Learn to Fly: 5 Key Success Factors for your Small Business
It’s crazy. Simply nuts how many small businesses are sinking fast. Nine out of ten start-ups or small businesses fail or never make it big. But why dive when you can soar? No matter how you view success, there are certain factors that can turn ordinary ventures into a profitable brand. Let me discuss what we have learnt by analyzing many small businesses like Senscio Systems, Santel, VocalBee, Acadia, TrillioData etc.
Customer centricity is the key to the kingdom:
1. Listen to your customers: Listening to customers’ and their needs is very important. Secondary research is important but you get the real insight of your customers’ demands only by talking to them. Many times observing what customers do in theirdaily work is a great way to get insights. Observe a worker doing certain things in a particular way, and then ask the 5-Whys. Many times you will find that people are doing a task in a very inefficient way because they have been trained that way 5-10 years back, and they don’t think to ask themselves how they could make their lives more efficient. You can get great insights to customers’ needs just by observation.
2. Find your target market: Most small business have limited resources. So focus is super critical. Target audience is very important when it comes to small businesses. Focus on who needs your service and reach out to them. Always start with a small market and try to establish your leadership in that market. Focus on your strengths and concentrate on winning a small area first. Then slowly diversify your business to other markets. This “Beachhead Strategy” is very important to understand the market potential of your product and to form your strategy accordingly. This also helps you to formulate your initial Total Addressable Market (TAM).
3. Research customers and their buying habits: Today’s customer is a social animal. Their buying habits are influenced heavily by their peer groups, and social media reviews and recommendation sites. Expect the customer to know a lot more about you even before they have had their first direct conversation with you. Customers also have their own methodology behind how they go about purchasing products. Researching customer journey and defining how and when your offering will fit in to maximize conversion is important. This why it is very important to understand how they do so in order for you to increase your conversion rate. A joint Google and CEB research has shown that more than 57% of the purchasing decision is made by the buyer before they engage with a supplier’s sales rep. So your challenge is to ensure that prospects find your company during the research stage.
Right people on the team really matter:
Companies are built on people, and fail due to people related issues. A well-capitalized company with a weak and poorly functioning team may be valuable on paper, but in terms of the marketplace, it’s not as valuable as an undercapitalized company with outstanding people. Capital is just money, and therefore, a commodity. People are not fungible like money. Good people are actually considered rare, even precious. A good business idea will attract good capital, provided the right team is behind it. Experience and education are essential to a small business because you must know your product, but you cannot rely on expertise alone, according to Entrepreneur.com. Many business owners do not know how they will generate sales or how they will market their product and build up their brand image. They assume that knowing their trade will carry them. Don’t start business with friends because they are friends. Look for complimentary skills that will fill gaps in the team. Harvard Business School research has shown that 2 out of 3 (66%) friendships end when friends start businesses together. So focus more on your human capital and form the right team.
CRM and Business Processes to stay on top of the game:
As you grow your business, you will need to execute on multiple initiatives. However, without proper business processes and tools in place, many initiatives will suffer because you will just not have enough time to focus on what is important for your business. You may get too busy doing low value work just to keep the lights on. For example, without proper integrated business processes – the sales, marketing and operations teams work in silos. Finding information across fragmented systems becomes a herculean task, and in many cases leaders are blind-sighted because they cannot get critical business metrics and reports from the systems.
As we have already discussed the benefits of a CRM system, it is very important to maintain proper CRM solutions for the right customers. Maintaining what the customers’ preferences and needs are is very important for many parts of your small business and not just for maintaining a good relationship. This is a great way to save time and get you organized as well. In many ways it is also great for sales automation. With a proper CRM system you can track the entire journey of the customer giving you a 360 degree view of the customer life cycle. A proper CRM system for your company can also reduce costs as well. Susie Macrae, Business manager of Senscio Systems, is using Zyprr for managing all her business processes. According to her, “Zyprr has effectively defragmented Senscio Systems’ contacts, inventory and customer service management. Integrating dozens of products into a single solution prevents us from creating redundant information and gives us peace of mind.” Brother International and SCORE conducted a survey which indicated that 72% of all small business owners are willing to incorporate new technologies if they have the capabilities to deliver a higher return on investment than hiring new employees for the company.
Social Media is an always ON virtual party:
Engage with customers on Facebook and other forms of social media. Statistics show that 1 in 4 people worldwide use Social Media. This means, that your target prospects are at these virtual parties. Using various settings and filters in social media tools, define your specific targeted personas, customize your messages and promotions and send engage with your prospects and customers. Monitor the response and react accordingly. Use a Twitter handle to create better connections with your prospects and customers. Quick questions asked by customers can be answered on Twitter and it is really convenient as well. Find out where your prospects are doing their research: industry analyst websites, trade magazine and association website, LinkedIn groups, Pinterest and similar other sites, and make sure your business has a presence there so you can be discovered. Don’t miss the social media party at any cost!
Use Cloud Solutions and avoid expensive IT mistakes:
Managing your own servers and IT staff is passé. Pay by the drink cloud solutions not only keeps you up to date with technology but eliminates capital expenditure which now flows into your bottom line. In today’s social, mobile and global world, you want to be able to react real-time to customer needs – and Cloud solutions make exactly that possible. It is also important to incorporate cloud storage as part of your strategy too. Cloud solutions provide backups help in availability and dramatically reduce chances of data loss. You can access your important customer data, contracts, invoices, quotations and any other document anytime, anywhere and from any device. Well integrated cloud solution enhances productivity, business process efficiency and data accuracy, which helps deliver great customer experience.
And finally the most important success factor is to believe in what you do and dedicate all your time and energy to make it successful. As Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”