The world of business is changing … can you keep up?
If you’re not sure exactly how to answer that question, you’re not alone.
In an environment where businesses compete tooth and nail for space and attention, mostly online, keeping up with the proverbial Joneses can seem difficult or downright impossible. Staying in the spotlight and attracting the right leads requires a hefty investment, be it in the form of time or money, and what used to be small public relations mistakes can quickly turn into an outright disaster thanks to social media platforms.
Is the news all doom and gloom? Fortunately, the answer to that question is no. Despite the fact that the business world is more competitive and difficult to navigate than ever, you do have options. Strategizing might require a slightly different approach, but timeless business basics like good customer service and efficient management still apply.
But what happens once your business is running smoothly, but not necessarily spectacularly? True success comes in the form of innovation; sometimes you have to get creative to make it happen. Each of these crafty tips will help you get there.
Get Your Business Online
If you’re still operating with a brick and mortar storefront, you’re missing out. Nearly every niche industry has its own presence online. In today’s internet-focused world, not having your own presence on the world wide web is almost a cardinal sin.
Not sure where to start? Keep it simple. A WordPress-based website that contains the most relevant information for your customers (including contact info) is simple, effective, and at least gets you searchable online.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just toss a half-decent website up anymore. You need to provide more value than your competitors if you want to succeed, so make a list of your strongest competition and evaluate what they’re doing versus what you’re doing. Implement changes to keep pace, but be sure to put your own spin on everything.
If you’re in an industry where clients regularly need to source information, consider adding a blog. Start with insightful posts that provide real value, and then curate content that keeps your audience coming back time and time again. If you’re not a writer by nature, have no fear; you can outsource it to an expert. Or, try this course by Udemy to get your footing.
Then, it’s time to get social (both with your blog and your business).
Having a website is just one part of the equation. Social media is a necessary evil, too, especially if your company sells products or services. Instagram and Facebook are king currently, but Twitter can also significantly boost your online presence if handled correctly. The key is to get online, get involved, and provide valuable content to your audience.
What exactly is “valuable content” when it comes to social media? Well, that’s not a simple answer; it depends on which platform you’re on and what your audience prefers.
Kissmetrics claims that the most important thing for Facebook users is to avoid talking about your products all the time; this is akin to having someone walk in your store and trailing along behind them pushing products the whole time.
Simply put: it’s overkill.
Instead, focus on asking questions that make your clients think. Include rich photos and toss in the occasional contest when you can. Use humor, but be careful with how you position it; a funeral parlor posting memes about death isn’t likely to garner anything but scorn. Conversely, an ice cream parlor posting an adorable meme about taking a break for ice cream (maybe with a cute animal) would likely be highly appreciated.
Be extremely cautious with self-depreciating or audience-depreciating memes and jokes. These can work for some businesses (Cards Against Humanity is an excellent example), but it’s a risky move that often does more damage than it’s worth.
For Instagram, focus on networking and photo quality. Make liberal use of popular hashtags and interact with other niche providers to tap into their following
If you’re using Twitter, start with the platform’s easy business posting tips. Again here networking is key. Keep posts short, witty, and full of knowledge whenever possible. Above all else, stay active daily.
Be Brutally Honest (At Least With Yourself)
You’re an entrepreneur; you want your business to succeed. You want your employees to feel like you’re succeeding so they remain motivated at all times. This is a good thought, at least in practice, but it can and often does lead business owners to make bad decisions in an effort to save face.
Honesty – at least to yourself, if no one else – is vital in business. Without understanding exactly where you are and where you have to go, you can’t possibly make informed decisions about how to get there.
If it’s failing, admit to yourself that something has gone wrong. If that important marketing strategy just isn’t providing, but cutting it would cost more than keeping it, find a way to make it work.
Note that there’s a vast difference between giving up and admitting when something isn’t working; if you’re upset or angry, try to sleep on it and re-evaluate before you make a decision. Sometimes situations can look very different after a bit of rest.
Worried about staff motivation (or even your own)? You’re not wrong to question it, but denying your worst problem areas is akin to trying to shoot fish in a barrel in the dark. You’ll occasionally get one or two, but you’ll also end up putting holes in the barrel in the process. Which brings us to to the next point…
Change the Way You Look at Failure
You worked hard to come up with what looked like a rock-solid plan with the help of your employees. The new year came and went, and now it’s June. As it turns out, your rock-solid plan seems to be a rock-solid flop. Perhaps it’s even worse; maybe it’s not just a failure, but damaging your bottom line, too.
This is precisely the moment when many entrepreneurs allow stress to hinder their performance. A failure (whether overall or with regard to a single project) can make or break your business, and the difference is very often in how you approach the failure in the first place.
Don’t get sucked into the common trap of believing failure is the end. According to Merriam-Webster, the very definition of failure is a lack of success. But realistically, every business that’s just starting out is effectively experiencing a lack of success – at least until they find their way. Look at your failures as educational, and over time, you’ll learn how to prevent them from happening in the future.
Remember: 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first year. Failure isn’t a judgment on your personal ability; it’s exceptionally common and almost expected. Let it guide you, but don’t let it dictate your future.
Network, Network, Network
It used to be that “location, location, location” was the marketer’s favorite slogan. With a bigger move to the web than ever, location is still important, but it isn’t necessarily king. Instead, switch your train of thought to “network, network, network” and get yourself (and your business out there and known.
Jimmy Fallon’s success is an excellent example of how networking can pay off. Fallon wasn’t always this popular; it was only through networking with other celebrities and being genuinely interested in their stories that he came to have so many friends. Likewise, avoiding your competition at all costs isn’t likely to help you over time. Instead, look for opportunities, be they online or in person, to extend your reach. Try:
- Attending niche market conferences
- Getting involved with LinkedIn advice groups
- Volunteering business hours to local charities
- Hosting charity events (locally or online)
- Hosting events or conferences with industry experts
Getting involved, either with a good cause or with others in your industry, gets your name out there. Word of mouth is a powerful thing; flex that muscle and make the most of it whenever you can. Just be sure you’re providing more than the same old, tired speech about how great your products are when you do it.
Accelerating your business isn’t always easy, especially in the online world. Content oversaturation means your clientele and customers need to find you more relatable, interesting, and available than your competition if you want to succeed. That’s what makes these five tips so very important; they encourage you to get out there and make good, honest decisions about how you operate within your niche. Self-honesty (tempered with positivity and perseverance), the right attitude, and a dedication to networking will take you further than stubbornness and falling into the same patterns time after time.