Business owners reach a stage in the business life cycle where they feel like business has stopped moving forward and the business is just going through the motions. This is the point where many businesses either leap forward into a new cycle of opportunity and growth, or wither and die. This can happen either through boredom and lack of motivation, or perhaps just an inability to know how to progress the business into a new phase of growth and opportunity.
Remember, it was your entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a passion for a particular product or service that enabled your small business to grow from an idea in your head into the real money making small business it is now, with its own identity and branding. Harnessing and rekindling your passion is the primary key to generating a new level of growth. Once you have that renewed spark, and often it will take a period of being away from the business to allow the spark to be reignited, there are various ways of harnessing potential growth. Not all of these will apply to your business, for varying reasons, however I’m sure something here will spark an idea for you to think about.
When you initially set up your business, your location would have been carefully thought about and analysed for its strengths and weaknesses. Times change and businesses need to be flexible in terms of being able to relocate to where the customers are. Perhaps your retail centre has become rundown and the new shopping mall across town is now the cool place to hang out for your target market. If this is the case, no amount of marketing can replicate the move to a new shopping centre. Perhaps other circumstances have changed in your present location, and while these changes may have been out of your control, moving to a better location is something you can control.
Often businesses that sell a particularly specialised product are limited in terms of being able to either up-sell or cross-sell other product lines to existing customers. If your product line is no longer selling the way it has in the past, then reinvention is needed. That could be a new way of selling or a new angle to get customers interested. Just take a look at the way fast foods chains constantly bring out new ‘limited edition’ products to keep you coming back.
Perhaps your products are still popular and will sell well, but it’s your store that needs a makeover. Picture yourself outside two stores selling identical products, one has a cool logo and shop front and the other looks tacky and dated. Which shop would you enter first? Customers walking past your store need a reason to not just turn their head, but to follow their feet into your store. From there, product placement, pricing and customer service take over, but none of those things matter unless you can get the customers through the door.
Only 27 per cent of small businesses in Australia have an online social media presence? This presents an amazing opportunity for the savvy small business owner, especially when you take into account the fact that 11.8 million Australians have a Facebook account and spend, on average, six hours a week on Facebook alone. If you don’t think you can figure it out for yourself – and don’t have a savvy niece or nephew to whip it up for you – engage a social media expert to see if your business can be tailored to take advantage of the fact that not all of your competitors are online. Facebook can be used in so many ways, from offering exclusive deals, advertising your menu online or just introducing new products to the general public. You’ll often get a great sense of the likely success of new product lines or initiatives via this medium as well, before investing too much cash. Of course, social media can be turned against you, so the small business owner must take an interest and not leave the whole social media aspect to one employee or social media specialist.
Another way to spruce up your business is to collaborate with nearby businesses to form joint marketing material or to conduct cross-promotions and advertising. This can either by a suburb-wide exercise or just tailored to your specific location. One small example is the number of flyers you see on the bench at most coffee shops. With customers standing around waiting for their coffees they should be seen as sitting ducks for a well-targeted business message, perhaps in the form of a simple flyer or business card in an easy to see location.
Whether any of these ideas apply to you depends on the nature of your business and location. But doing nothing is no longer an option, and nor can doing nothing be considered “playing it safe”. Doing nothing is a recipe for failure.
Brainstorm with your staff, suppliers and even a few trusted customers. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but a new paint scheme or a bit more air in the tyres may be all the spark your small businesses needs to start firing on all cylinders once again.
John Corias is a Senior Partner at m.a.s accountants.
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