Running a successful business is all about responding to the challenges in front of you in the most effective way possible. Though the problems faced vary significantly from company to company, it certainly helps to know what a few of the most common are so you are ready to respond when you need to. After all, the world of business is Darwinian — the companies that don’t adapt are the ones that will become extinct. Blockbuster is a classic example and most recently Yahoo! and Sears Canada.
A Vast Amount of Competition
The internet has made it so much easier for anyone to establish a business. This means that you are likely to face more competition than ever before, and staying in business is the challenge that you are likely to find yourself up against. You find yourself in a battle of perception, focus and marketing. Establishing a trusted brand and a loyal following of customers is what you should be aiming to achieve.
Speeding Up Response Time
In today’s interconnected world, consumers are a lot less patient than they once were. With so many different methods of communication available, you need to make sure that they are all well-manned. Firms like Skyresponse aim to help meet the instant alarm and notification needs of their clients. Ensuring that clients can access the information that they need as efficiently as possible is certainly a challenge that is worth taking on. And this is a constantly evolving problem as more and means of communication open up.
Finding (and Keeping) the Right Staff
Recruitment has become a key issue for businesses all around the world. But the challenge doesn’t stop at getting them on board — it continues into making sure that they stay with your firm for the longest possible time. While the culture of small businesses is easier to manage, when it comes to larger firms, human resources becomes increasingly important. Talented members of staff are looking at what their companies can provide for them, whether this is flexible working or other in-work benefits.
Getting the Word Out There
Of course, there are more platforms out there to get your message across. The challenge remains in working out exactly what your message is and how best to communicate it with your target audience. Essentially, this is all based on increasingly advanced methods of profiling your customers and finding out exactly what it is that they are looking for. And this is an ever-evolving task as customer requirements evolve continually over time.
Reputation is Everything
The thread of this article has been all about connectivity, and this is very important when it comes to business reputation. Negative publicity spreads so much easier than it once did, and if you don’t take steps to manage this, you could find your business name completely tarnished.
Tackling each of these challenges head-on should be one of the priorities of every business owner. You should aim to reduce the risks where you find them and not shy away from the challenges you face.
In business, marketing is everything! You won’t reach new customers, or make a profit if you don’t find ways to push your business out into the wider world. You have probably grasped some of the marketing tactics yourself, from arming yourself with business cards to harnessing the power of social media. However, I have some creative marketing tips that will really get people talking about you and your business.
Become an expert
Okay, I’m telling you to go to university and take a master’s degree in your chosen field. Or go the route of working for five years to a decade and pick up some useful knowledge along the way. Your advice will be beneficial to others. Contact your local newspaper and see if you can write a weekly column or start a blog or guest blog on an established platform.
Try and get airtime on local TV and radio. Take part in debates. Speak at industry events. By broadcasting your name and face to the world, you also have a platform to market your business at the same time. Enter awards ceremonies Put yourself up for an award, or encourage your customers to put your name forward. Winning an award is free publicity for your company, and you will gain a lot of credibility, to boot. People are more likely to buy from somebody who has a few awards to their name. Aggressive branding If you don’t have a brand for your company, you really need to get to work on it. You can easily design a logo with WithOomph, and there is advice online in forming a company slogan. However, when you have created a brand, don’t limit it to your website or flyers.
Put it everywhere — pens, pencils, clothing, packaging, transport, banners, posters, business forms, mugs, water bottles, tote bags — the list can be endless. You want to be seen and heard, so brand absolutely anything and get it into the hands of everybody.
Go green We all need to be eco-friendly, and you may attract more customers than your competitors if you can prove your eco-credentials. Have a page on your site devoted to your ethical policy. You don’t want to be seen bragging about it, but showing you care for the world will make your business stand out.
From using recycled materials in your products to using non-toxic substances in your manufacturing process, you will make a difference to the world and in your credibility. Launch an e-book Another way of proving your ‘expert’ credentials, launching an e-book is an effective way to digitally market your business. You need to make it interesting, so consider hiring a freelance writer if your writing skills are below par.
Include tips on how to use specific products, or offer an insight into your chosen industry. To gain kudos, make it free, and promote it through social media and through your regular newsletters to customers and clients.
