Monday, 23rd November 2020 | Small business financing Canada,Management

Better business & customer service in 2021

As you build your new year’s strategy, consider these ideas to make your business stronger in 2021.

As 2021 grows closer, many small business owners are making plans with an eye towards rebounding from a year disrupted by the pandemic. Now is the time to plan, but COVID-19 is really only one of many variables impacting small businesses right now. The pandemic affected how products and services were offered and delivered, and will have implications well into 2021. But savvy business owners are also planning against other market forces like the shift to big box stores and the uber-fast delivery expectations set by Amazon Prime. As you build your new year’s strategy, consider these ideas to make your business stronger in 2021.
 

Make purchases and delivery easier—for everyone

According to web registrar GoDaddy, “Roughly half of those [businesses] surveyed had a website or active social media account before the pandemic hit. That number has almost doubled.” Businesses who want to maintain or grow during COVID-19 are flocking to online and the next big shift is going to be the adoption of platforms that do everything in one place: sales, email communication, and even marketing.

By undergoing a digital transformation, small businesses can improve their own system while continuing to offer top-notch customer service—and it’s not as complicated as you might think. Take for example, Coffee Tree Roastery, a small shop in Toronto’s West End that, as a response to the COVID-19 retail shut downs, began selling online and offering local delivery or pick-up. They chose the Canadian platform Shopify, which allows them to manage everything from online orders and payments, to in-store POP transactions with one system. For their customers, this represents an easy way to order and pay 24/7.

Some businesses are new to being online, while others are ready to adopt better digital tools. Wherever your business is in regards to your digital presence, now is the time to invest in online.

Go all-in on customer service

It’s tough to compete with the lightning fast delivery times of Amazon Prime or the rock bottom prices offered by some big box stores. Our advice? Don’t. Cultivate your advantage where the giant retailers can’t compete—the personal touch.

You’ve already taken steps towards an online platform so your customers receive the fast and easy ordering process they deserve. Next, figure out what more you can do to make shopping with you pleasant, stress-free, and perhaps even memorable. Free local deliveries, discounts for in-store pick-up, and personalized invitations on key dates like birthdays or anniversaries are all terrific ideas.

Be memorable

Find ways to stand out beyond your customer service efforts, too. Take 15 minutes with your team to brainstorm strategies that make your product or brand memorable, with an added bonus for “feel good” touches. Even if you’re only allowing curb-side pick-ups, consider putting out a small hot apple cider to warm up your customers. Include a hand-written note on the bag for the personal touch. Or, tuck a little freebie like a candy cane or chocolate into the order.

Earn a loyal following

Building your brand is about more than just awareness. You want to earn your customers’ loyalty. Think about ways you can inspire your customers to not only return for more of your product or services, but also recommend you to their friends, family, and colleagues.

Tap into what matters. For example, if your customers value their local shops, find ways to reinforce this like giving them a branded reusable shopping bag. Remember your customers’ names and listen when they tell you about their lives. Recalling their order or their children’s names will go a long way to making them feel special. Encourage repeat customers with VIP offers or discounts. Positive interactions are an incredibly powerful advertisement for your business.

There are many challenges facing small businesses as we roll into 2021, but there’s no shortage of pathways to success. Customers want what they’ve always wanted—fast and easy ordering, a pleasant experience, and a personal touch. COVID-19 has caused notable changes in the shopping experience, but good service is always appreciated, even from six feet away.

Read Also

Unplugging for Success: How Small Business Owners Can Take a Well-Deserved Vacation

In the whirlwind of running a small business, taking a vacation might seem like a distant dream. However, it's precisely when you're in charge that you must prioritize your well-being and rejuvenate yourself. Planning a vacation isn't just about booking flights and accommodation; it's about ensuring your business can thrive in your absence and that you can return rejuvenated and ready to tackle new challenges. Let's delve into how small business owners can successfully unplug and enjoy a well-deserved break.

Planning for Success 

Start by considering the best time of year for your getaway—ideally when projects are wrapping up, and sales are steady but not overwhelming. Tie up loose ends before you leave, pay bills in advance and update clients and suppliers about your absence. Provide them with contact information for someone who can assist them while you’re away.

Empowering Your Team

If you have a team, view your vacation as an opportunity for them to shine. Begin preparing them well in advance, gradually delegating more responsibilities as your departure date approaches. Offer detailed instructions for complex tasks and discuss potential scenarios they may encounter in your absence. This empowers your team and fosters a culture of trust and accountability within your business.

For entrepreneurs or sole proprietors without a team, automation can be a game-changer in maintaining business operations during your absence. Embrace the power of AI and automation tools to streamline processes and keep your business running smoothly. Consider utilizing answering services to handle customer inquiries and appointment bookings, allowing you to step away without compromising customer service. Automate bookkeeping and computer processes wherever possible, striking a balance between maintaining service levels and ensuring your business retains its personal touch.

Unplugging for True Relaxation

Strive to minimize contact with clients and staff while you’re away, allowing yourself a true break. Schedule occasional check-ins if necessary, but limit them to specific times and stick to the plan. Communicate with your staff about how they can reach you in case of emergencies, but otherwise, resist the urge to constantly check-in.

Returning Refreshed and Rejuvenated

Upon your return, keep your schedule clear for the first few days to catch up on missed tasks. Make a list of items requiring immediate attention to help you ease back into work seamlessly. Remember, taking a break allows your body to recharge, leading to increased productivity upon your return.

Embracing the Benefits of Vacation

If you’re still hesitant to take a vacation, consider the benefits it offers. Time away from work allows your mind and body to recharge, leading to increased productivity and creativity upon your return. Even short breaks can profoundly impact your overall well-being and business success.

