Running a small business is really hard work—maybe even way harder than you thought. Problems often arise that you didn’t see coming. It’s overwhelming at times. We know from experience.
Many small businesses don’t make it through their 1st year and only about half make it to 5 years. In 10 years, only about 20% are left. But the problems that small businesses face aren’t unique—they’re universal. Even the biggest brands have to deal with them. The difference is larger brands have the resources (and experience) to overcome them.
It’s important to know what to expect and be prepared to deal with each challenge as best you can. Learn more about the 7 big challenges all small businesses face and how to overcome them below.
Finding Customers & Generating Leads
Companies of all sizes have these issues. Even the biggest names have to get out there and find new customers. They don’t just sit around waiting for buyers to come to them.
It’s particularly hard for small businesses, though. Marketing can be complicated because there are lots of ways to reach potential customers. Armed only with limited knowledge and a tight budget, it’s hard to know what to spend where to reach the right people.
How to Fix It
To find your customers, you need to know your ideal audience. Casting a wide net doesn’t work well in marketing. You’ll be spending time and money only to be completely ignored by the vast majority of people who see your efforts.
Instead, you need to focus on people who are already inclined to buy your product. They have a problem that you can solve, and they generally want to solve it as easily and/or affordably as possible. It’s your job to convince them your product is right for them.
The best way to reach these potential buyers is to create buyer personas, which are fictionalized characters of real-world people that should buy your product. Use the demographics that these ideal buyers make up and target specific marketing campaigns to each persona. The channels you use in these campaigns will differ between personas.
Good marketing should generate leads, and catching leads farther down the sales funnel—like those in your ideal audience—you’ll get more sales on fewer interactions.
Increasing Brand Awareness
The internet is an amazing tool for small-business, but only if it’s utilized correctly. It seems that new businesses come and go almost daily. The ones that stay only got there because people quickly learned who they were. They had brand awareness.
Getting brand awareness is difficult. You’re in a vast sea of competitors, and everyone’s clamoring over each other to be heard. If you’re not unique, you won’t stand out. So how do you do that?
How to Fix it
You don’t need a quirky brand personality or wacky marketing gimmicks. The shticks work if done well, but if done wrong it can completely tank your brand’s perception.
The best way to stand out is to clearly state 2 things in all aspects of your business, from your website to your social media correspondence and everything in between:
- What makes you and your product different from the rest, called your Unique Selling Point (USP). You can demonstrate your USP in many creative ways, but you need to be genuine.
- Why your audience should care about that difference—what value does your product bring to your buyers’ lives. This is your Value Proposition (VP). Your buyer doesn’t necessarily need the drill they’re buying; they need the hole the drill creates. Tell them why and how your drill makes the best damn holes around.
Building Email Lists & Gaining Social Media Followers
The best way to create and maintain brand awareness is to be regular communication with your audience. A healthy, fruitful email list and strong social media presence are your biggest tools for that communication.
It’s hard to grow an email and social media audience, though. You can buy email addresses and followers, sure, but you won’t get very many results. You want to communicate with people who actually want to hear from you. You need to grow your email lists and social media followers organically.
How to fix it
First thing’s first, the best way to grow your email list and social media follower base is by putting signup boxes around your website. Display them prominently on any relevant pages, invite your readers and visitors to sign up and follow for more updates, and consider a few friendly pop-ups to remind them.
You can’t just be shooting and emails and posts to say hi. You need to provide some substance. Emails should link to useful pages like blog posts, infographics and videos. You should also run regular, email-only promotions.
Likewise, your social media posts should be a healthy mix of sharing information, running promotions, and showing the day-to-day behind-the-scenes stuff. An authentic and engaging social media presence lets people know you’re real and you care.
Social media is another matter. You need to be active yourself to really gain traction. Follow lots of people with interests similar to your business and hope they follow back and just pump out quality content to get their attention. With luck, they’ll share your posts with their followers, and you’re on your way to going viral!
It’s easy to satisfy a customer. You simply deliver what they ask for without hassle. Delighting a customer, though, is another thing entirely. A satisfied customer will be content with their purchase. A delighted customer will buy again and tell all their friends.