In today’s business world, making a good first impression is absolutely essential. With so much competition out there, potential customers need to be impressed from the moment they come into contact with your company or they may end up walking away and going elsewhere very quickly. Ultimately, a professional, customer-first approach needs to spread throughout every individual aspect of your business. Maintaining an ethos of creating that good first impression every time can be challenging, but it will certainly pay off in the long-run. So, let’s take a closer look at just how your business can do this.
A Great Company Website
In the digital age, many people’s first impression of a business comes through the company website. So, you need to make sure that yours is kept both eye-catching and up-to-date. Ultimately, you want the key information to be as easy to find as possible — the products and services that are available, opening hours and contact information.
As many people may find your business through a search engine, you never know which page they will land on first, so you should state the key information clearly throughout the site. When you analyse your website, you should ask yourself some key questions. Does the look and feel of the site feel current or outdated? Is the content clear, accurate and regularly updated?
How easy is it to find the key information? It is a good idea to ask some people who have never seen the site before so you can get an unbiased opinion.
Some customers may get their first impression of your company over the phone, so you need to make sure you are giving off the right one. If you don’t have someone who is available to answer the phone on a regular basis, a virtual answering service may be the ideal solution to this problem.
Otherwise, you should make sure whoever is answering is friendly and helpful in their approach to the problems of customers. It is worth analysing every aspect of the phone experience including the waiting times and hold music. Also, make sure that your return all calls in a timely and efficient manner.
Some customer’s first impression of a business will be the moment they walk through the front door. If you have a parking area, is it totally free from debris and trash? When people come through the entrance, how are they greeted and is it obvious what they need to do next?
Does everything look new and fresh or is it starting to seem stale and outdated? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself as they are all things that potential customers are likely to notice.
The business culture that you have created can go a long way towards influencing the first impression of visitors. So, if your employees ignore clients and don’t go that extra mile to help them out, this can immediately give off a bad vibe. Ask whether any underlying internal issues are seeping out of the internal working environment and affecting how people are viewing your company.
While customers aren’t really interested in the internal workings of your business, they may well start to care if they think this is going to affect whether or not you are able to provide them with the service they are looking for.
Good quality marketing materials can really end up communicating a lot about an organisation. So, everything from business cards to corporate stationery should look professional with your branding and contact information clearly on display.
Also, any advertising campaigns that you create should clearly communicate what your business is all about and why people should place their trust in you.
You Only Have One Shot to Make a First Impression
If a customer gets a bad first impression from your company, it is unlikely that they will be returning any time soon. That is why it is so important that you cover all your bases and think about every way that a potential customer may come into contact with your business, be it online, over the phone or in person.
Analyse each point of contact and think of ways in which you can improve it. Remember that your staff members make all the difference, so you should make sure that they are all well aware of how they should be treating all customers. Finally, ensure that all marketing materials are high-quality and professional.
A lot of people seem to have this idea that simply adding a computer or two or switching to a cloud-based storage service instead of using hardware storage is the best idea. However, they would be wrong. Very wrong.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to run a business without the internet? You’d probably have to write a lot of letters by hand and send them through snail mail, meaning that business operations and receiving or sending messages would be very tiresome and expensive.
However, this is how businesses were operated way before the internet was conceived. You see, businesses have always existed. Even back when we didn’t have electricity, people still made a living by buying and selling wares, promoting their brand and using whatever methods they could to get an upper hand.
This article won’t be going into the details of how medieval tradespeople made a living, but it will illustrate a very important point: your business is only what you make of it.
Don’t assume technology can save you
Technology is what horses were to traders back in the old times. It was a way to speed things up, carry more workloads and ultimately improve your business. However, if you didn’t know where to trade, what wares are worth money and how to protect your horse, then it’s pretty much useless. The same thing counts for your business and its technology. If you can’t safeguard your technology from viruses and hackers or if you don’t actually know how to use it in order to grow your business, then how do you expect to prosper? You simply can’t.