Prioritizing self-care isn't just a luxury; it's a necessity for sustainable business growth. By planning strategically, empowering your team, and embracing the benefits of unplugging, you can enjoy a well-deserved vacation while ensuring your business continues to thrive in your absence. So book that trip and savour the opportunity to unwind and recharge. Your business—and your future self—will thank you for it. 

Management

Springing Forward: Essential Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

As the world awakens from the slumber of winter, small businesses have an opportunity to tap into the vibrant energy of spring and breathe new life into their marketing strategies. Just as nature undergoes a transformation, so too can your marketing strategies. Spring presents a golden opportunity for you to refresh your approach and connect with your customers in meaningful ways. Here are six essential marketing tips tailored specifically for small businesses like yours as we transition into the season of growth:

Host Engaging Events:

Springtime calls for outdoor gatherings and community events that bring people together. From street fairs to garden parties, consider hosting events that showcase your brand and provide value to attendees. These events offer a unique opportunity for you to connect with your customers on a personal level, fostering relationships and building brand loyalty.

Refresh Your Branding:

Just as the world outside undergoes a transformation, consider giving your branding a fresh update. Infuse your website, social media profiles, and marketing materials with imagery and messaging that captures the spirit of the season. Whether it's incorporating vibrant colours or using nature-inspired themes, refreshing your branding can captivate your audience and make your brand stand out.

Offer Springtime Promotions:

Take advantage of the season to offer enticing promotions and discounts that resonate with your audience. Whether it's a spring sale, a limited-time offer, or a special promotion tied to seasonal activities, create a sense of urgency to encourage customers to take action. By aligning your promotions with the themes of spring, you can drive sales and attract new customers to your business.

Connect with Your Community:

Spring is a time for renewal and connection, making it the perfect opportunity for you to engage with your local community. Partner with other businesses or organizations to co-host events, sponsor local initiatives, or participate in community clean-up efforts. Demonstrating your commitment to your community can build goodwill and strengthen your brand's reputation.

Embrace Seasonal Content:

Spring offers a wealth of opportunities to create content that resonates with your audience. From tips for spring cleaning to ideas for outdoor activities, leverage the season to provide value to your customers through your blog, social media, and email newsletters. By sharing timely and relevant content, you can strengthen your relationship with your audience and position your brand as a trusted resource.

Track and Measure Results:

As you implement your spring marketing initiatives, be sure to track and measure their effectiveness. Use analytics tools to monitor key metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, and sales performance. By analyzing the data, you can gain valuable insights into what's working and what's not, allowing you to refine your strategy and optimize your efforts for maximum impact.

Spring gives your small business an invaluable chance to revitalize your marketing endeavours and forge deeper connections with your customers. By integrating these essential marketing tips into your strategy, you can harness the vibrant energy of the season and position your business for growth and success in the months ahead. So let's seize the spirit of spring and spring forward together towards a bright and prosperous future for your business.

Marketing

Money-Saving Strategies for Small Businesses

Financial planning is crucial for small businesses, especially in today's dynamic economic landscape. At iCapital, we understand the importance of maximizing savings to ensure the sustainability and growth of your business. Here are some updated money-saving tips tailored for small businesses in Canada:

1. Embrace Technological Advancements

Investing in digital solutions can streamline operations and significantly cut costs. Consider integrating cloud-based accounting, project management, and communication software to eliminate the need for expensive hardware and maintenance. Additionally, leveraging AI tools can further enhance efficiency and productivity.

2. Negotiate Vendor Contracts

With economic uncertainties, vendors are often open to negotiation. Review your contracts regularly and negotiate better terms or discounts with suppliers. Consolidating purchases with fewer vendors can also lead to volume discounts and cost savings.

3. Go Green

Reducing your environmental footprint can also translate into cost savings. Implement energy-efficient practices such as using LED lighting, optimizing heating and cooling systems, and reducing water consumption. Not only will this lower utility bills, but it will also enhance your business's sustainability credentials.

4. Remote Work Opportunities

The shift towards remote work has proven to be cost-effective for many businesses. By allowing employees to work from home, you can reduce overhead costs associated with office space, utilities, and maintenance. Invest in collaboration tools and cybersecurity measures to support remote work effectively.

5. Optimize Marketing Strategies

Digital marketing offers cost-effective avenues for promoting your business. Focus on targeted online advertising, email marketing campaigns, and social media engagement to reach your audience efficiently. Monitor the performance of your marketing efforts and adjust strategies based on data analytics to maximize ROI.

6. Automate Routine Tasks

Automation can streamline repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing human error. Explore automation tools for accounting, inventory management, and customer service to increase efficiency and productivity while minimizing labour costs.

7. Monitor Cash Flow

Maintaining healthy cash flow is essential for small businesses. Implement robust cash flow management practices, including regularly monitoring accounts receivable and accounts payable and optimizing payment terms with vendors to avoid unnecessary expenses and late fees.

8. Seek Financial Assistance

In challenging times, accessing external funding can provide a lifeline for small businesses. iCapital offers flexible small business loan options designed to support businesses with up to $250,000 in assistance within 48 hours. Whether you're looking to navigate cash flow challenges or seize growth opportunities, our financing solutions can help you achieve your goals.

Effective cost-saving strategies are vital for the success of small businesses in today's competitive landscape. Small businesses can thrive and achieve long-term sustainability by embracing technology, optimizing operations, and seeking strategic financial assistance.

At iCapital, we're committed to supporting small businesses in Canada with tailored financial solutions and expert guidance. Contact us today at our toll-free number 1-877-251-7171, to learn more about how we can help your business succeed.

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