Business Challenges and Opportunities
We are still seeing the resiliency that sets small businesses apart, we are noting what’s going on with the economy, but we are retaining our optimism. We have battled through the challenges of the recession and are preparing for a recovery. Small business owners certainly don’t shrink from a challenge. It takes guts to go for it, and the weak-kneed types don’t last long. For those who persevere, there are always new challenges to look forward to and meet with courage and creativity.
Small businesses are a stabilizing force in the economy because we don’t tend to become complacent or bloated. Throughout America’s history, the entrepreneurial spirit has overcome obstacles and capitalized on opportunities, and our current economic setting is no exception. Businesses striving to stay one step ahead of the trends, develop new strategies and stand out in the crowd are forced to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.
The economy isn’t our only challenge. Aside from the recession, 38 percent said their biggest hurdle was retaining and growing their customer base. In today’s economy. Although small business owners face a variety of challenges on a daily basis, how to attract more customers always surfaces as the number-one concern. We all need to look at solutions and marketing strategies that can help our business grow, including how to:
* Better understand and target our customers more effectively.
* Rethink our marketing in the digital age.
* Manage our own marketing that can reduce costs and increase sales.
Retaining our current customers and gaining new ones must be viewed as an investment. Customers are long-term investments that will help us realize our long-term goals. As business owners, we often struggle to find new ways to market our businesses and grow our customer bases. Do we encourage our customers to help us improve our business? Do we view regular customer communication as an investment strategy that helps us fulfill our long-term goals? If you perceive customer communication as an investment tool that pays long-term dividends, you’ll begin to see how you can create many more opportunities for capital growth.
The most successful businesses understand that only a limited number of people will buy their product or service. The task then becomes determining, as closely as possible, exactly who those people are, and ‘targeting’ the business’s marketing efforts and dollars toward them. We can all build a better, stronger business, by identifying and serving a particular customer group – our target market.
One of the first things we need to do is to refine our offers so that we are NOT trying to be ‘all things to all people. We need to become specialists! This confirms our business has purpose and is needed in the marketplace. Understand what turns a prospect into a buyer. Determine what it means to create a stable, reordering customer out of a buyer. Turn your customers into advocates and champions. Up sell, cross sell and win back your customers to build more business.
Finding new customers can be a challenge for any business and finding the right type of customers can be even more daunting for business owners. It’s extremely important to understand what makes our customers tick; to arrive at this knowledge, we need to do some homework identifying our main market segments and profiling them according to their interests. Then we can market accordingly in a much more focused and cost effective way.
Building programs to broaden the competencies of the workforce is a challenging task. Mapping skills, building a progressive learning approach, generating excitement and measuring success requires both knowledge and expertise. A systemized approach to selling based on an effective sales method is a must-have for increasing our customer base. Our sales associates should know how to get the prospect interested, how to keep them interested, how to handle objections, how to deal with questions about price and how to finally ask for the sale. This should all take place in a way that builds trust and understanding with the prospect as they go along.
Another area to look at when attempting to grow your business is your vision and image and the processes that are needed to attract more clients. Some best practices to consider are:
- Defining the vision, image and philosophy for your business
- Creating a variety of marketing strategies which would target the desired clients
- Developing communication material and social networking sites to increase awareness
- Creating customer centred processes for new and existing clients
- Delivering staff training to improve knowledge and skills
One last point to consider is a need to shift our culture based on creating transparency and authenticity in what we are doing. We need to look at how to reach our target customers and explore as many realistic opportunities as possible to get our name and brand out there. We need to know where our customers “hang out” online. That means not only developing a website but having a presence on social networks, blogs, and participation in industry specific forums. If you already have a social presence, make sure your basic company information is correct and current.
Despite the immense challenges that we have faced and continue to face, we should refuse to indulge in negativity or pessimism. We should believe in empowering people to be their best. Although the future challenges should make us quite humble about the years to come. The opportunity for us if we execute is incredible.
Jamie Wood, Avatel EVP
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