Technology can help if you know how to use it
However, if you know how to use technology because you’ve hired IT managed services or if you have a dedicated team of professionals on your workforce, then you can utilise it correctly and make the most of it. It’s important to have some kind of help when it comes to technology because chances are you don’t have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make it work for you. This isn’t a snide jab at you or your staff either, but unless you know the ins and outs of a particular piece of technology or software, then you’re better off leaving it to professionals that can teach you how to use it.
Ignorance isn’t bliss
Far too many business owners try to claim they understand how to use technology. However, this ignorance is usually what causes them to waste a lot of money on useless technology or spend valuable time and money on things that won’t actually improve their business. This is the perfect example of someone that does more harm than good to a company, and it’s vital that you understand what you’re dealing with. If you have someone that tries to do everything themselves, produces inconsistent results and doesn’t know how to handle the technology you use in your business, then you may want to reconsider their status or position.
Conferences are great for forging new connections, sharing new information and marketing your business. They can also be very difficult to get right. So, if you’re in the process of organising your first conference and you want it to be a roaring success rather than a huge flop, check out these useful tips:
Choose a Theme
It’s always easier to organise a conference when you at least have a loose theme to work with. This could be big data, cyber security or something completely different; it doesn’t matter; all that matters is that the theme relates to your industry in some way and has enough scope that you can find enough speakers to come along. Having a theme will also help to attract the right people.
Don’t Do It Alone
Running a conference is no mean feat. It is physically and emotionally draining not to mention expensive, so it’s never a bad idea to team up with other companies in your industry to throw a joint event that will be mutually beneficial for you all.
As soon as you know you’re planning a conference, it’s time to think about your speakers. If you want your event to be a success, you need the best speakers to attend and they tend to be booked up months, even years in advance.
While we’re on the subject of speakers, it’s also a good idea to print them VIP passes, so that they can move around more freely and so that they are in a good mood when they give their talks. Click here for info about printing VIP passes and check out this website for more information on booking speakers. Do this now to avoid disappointment.
Choose a Central Location
Choosing a location that is easy to get to by car and public transport and which has a whole range of amenities within walking distance will make your conference a more attractive prospect for the people you invite. If they know they can get good food and there are a few interesting galleries and stores around, they’ll be only too happy to visit your event.
Choose a Comfy Venue
Your venue should also be comfortable. If you’re in a warm climate, air conditioning is a must. It’s also important that the conference room has comfy chairs, lots of light and isn’t too small so that your guests won’t feel hot, tired and overcrowded after a couple of hours and decide to leave!
Hire a Caterer
The last thing you want to be worried about on the day of your conference is food, but good food is important to the success of any conference. That’s why you should always hire a solid caterer to provide meals. It’s important to try out caterers before you book one, so you know you’ll get the best quality for your money and you should always ensure there are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and other allergy options available.
Spread the Word
Now, all that remains is to leverage all of your networking links to spread the word to the highest number of people possible. You need to do this without spamming or pressuring people if you want to keep your reputation intact.
When your business operates in a competitive landscape, it’s a constant game of pushing your brand to the forefront of consumer consciousness and continually reinventing marketing campaigns along with services in order to retain customer interest and relevance in the industry.
Everything needs to be “new” at all times, and that’s a hard task to accomplish. Still, when your company lets such standards slip and fails to meet demand, the customers go elsewhere. That’s just business, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be the final nail in the coffin. If you want to pull your business back from the brink when it starts to sink then here are some tips which might just help you do so.
Take a risk
You know what I’m talking about. Stop playing it safe, and we all know that businesses fall prey to this tactic when sales are low. It makes sense that you’d want to preserve the business’ profit and avoid bankruptcy or other disasters, but you’ll only be pushing yourself further out of the limelight by retreating.
You need to take a risk if you want your business to start turning heads again and recovering its position in the industry.
If you have a big idea, for example, then you might want to consider options such as SunWise business loans to help fund that project. You have to push your organisation out of its comfort zone in order to make money; otherwise, you’ll end up putting the company in a far less comfortable position when you start to lose consumer interest and run into the red.
Making a big move might be the only way to get into the public sphere of consciousness again.
