I have a special interest in helping small businesses become bigger businesses. The way I see it, if more of us started businesses, making things that benefit the people around us, the economy would be a much different landscape.
Part of what I do is help those wanting to start a business to go about it with good branding in mind. I actually wrote an entire blog post about the subject a few months ago which explains how to brand a new small business.
But let’s say you’re reading this because you already have a small business (or a large business…I’m ok with those, as long as you’re not illegally funding political campaigns or something…). You’ve run into some problems and aren’t sure where to turn or what to change.
I’ve put together a few common problems small businesses tend to experience, or at least the ones business owners tend to lament about most, and their solutions as it relates to branding.
Keep in mind, your brand encompasses so much more than your logo or your signage. Your brand is how your customer sees you.
1. Stunted growth
So, you started off strong with your business, but you haven’t gotten to where you’d hoped you would. You’ve reached a wall. This happens to large and small businesses alike, and part of that is because the market is constantly changing. Be thankful for that, though. Buyers are becoming smarter, which means if you offer a genuinely great product, they’re going to be passionate about that.
But a changing market is no excuse for low sales. Part of owning a business is riding the waves of your market and catering to your audience. So, what do you need to do?
First, you need to treat your customers better. Do you already treat them well? That’s all the more reason to treat them even better. Reward them for being loyal by giving them complementary items, special discounts, or even more hands-on, personal service.
If you don’t think that’s going to spark some business, you are nuts. People love being treated personally by businesses, and those people tell more people.
Another key way you can react to a changing market and generate more business is to ask, listen, and experiment. First of all, a business that listens is a business people start to care about. When you show an interest in our needs, we understand you’re about more than just making money.
Once you find a few ways you could modify your product or service, experiment. Nothing is as informative as experimentation. Test out your ideas on your customers, and record the results. You just might find something you would never have thought to do otherwise.
2. Knowing where to spend money
A lot of business owners struggle with what to spend money on. Especially in this era of business-centric apps and services, the possibilities are endless. So what do you spend money on?
I think too many businesses spend money on things that benefit themselves as opposed to their customers. Maybe this isn’t a big deal for huge corporations or established brands, but when you’ve got limited funds and you’re trying to make a name for yourself, this is a big mistake.
An investment that pays for itself is any part of your business that is customer-facing. That is, things the customer sees. Remember, branding is all about perception, so even if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have to make that abundantly clear to your audience by holding back on your branding, your customer service, or most importantly—your product.
Once you invest in that fantastic brand experience, it doesn’t go away. You become known for it. Taking time to build a great experience for your customer will help you for years to come.
3. Separation of work and personal life
One problem I hear a lot when it comes to owning a business is the separation between work and personal life, and I completely get it. It’s tough to “shut off” the business mindset when you are the business.
I think it’s crucial in this case to keep as much separated as possible. This includes your bank accounts, tools, time, and even your office space. It’s all about isolation, because you need to be able to accurately identify weak points in your business, so how are you going to do that when you can accurately analyze what you’re investing into it?
Basically, it all comes down to this: how seriously do you take your business? If you want to sell some things on the side, sure…be a regular person that sells some things to people. But if you want to be a business owner, you owe it to yourself to take it seriously. Treat it like a real business.
This idea has a role in how I choose clients as well. Although there is a lot that goes into it, I like to say I choose clients based on how seriously they take their business. If you can’t treat your own business like a legitimate brand, there’s no way I can make it one.
4. Finding employees
When business executives are hiring, they often rely completely on job posting sites. What does that mean? They blame the job posting sites whenever they don’t get qualified applicants.
We’re so hesitant to take responsibility when it comes to our businesses, but accepting that responsibility is the only thing that will lead us to doing better business.
Have you seen business like Apple or Google looking for employees? Of course not. They’re turning away massively talented people at probably 10 times the rate that they’re hiring them. Why, because we’ve fallen in love with the sentiments of the brand.
When you hire someone who wants to work for you just because they need a job, they’re going to treat the job accordingly.
But, when you hire someone who wants to work for you because they agree with your values,your standards and your passion, they’re going to do the job with those values, standards, and passions in mind.