Business tips

8 tips to expand your small business.

By Jereme Sanborn on
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Worthwhile endeavors are not always easy to accomplish — that’s especially true when it comes to growing your business. Doing what it takes to expand your operation involves a great deal more than the motivation to do so. You’ll also need time, thorough research, and capital. Plus, a healthy dose of fortitude and some good advice.

Set up a customer management system.

Without buyers for your products or services, your business is dead in the water. Fortunately, today’s payment technologies make cultivating and keeping track of customers easier than ever before. Once you’ve set up your database and the relations management software that best meets your individual needs, the process does its job with very little work on your part. That means instead of focusing on tiny detail, you can concentrate on the person-to-person relationships that form the foundation behind this technology. That, combined with tasteful and timely emails and offers targeted to buyers’ individual needs, can lead to satisfied patrons and an uptick in referrals to your store.

Implement a sales funnel.

Many of today’s digital businesses are thriving thanks to the implementation of this important piece of infrastructure. In simple terms, a sales funnel is an automated system that helps to guide prospective buyers throughout your online sales process from the initial click to the final purchase. Would-be customers can learn about your website via many vehicles, including from blogs, social media sites, and paid advertisements (among others). Tools such as webinars, ebooks, quizzes, explanatory videos, and reminder emails are additional ways that your business can nurture fledgling relationships. In essence, your job is to help a customer to fully realize that they have a need, one that you are uniquely equipped to meet. In order for that to happen, you must convey authority and credibility, while making sure your brand story is compelling. Successfully steering prospects from initial interest to final sale is a science in and of itself and having sales funnel software to assist in the process can be invaluable.

Reward existing customers.

After you have gone through the trouble and considerable expense of luring new buyers to your business, it is imperative that you make it a priority to keep them happy. Remember, it’s much easier and cheaper to maintain an existing customer relationship than it is to begin a new one from scratch. What’s more, your happy buyers can be some of your best ambassadors, providing your company with some of the most effective advertising in the world: word of mouth.

To that end, customer management software often comes equipped with loyalty capabilities. Using the database that you’ve created, you can come up with numerous ways to incentivize people to return to your online or brick-and-mortar store again and again. Whether you accept credit cards on your phone or only take payments using a conventional countertop terminal, your system should come with POS software that makes starting, maintaining, and modifying your loyalty program a breeze. If you aren’t sure if your system comes equipped with these features, contact your merchant account provider, who should be happy to train you in the use of your hardware and software or in upgrading your solution to meet your expanding needs.

Enhance your payment capabilities.

Of course, no business can succeed without providing products and services that customers need at a price they are willing to pay. However, many other factors also contribute to a company’s ability to expand. Perhaps one of the least often recognized is the payment experience that a business provides to its customers. Most of us do not have much difficulty recalling an unpleasant purchasing situation that may have happened to us even several years ago. These unpleasant incidents can sour buyers on a retailer, ultimately leading them to spend their money elsewhere in the future.

One way to minimize the chances of this happening at your physical or online store is to diversify your payment offerings. It should probably go without saying at this point, but you absolutely must accept credit and debit cards. Failing to do so will deprive you of a significant portion of your potential customer base since fewer people carry cash or checks with each passing year. In order to protect yourself from liability should a fraudulent transaction occur, you should also upgrade your POS solution to accept the EMV or “chip” cards that have become standard. Since virtually everyone now carries a mobile phone equipped with a digital wallet, it also behooves you to accept NFC contactless payments, which are fast, frictionless, and secure.

Payment innovations mean you no longer need to be confined to a fixed credit card terminal. Using an inexpensive card reader and easily downloadable software, you can accept credit cards on your mobile device from any location. As a result, you can take your business anywhere, from the farmer’s market around the corner to the trade show thousands of miles away. With this added flexibility and portability can come a flood of new customers as well as a staff who is liberated to make sales and provide product information on the floor using hand-held technology.

Get a handle on your inventory.

The better you know the status of your product availability, the more likely you’ll be to grow your business; it’s just that simple. Possessing the right amount of the products that customers want without overstocking what is not selling is vitally important. Equally crucial is protecting yourself from running low on something that a potential buyer is seeking. While you can never prevent situations like this from happening 100% of the time, modern software solutions can be incredibly helpful allies in efficiently managing your stock.

What’s more, these systems can generate invaluable reports that chronicle what items are selling, when, and by and to whom. By using this information, your software can also make intelligent sales forecasts that you can use to purchase inventory for the months to come. Once  you are employing your capital to purchase only what buyers really want when they want it, you can devote your remaining funds to making those much-needed improvements or giving raises to your hard-working staff.

Upgrade your employee management.

Speaking of your workers, they are one of your most important resources. Taking the time to provide them with the training, compensation, and work environment they want will keep them happy and benefit everyone. As part of that priority, you need to take steps to ensure that your employees understand what is expected of them. Your business management software should contain systems that enable you to build work schedules and communicate them to staff in a timely way. Furthermore, these same systems have built-in capabilities that allow you to track workers’ hours, vacations, and overtime. You’ll also be able to customize which employees are given administrative privileges to complete product sales and returns, update stock counts, and so forth. Your software can even help you with your hiring process, enabling you to post openings on the top job boards and schedule candidates for interviews. Thanks to the help that your automated systems can provide, your time can be freed up to address other immediate and long-term issues as they arise.

Diversify your product offerings.

Once you have systems in place that can uncover your sales trends and customer preferences, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Ask yourself what additional items and services your current customers might value in addition to those you already provide. Increasing your profitability may well mean widening the scope of what you sell. Using the data provided by your existing software, you can start to conduct your own informal surveys. Through in-person contacts and social media queries, you find out what your valued customers might be interested in purchasing if you augmented your stock. You can always take a calculated risk and buy a small amount of inventory to see how it is received. Just don’t go overboard in case your instincts turn out to be off base.

When you own a business, you want to do much more than simply tread water. Remaining vital and dynamic is the best way to ensure that you stay ahead of your competitors. Luckily, using today’s technological advances, giving your company a boost is easier and more efficient than ever before.