As 2017 rapidly draws to a close, business owners are reflecting on the obstacles they have had to tackle this year. While every enterprise and industry must confront its own issues, challenges are even more prevalent for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), where smaller teams mean members need to be capable of exhibiting a diverse range of specialist skills, from digital marketing to simple time management.
Accounting software experts, Sage, surveyed a number of small businesses and forums to understand the most prevalent problems that plagued SMBs this year. Not accounting for country-specific circumstances, SMBs around the world have largely faced problems growing their brand and customer base, staying updated with relevant industry trends, and coping with the demands of completing that never-ending pile of admin while simultaneously running a business.
Yet, there is now more information than ever available to help you – and most of it for free – and technology is quickly making data interpretation and daily tasks easier, too.
Here, we list the most common challenges and how to tackle them, so you can begin 2018 in control and with confidence.
1. Knowing How to Market Your Business
The Problem: One of the most disappointing reality checks for any new SMB is the realization that they cannot just do what they love to launch their business. Ultimately, despite all your hard work establishing and setting up your enterprise, if you can’t inform potential customers about your services, it is all for naught.
The Fix: Other enterprises in your same industry are likely already advertising and promoting to the very customers you want to attract. Examine to which demographics they are focusing their marketing campaigns and where they are advertising, then do the same to give yourself a jumpstart at breaking into their customer base and to begin establishing your own.
2. Winning Premium Clients
The Problem: High-end clients are not only an excellent source of revenue for your business, but a glowing endorsement of the quality of your service. However, in 2017, SMBs listed finding and winning premium clients as one of their greatest challenges.
The Fix: While lowering prices may attract a few bargain-hunters, going too low can give the impression your services are low-quality. Instead, give your site or shop a premium makeover; make sure it reflects the type of customer you want to attract.
Once you have won the business of your first premium client, seek their permission to publicly use their logo and a testimony on your website, in your shop window and on any marketing material, so future customers will feel assured of the first-class quality service you provide.
3. Expanding Your Mailing List
The Problem: E-mail campaigns remain the most effective way of converting potential clients into a strong customer base. However, convincing visitors of your store or website to share their contact details can be tough.
The Fix: Ensure your sign-up list is accessible without being overbearing. Use a subtle, voluntary pop-up with a call to action on your site, or place sign-up sheets at various points around your physical store, offering purchase incentives for those that share their details.
4. Staying Informed of Relevant Techniques and Technology
The Problem: Even large businesses can struggle to stay informed of the best practices and trending technologies they need to remain relevant. This problem is all the more challenging for smaller enterprises; when each person needs to perform numerous other tasks besides their day job to keep the business running, how can they find the time to stay up-to-date, too?
The Fix: Small teams should divide and conquer. Assign a specific topic to each person and hold regular meetings to share what everyone has found.
Meanwhile, sole traders can listen to podcasts or read free blogs for information, though the better long-term strategy is to hire a virtual assistant: an online assistant who can provide you with frequent reports.
5. Coping with Admin!
The Problem: Like the problem of staying relevant, admin is one of those issues most SMBs would love to wish away, but is simply a fact of running a business and requires dedicated time to deal with – time which could be spent on growing the business.
The Fix: As intelligent applications become cheaper, they are being adapted to help owners complete repetitive tasks that take up so much time. AI organizers, like Microsoft’s Cortana, act as personal assistants which help you organize your calendar, while purpose-built smart apps can help with anything from managing invoices to first-line customer service.
In the ever-evolving world business, there will always be challenges for SMBs to overcome. However, by following these tips, you can tackle the most prevalent challenges of 2017 and establish organized approaches to face whatever 2018 has to throw at you.