The people count
If you really want to save your business then you need to come to understand this statement: the people count. It isn’t figures, fancy adverts, and physical assets which keep your company alive but the people behind every operation and the customers on the other end who buy your products or services.
Your business is sustained by people, and you need to start valuing those people more than anything else within your business if you want to save the company.
You need to not only be rewarding employees for their hard work but offering incentives for promotions in order to boost productivity. You need to be creating a happy working environment so that your workers treat customers kindly and encourage them to stick with your organisation.
Of course, you need to be rewarding loyalty from your customers too; thank them for sticking around with great deals and referral schemes. Use your client-base to hook more people in.
Revamp your digital marketing campaign
If you don’t have a digital marketing campaign then you need to get one; if you do have a digital marketing campaign then you need to update it.
It all comes down to your company’s website; the SEO (search engine optimisation) needs to be on point if you want your name to be screamed from the rooftops by customers who stumble across it at the top of Google search page rankings. It needs to be optimised for all devices.
Who likes awkwardly scrolling across a webpage on a cell phone to read one sentence? Nobody.
As the world changes, so does the way we work. Professionals can now work from a palm-fringed beach in Sri Lanka or a skyscraper in Tokyo; you can run your business out of a Paris bistro and jet across the world, all while generating an income.
While freelancing often seems like the dream, and your friend on Instagram who travels the world by the seat of his or her laptop looks as though she is having the time of her life, there are a few things you need to consider before jumping in.
It’s not as easy as it may seem, but if you take good care of your finances, have a good business head and stick to some self-made rules, you have the potential to go far in the freelance world.
As a freelancer, you are responsible for your own taxes. Your clients will not hold back a percentage of your payment to cover what you owe at the end of the year, so it will be up to you to set aside around 25–30% of your income yourself.
It is recommended that you put your taxes in a separate bank account which you cannot access so that when the time comes around to pay, you won’t need to worry. Make sure that you are on top of this and that you file your tax return on time.
Although you won’t get the likes of Antonio Horta Osorio (he’s a banker in the U.K.) knocking on your door, you could wind up with a hefty fine if you don’t meet the deadline.
Holiday pay? What holiday pay?
Holiday and statutory sick pay don’t really apply to freelancers, and it’s important to budget carefully so that if you do fall ill or want to take a couple of weeks away from your emails, you won’t be out of pocket or in trouble.
It is good practice to put away a portion of your monthly income for a rainy day (10 – 15% minimum), so that you and your family are covered in the event of sickness.
For example, if you are an early riser then start your day by cracking on when you wake up and finish early; if you like to lay in in the mornings, start later to allow for snoozing, but work later in the day.
Ultimately, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to work as much or as little as you want but be sure to honour all contracts and meet deadlines.
As a freelancer, you won’t have anybody sending you on training courses or emailing industry news to your inbox every Thursday morning. It will be up to you to stay up-to-date with best practices and news within your industry! If you’re in graphic or web design, you can follow platforms like Fast Company, Virgin, Millo, The Futur, and others.
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s hard out there for a small startup business and new entrepreneur. You need to hit the market fighting so that you can make a positive impact and succeed where many have failed beforehand.
The following are five (5) things to consider when starting out on your business path and will help to navigate you through the obstacles that the market will throw your way.
1. Find Your Place in the Market
You need to carefully consider where you’re aiming to jump into the marketplace, and if your service or product has the appeal to stay afloat or be swallowed up by the heavily saturated surroundings. If you feel you’ve found a substantial and definite gap in the market; congratulations, you’ve found the holy grail in business and should be able to progress in leaps and bounds with the help of the upcoming steps.
Liane Weintraub and Shannon Swanson created their own brand of organic baby purees, Tasty Brand, after realising how little choice there out there for them and their little ones. Tasty Brand is now stocked in a number of national chains, including Wholefoods and Fairway, and continues to grow in success. Check out the company’s road to success here.
However, if what you’re producing has an array of counterparts to contend with, then you need to ensure that you have a point of difference or can offer an upgrade to what the consumer is used to. If you can provide a fresh take on an old classic, or your product and service is simply better than the rest; this will stand you in good stead at the start of your business journey.
