5 Common Small Business Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

1. Technology: Everyone in small businesses understands the need for technology but don’t truly understand what really makes it valuable to your business. Valuable technology has really only two purposes: to make you money and to save you money, period. Although that sounds rather generic, the truth is technology’s primary function is recording data; therefore, the data your systems are using should increase client retention or decrease the time spent on your staff or product fulfillment. Finally, don’t undervalue your technology; don’t pinch pennies here because the right technology is the foundation of your business.

Essentials for technology:
A. Website for lead generation
B. Contact management system for recording clients’ sales history
C. Secured network for growth, sharing, and remote employees (sales team)
D. Technical consultant for helping you determine the best and most cost-effective software and hardware for your company
E. Powerful e-mail marketing system
F. Good accounting software

2. Marketing: Many small businesses don’t think much of marketing until their sales are slumping or they are not generating enough customers (or enough revenue). To compensate for this error, we begin panic promotions, which usually will not lead to greater sales or more clients.

Essentials for marketing:
A. Marketing is essential for business growth and should be implemented before the doors open and continue throughout the business life cycle.
B. Marketing and sales are not the same thing (marketing generates sales leads).
C. Develop a marketing plan and stick to it for a minimum of 90 days.
D. Review and refine your marketing plan consistently; what works for the grand opening may not work next year.
E. Develop a marketing budget and stick to it; marketing is a business cost and should be treated as importantly as your rent (if not more so).
F. Remember “If you open, they will come” is a myth; only marketing will get clients to your business.

3. Know or learn your customers (market research): In my opinion, it is better to know who your customer is before you open the doors, but for the young entrepreneur, this is seldom the case. The good news is if you have done steps 1 and 2, this step will be a little easier because you will have the data to help you see who your true customer is.

Essentials for market research:
A. Know what your best and worst selling items are.
B. Determine the clients’ gender, race, and socioeconomic status.
C. Send out surveys (including some form of incentive).
D. Determine the clients’ buying patterns (every month, week, or year).
E. Include new information in the marketing plan.

4. DIY (do it yourself): Of the entire group of successful entrepreneurs I have met, they all had one thing in common: they did what they were good at and delegated the rest. We all have strengths and weaknesses; as a small business owner, you don’t have the time to correct your weaknesses, so focus on making them irrelevant to your success instead.

Essentials for business management:
A. Delegate effectively.
B. Use technology.
C. Prioritize your strengths.
D. Delegate all weaknesses.
E. Use outside talent when necessary.
F. Hire based on the company’s weaknesses.

5. Being too nice: Most small business owners develop a peculiar bond with their employees and a fear of their clients, which develops to this unique situation. The employees tend to feel that they can do what they want in the company as opposed to what they are told; your business is not a democracy. As for the client side, many new small business owners are afraid to charge what they should or believe they should be cheaper than the competition; nothing could be further from the truth. You charge what your value proposition supports, period.

Essentials for employee and client relations:
Employees
A. Hire slow; fire fast.
B. Business is not a democracy (you are king/queen).
C. Personal feelings have no place in business.
D. Hire to fill a company void.
E. Develop an employee handbook.

Clients
A. Prices are not negotiable.
B. Friends and family are still clients (if they are friends, they would understand that this is your livelihood).
C. You can’t be “all things to all people.”
D. Don’t be afraid to say no.
E. Apologize as well as stand your ground when necessary.

Best wishes,
Darrin Jackson

Small Business Loans For Women

Small business loans for women involve a number of procedures. Firstly, they have to submit the loan application that seeks comprehensive information about the project. Specifically, the application form covers aspects like promoter’s background, particulars of the industrial concern, and particulars of the project (capacity, process, technical arrangements, management location, land and buildings, plant and machinery, raw materials, labor and schedule of implementation).

In addition, the loan application form seeks the cost of the project, means of financing, marketing and selling arrangements, profitability and cash flow and economic considerations. When the application is received, an officer of the recipient institution reviews it to ascertain whether it is complete for processing. If it is incomplete the borrower is asked to provide the required additional information. When the application is considered complete, the recipient institution prepares a ‘flash report’ which is essentially a summarization of the loan application, to be evaluated at the Senior Executive Meeting (SEM).

Once the SEM, on the basis of its evaluation of the flash report, decides that the project justifies a detailed appraisal, it nominates the lead financial institution. The factors taken into account for designating the lead institution are location of the project, prior experience of institutions in handling similar projects, and existing workload of the institutions.

The detailed appraisal of the project is done by the lead institution. The appraisal covers the marketing, technical, financial, managerial and economic aspects. The appraisal memorandum is normally prepared within two months after site inspection and placed before the SEM for a decision about approval of the project and determining the sharing arrangement among the institutions. Once a favorable decision is taken at the SEM forum and the sharing arrangement worked out, the case is referred to the Board of Directors of the lead financial institution. After the Board of Directors of the lead financial institution approves the proposal, a financial letter of sanction is issued to the borrower.

Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Business Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Many consumers have the wrong notion that small businesses don’t have a chance at surviving in the highly competitive business environment of the 21st century. They couldn’t be more wrong, and here are the reasons why. With technological advancements and social media tools that span the globe, there are now many strategies available to small businesses to help them achieve their business goals. One of the available strategies to them is social media marketing. In fact, small businesses can maximize the features of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media networking sites to successfully put their business endeavors in the limelight and within the reach of customers from around the world.

Any of these social media platforms have at least 50 million to 350 million users. Each day millions more become members and they come from everywhere on the planet. These platforms are essentially networking sites which make them ideal for small businesses to promote their wares. With social media small businesses can greatly impact the niche and the global market as well. At the same time they can generate potential leads.

Strategies for Social Media Marketing

1. Small businesses must strive for optimization. If the web content is not optimized then the business venture is not making the most of the available social media tools that their competitors as well as large businesses are successfully utilizing. Optimization helps avoid penalties from the major search engines. If optimization is used correctly, site rankings increase and the business venture gains immense rewards in terms of brand awareness.

To be competitive, small businesses have to learn about essential social media marketing strategies. Marketing tools change all the time and so it is also critical to keep abreast of technological innovations. Careful planning and foresight help a business in achieving its goals. It becomes easier for small businesses to expand if they have a significant online presence. There is no easier way to expand the client based of a fledgling enterprise than through social media marketing.

2. These days, the forming of business alliances may also be done on the Web. Expanding the social contacts of the enterprise can be done by cost-effective measures. One method is to build links with websites that are relevant to the business. These alliances, once formed, can boost the popularity and exposure of any new business. Besides, link building is a great way to promote services & products.

3. There are traditional methods of business advertising and there are also boosting the business profile on social networking platforms. To create a bigger impact on the market today, it is important to pay attention to the business profile that website visitors arrive at. If an “About Us” page contains a link with a significant impact then the company can expect a number of new leads. Visitor of the website also appreciate being presented with short, concise, and relevant information about the products & services being offered.

4. Dynamic and responsive websites have numerous advantages over traditional sites. Visitors are drawn to sites that are arresting, attention-grabbing, and interactive. When great content, layout and site SEO are all present and in the right mix, there may be no need to spend money on advertising strategies since the site itself attracts high volumes of traffic already. When the keywords are highly ranked, potential leads will keep coming in.

In Conclusion

There are many social media marketing campaigns available today and it is up to the management to choose which strategies to adopt. No matter how big or small a business venture is the management has to consider the potential advantages of engaging in social media marketing. These approaches can steer the whole company towards the right direction.

Sales Skills for Small Business Owners

Selling is a very important aspect of any business and although many small business owners don’t like to consider themselves as ‘sales people’ per se in reality small business owners are actually key sales people who know their business and product or service offering better than anyone else in most instances. Let’s identify what some key sales skills are and discuss how they can be further developed.

In a nutshell the key ‘must have’ sales skills include:

  • Confidence
  • Relationship building skills
  • Listening
  • Persuasion
  • Product / service knowledge

Most of the skills listed above will be familiar to you, but I bet you are wondering, how can I apply this and learn to become a better sales person? The key is to identify any gaps you have in the skills outlined above and then develop your skills in these areas. It’s also important to understand what makes for a more natural sell which is centred around confidence. The truth is we all dislike the hard sell and pushy sales people so it’s about striking a balance, you want to be described as ‘confident’ and avoid being perceived as arrogant. So how does one achieve this?

Know your product or service

This is fundamental to your success. If you don’t know your product or service you won’t feel comfortable talking about it. If you need to develop your product knowledge, look for resources to help you do this, be it sales training, product or sales manuals, brochures and other materials, senior staff or technical staff with deep product or service knowledge.

Speak naturally

Speak naturally about what you do and the services you offer, a prospect that is interested in your offering is more likely to ask you questions and engage in a conversation with you about your offering. Sharing knowledge will help you build a relationship with a potential prospect.

Relationships develop leads better than any other form of lead generation. Word of mouth and relationships drive sales better than any other lead generation technique, even in today’s digital world! Think about your network and whether or not you are leveraging the opportunities that are being presented to you.

Believe in what you are selling

Passion and a genuine belief in your product or service will get more sales flowing.

Be clear, concise and articulate the benefits of your product or services to prospective customers or clients. Remember the golden rule. People are focused on what’s in it for them. Make sure you keep the customer and their needs at the centre of your conversation and explain how your product or service can benefit them.

Actively listen to your prospects / customers

Each one is different with unique requirements. Listen to any concerns or objections they have so that you can respond to these effectively. Be mindful not to interrupt when they are trying to express a concern.

Be patient

Be patient with your customers and be aware of body language and social cues. This applies to your own body language and tone of voice and that of your customers. It will help you to gauge interest/disinterest and read the situation, allowing you to know when it’s time to speak, seek clarification and when it’s necessary to listen or repeat what has been said to reinforce that you have been listening!

Sales is a complex subject area. I’d love to hear about any first hand sales experiences or tips you may have from your own sales history. What were some of the things that helped you close a sale? Is your network the main source of sales leads for your business? What are some of the areas within the sales process that you find difficult?