop distinct brands for different segments.
4. Confirm your supply
Few things can turn customers away faster than hearing you don’t have the products or services they need. Supply chain issues and slow delivery since the pandemic have put an increasing number of businesses in a precarious position when it comes to meeting customer demands, so your expansion plans should include the establishment of relationships with multiple reliable suppliers. Your efforts in advance demonstrate good business practices and respect for your customers. Plus, positive relationships with multiple suppliers can help you with your expansion goals.
5. Ensure quality and consistency
It should go without saying, but the last thing you want to happen when you expand is to have your quality or customer experience decline. Plan against this by establishing production, operations, and customer service standards. .
You have a better chance of expanding successfully if you plan carefully in advance. Attend to your finances, marketing, suppliers, and customers in advance to make sure you’re growing on a solid foundation.
Speak to an iCapital advisor about small business loans or lines of credit to ensure steady cash flow during your expansion process.
Marketing ,Accounting ,Management