Take a step back and look at your product from a customer’s position, who knows nothing about the story behind the item, or any of your journey to get it to market. By looking at what you can offer without any sentimentality, you’ll be able to understand if a person is likely to buy into it or not.
If investing a ton of money into market research isn’t an option for you; utilise the internet, organise focus groups locally or online, and ask an in-depth list of questions. Taking your market research into your own hands can often lead to a better understanding of which direction your small business is heading in, which will prove vital in the tentative first months of starting out.
2. Check Out the Competition
As talked about before; you need to scope out your company’s competitors and find out as much as possible about their routes to success. Don’t ignore the big guys just because you’re small; they got to that size with good reason, and you’ll be able to downsize many of their techniques and implement them within your business.
The great thing about looking into the larger brands is that their ambassadors and consumers are easily found through social media. By discovering a big corporation’s patrons; you can figure out what they expect from the brand’s services and products. Comparing these consumers to the ones you hope to attract (maybe they’re the same), will ensure that you’ll gain a clear plan of where to aim your products.
Another reason to research into what the big guys have been up to is to learn from their mistakes. There is no doubt that each business will have made costly mistakes, but, if a company is still alive and kicking; they’ve dealt will them accordingly, and more importantly, with success.
Therefore, looking into what happened within the business’s history, and how they got over each hurdle, will help you make informed decisions for your small brand.
As the little guys that are new to the market, you’re unlikely to have a vast herd of employees. Therefore, you need to ensure that those you pick to work for your brand are dedicated and right for their role. The qualifications that a potential employee has on paper don’t always translate into a strong fit for your company.
If you’re hiring a small team; make sure that you can all work successfully in close proximity, as well as when everyone goes to complete an individual task. Trust is important, and using HR recruitment specialists will help to ensure that you’ve got a strong team around you so that you can delegate work without worry.
Invest your time into getting to know your employees once you’ve hired them and find out what makes them tick. By understanding how your team works best, both alone and together, will speed up processes and you’ll reach your business targets with ease.
4. Be Adaptable and Quick
Business success will favour those who are nimble and can adapt to the ever-evolving technology and strategies on the market. Take time each week to read up on what’s happening in the business world and how the latest in tech is helping brands to bring in revenue.
You won’t necessarily have the means to jump on every invention bandwagon.
However, by staying up to date with how companies are targeting their customers and using the technology to enhance their shopping experiences; you’ll be able to see more of what’s expected on the market and strategise how to implement any changes to your business. Take a look at the benefits of adaptability here.
5. Enjoy Your Customers
Your customers are the ones who will determine the longevity and success of your business; so bear in mind how important they are at all times. The free communication tools you have access to through social media are excellent ways to gauge what your patrons are feeling towards using your business.
You should engage them as much as possible by asking regular questions through your Twitter account, or by sending out and email monthly or every couple of months.
Listen to their feedback and run with it; shoppers are savvy and will notice the changes you’ve implemented to iron out your company’s creases. Let your consumers know when you’ve made these changes and tell them it’s because you listened to them; effort is always appreciated.
If your customers become your brand’s biggest fans; they’ll become your loudest marketing tool, ensuring you’re on the path to giving those bigger businesses a run for their money!
There’s a fairly pervasive attitude among a lot of business owners that they should be able to do everything themselves without ever leaning on anyone else. A lot of this comes from the idea of the “self-made man” or any other ideas of total and complete independence.
Of course, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that this attitude is pretty much completely useless. The idea of trying to do everything yourself might be rather romantic, but it almost ends badly as Romeo and Juliet’s story.
Instead of making a business that you can take total credit for, it usually creates a business that it barely held together and it pretty much doomed to fail. If you really want to succeed in business then you need to reach out to other people with one of the most effective approaches: outsourcing.
Outsourcing is one of the beneficial things for both you and your business and here are just a few reasons why.
It frees you up to focus on other things
Everyone has certain things that they’re more interested in than others. Because of that it’s pretty much guaranteed that there are going to be parts of your business that are simply outside of your particular expertise.