To truly delight your customers and make them promoters of your business, you need to surpass all expectations and provide an unmatched experience.
How to fix it
It’s not easy to delight your customers, and you certainly won’t delight them every time. But if you follow these steps, you’ll turn more one-time buyers into repeat buyers and promoters:
- Set realistic expectations from the beginning: Tell them what they’re getting, how much it will cost, when they’re getting it, and what it will do for them. When it comes to purchasing something, most people don’t like guess work or surprises.
- Under-promise and over-deliver: Don’t be afraid to include some unmentioned freebies or quote more days for shipping than it will probably take. Getting your package a few days early is certainly a welcome surprise!
- Measure customer satisfaction: Use customer satisfaction surveys to see what people like about what you’re doing and where you could use improvement. Ask your audience what they think.
- Continually look for ways to innovate and improve the customer experience: Spend some time coming up with creative ways to delight your customers. Don’t be afraid to see what your competitors are doing and beat them at their own game.
Hiring Talent & Managing Workflow
Following the above steps to build your brand, identify and grow your audience, and generate good leads. With enough success, eventually you’ll be put in a good position to expand your business. That’s a great thing!
But scaling your business is challenging itself, especially in the early stages when budgets are still tight. You’ll try to handle as much as you can yourself, but really what you need is more help.
Good help isn’t cheap, but it’s critical to your business’ success. Hiring new people is an expensive and complicated affair, and you want to get it right the first time. If you don’t hire the right people, high employee turnover will become even more expensive.
How to fix it
You want to hire people who not only like what they do, but are also excited about what your company is doing. They need to be a good cultural fit, too—you want to enjoy working with them.
To find the right applicants the first time and avoid high turnover, invest a good amount of time into the hiring process. Create candidate personas like those of your buyer personas to come up with an ideal fit for each position and look for people who match those personas.
Once you have the right people in the right positions, you need to be able to effectively manage your team and set them up for success. You need solid, efficient processes and tools to do their jobs right.
The best way to handle issues related to productivity and efficiency is through employee feedback, which you can gauge in a number of ways:
- Send out employee satisfaction surveys to see what’s working and what’s not
- Have regular 1-on-1 meetings with your direct reports, and ensure they’re doing the same with their direct reports
- Have occasional skip-level meetings to talk to employees without their supervisors present
- Look for common problems and bottlenecks across survey responses and meetings to identify and address big issues
Financial Planning & Business Scaling
Poor financial planning can quickly lead to your demise, as it has for many, many other small businesses. All businesses have budgets, but small businesses usually have small budgets.
With a small budget, you need to carefully balance your budget and strategically allocate resources where it matters most. This balancing act varies from business to business, but the bottom line is you need to put yourself in a position to succeed in the short term without compromising the long term.
How successfully you manage your budget affects your scalability. Obviously, you need resources to grow, and resources cost (or are themselves) money. If you manage your budget right, you should be setting aside a decent amount of your revenue to invest into scaling up your business.
How to fix it
This is very broad advice—as we said, budgets different wildly between businesses—but they hold true for everyone:
- Use business credit wisely. Don’t overextend yourself.
- Cut costs where possible. Start with cutting the small stuff; it adds up fast!
- Stay on top of invoice-tracking and bookkeeping. Know who owes you and whom you owe to.
- Consider a business accountant or financial advisor, if even just for a consultation. They’ll have the best advice.
The advice for scaling your business is equally broad, but again it’s useful nonetheless. Monitor your business operations carefully and you’ll notice where your strengths and opportunities are. It’s another balancing act of devoting attention and resources to both areas.
Barge Marketing Is Here to Help
Running a small business is hard work, to say the least. Don’t try to do it all yourself. With the right help, you can make it through these challenges and continue your success and future growth.
Want to know the secret? The majority of the challenges listed above can be overcome with a good marketing strategy and solid execution. That’s where we come in!
Barge Marketing is backed by over 40 years of experience and positive results for our clients. Our data-driven marketing approach is proven to help you succeed in even the hardest times. If you’re stressing about what to do with your marketing strategy, let us help you. All it takes is a conversation to get the ball rolling; contact us here or call us at 614-907-7577 to see what we can do for you.