By outsourcing those things to other people, you’re able to focus all of your energy on the aspects of your business that you’re really good at. If you’re fantastic with numbers but connecting with customers isn’t your forte, then outsourcing your marketing might be the best bet.
If it’s the other way around then bringing in a forensic accountant to handle the numbers side of your business might be a better idea. Think about where there are gaps in your skills when considering what to outsource and what to deal with yourself.
Your business is in the hands of the experts
One of the best things about outsourcing certain tasks is that it usually involves companies or individuals who are specifically skilled in certain areas.
That way you can be sure that any aspect of your business that you’re outsourcing is in the hands of well-trained and highly competent people who are going to be able to bring the best possible work to your business as a whole.
You’re far less likely to become overworked
Overworking yourself can be dangerous at the best of times. It can leave you exhausted, unfocused, and it can have a seriously negative impact on your health. Things get even worse when you’re running a business since so many things depend on your ability to work and function.
By outsourcing certain tasks, you’re able to avoid overworking yourself so that you’re always in a position to take better care of your yourself and your business.
If you collapse from exhaustion then not only does that impact your own life negatively, but it also directly affects everyone else involved with your business.
It’s far better to put certain parts of your business in other people’s hands so that you don’t put your health or your business in danger. After all, health is wealth.
Setting up your own design studio is one of the most exciting and exhilarating things you can do as a designer. It can also be a little overwhelming and confusing too however, so we are here today to create a tick sheet on how to set up your design studio so that you are up and running in no time at all.
Firstly, you’re going to need to look into a good, reputable business lending company that can help get your business off the ground financially and set you up with the funds that you need to get your business started and financed into the initial few months. With some business loan companies offering small business loans with business funding as low as 9.9% make sure you put in the research to find the best packages that fulfill the needs of your company.
Your Creative Team
Assuming that you are setting up your design studio with a background in design you are already bringing with you heaps of design experience and contacts within the world of design. You then will obviously want to create a team of fantastic designers. Creative individuals who add a diverse range of creative talents, style, and conceptual vision.
However as your background is most likely in design you will also want to ensure that you are creating a team that offers solid diversity for your business. So combining designers with more commercial staff who will be able to build your business and marketers who will be able to promote your business will ensure that you have a well rounded team that ticks all the right boxes for your business. Having a team of individuals with different backgrounds will also mean that you can bounce ideas around a team with multiple areas of expertise.
Those All-important Clients
The decision for you to bite the bullet and go it alone probably means that you are confident that you already have a few clients that you can take with you into your new company. A handful of clients is obviously a great start, but they are not going to pay the bills long term. Therefore the primary focus for your design studio is canvassing for new clients.
Begin by understanding what it is about your company that makes it special and makes it standout from the competition. Carve out a niche for yourself and then compile a list of potential clients that you feel your approach, values, and style will suit and serve well.
Build strong relationships by being transparent with your creative process so that there are no hiccups or no unmet expectations and disappointments along the way. Being clear about what you offer and what you can deliver is important in creating clear goals and aims for any projects you take on for new clients. Happy clients mean great word of mouth publicity, so being clear from the start will ensure your clients are satisfied with you and your new team and your company will subsequently grow.
So you now have your full time team in place, however you are still going to want to build up a network of outsourcers, collaborators, and specialists around you. Making sure you have people you can outsource work to means that no matter how much work you have coming through your studio you can always deliver and never have to risk clients going else where if your schedule is full.
Forming relationships with specialists in areas such as video animation or TV production advertising means that if you have a specific project that comes in that needs specialist knowledge in certain areas, you already have a trusted and reliable extended team that you can call upon.
Now that you are setting up shop on your own there may be a few differences, to working for an employer, that you don’t immediately notice straight away. One of the biggest differences that can sneak up on you, can be the training and industry knowledge and research that is gathered and presented and offered to you on a regular basis when you work for a larger agency.
So as a business owner you now need to make research and training a priority for yourself and for your staff. Staying on top of market trends and business development in your industry means you stay on top of the game and are able to offer your clients a service that is fresh modern and forward thinking.
Similarly, investing in training for yourself and your staff will mean that your team are constantly evolving and are able to offer the most up-to-date and sought after software and design programmes and tools.