Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The goal of a commercial business is to increase sales, and retaining current customers is key to making this happen. But according to a new report from The Manifest, only 6% of small businesses are focused on retaining their customers. This is despite the fact their main digital marketing goal is to increase sales.

The data reveals most small businesses aren’t placing a priority in engaging existing customers. The report attributes this to a shortfall in their budget and resources to maximize their efforts. Additionally, they are relying on in-house teams to carry out these tasks.

While some businesses may have truly qualified in-house staff, it is not the case for most organizations. As Emily Clark, who wrote the report for The Manifest, says, “… small businesses do not always explore the benefits of different marketing strategies like SEO.”

Clark adds, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.” The report looks to give small businesses insight into choosing the best resources for their digital marketing efforts.

The data for the report comes from a survey of 529 small businesses across the U.S. about their marketing resources and annual budget. Although the participants include businesses with 1 and 500 employees, 54% only have 1 to 10 employees. So, the majority are really small businesses.

The survey respondents are male (52%) and female (48%), with millennials (29%), Generation Xers (45%), and baby boomers (27%).

Survey Findings

Businesses want to increase their sales, but there is a great disparity in how they go about doing it. If only 6% of small businesses are focusing on retaining their customers, it means 94% are not fully aware of the benefit of this effort.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The report says businesses are missing out on easier sales which come from engaging existing customers. Because compared to new customer acquisition, it is much cheaper.

The success rate of selling to a new customer is 5 to 20%. On the other hand, it is 60 to 70% for existing customers. So, the fact only 6% of small business are retaining their current customers offers huge opportunities.

As the report says, the lack of resources is one aspect. And it is not only financial, but it is also knowledge-based. While most small businesses (60%) use an in-house team to promote their digital marketing strategy, only 33% use marketing software. And because digital marketing is an essential component for retaining customers in today’s ecosystem, how it is applied plays a big role.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

With marketing software employees can schedule content, organize projects, and track metrics. But it will take experts who can optimize the software and other technologies to deliver. In order to make this happen, 40% of businesses are hiring digital marketing agencies and 39% are using freelancers.

Clark says both the agencies and freelancers offer similar value. Adding they are usually more experience in a particular field of marketing than an in-house team. She goes on to say, “Hiring a noted expert in the community can ensure that businesses receive the best results on their projects.”

Marketing Budget

The marketing budget of any organization will dictate how far they can extend their reach. And for small businesses, the budget is almost always in a state of flux. But according to this survey, 36% spend less than $10K annually on digital marketing.

However, the report says the data also accounts for marketing employees’ salaries. So the 36% of businesses are paying a marketer $10,000 a year or they do not have marketing employees. And when it comes to the marketing, small businesses also have many different approaches.

Not everyone is looking to get $10K in ROI from direct sales. Some businesses create campaigns to spread the message of the company to increase interest with the goal of acquiring long-term customers.

Businesses launch campaigns for everything from brand awareness to lead generation, product launch, special promotions, sales and more. The key is to optimize today’s digital marketing solutions, talents, and opportunities to grow your business.

Clark ends the report by saying, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.”

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The goal of a commercial business is to increase sales, and retaining current customers is key to making this happen. But according to a new report from The Manifest, only 6% of small businesses are focused on retaining their customers. This is despite the fact their main digital marketing goal is to increase sales.

The data reveals most small businesses aren’t placing a priority in engaging existing customers. The report attributes this to a shortfall in their budget and resources to maximize their efforts. Additionally, they are relying on in-house teams to carry out these tasks.

While some businesses may have truly qualified in-house staff, it is not the case for most organizations. As Emily Clark, who wrote the report for The Manifest, says, “… small businesses do not always explore the benefits of different marketing strategies like SEO.”

Clark adds, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.” The report looks to give small businesses insight into choosing the best resources for their digital marketing efforts.

The data for the report comes from a survey of 529 small businesses across the U.S. about their marketing resources and annual budget. Although the participants include businesses with 1 and 500 employees, 54% only have 1 to 10 employees. So, the majority are really small businesses.

The survey respondents are male (52%) and female (48%), with millennials (29%), Generation Xers (45%), and baby boomers (27%).

Survey Findings

Businesses want to increase their sales, but there is a great disparity in how they go about doing it. If only 6% of small businesses are focusing on retaining their customers, it means 94% are not fully aware of the benefit of this effort.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

The report says businesses are missing out on easier sales which come from engaging existing customers. Because compared to new customer acquisition, it is much cheaper.

The success rate of selling to a new customer is 5 to 20%. On the other hand, it is 60 to 70% for existing customers. So, the fact only 6% of small business are retaining their current customers offers huge opportunities.

As the report says, the lack of resources is one aspect. And it is not only financial, but it is also knowledge-based. While most small businesses (60%) use an in-house team to promote their digital marketing strategy, only 33% use marketing software. And because digital marketing is an essential component for retaining customers in today’s ecosystem, how it is applied plays a big role.

Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers

With marketing software employees can schedule content, organize projects, and track metrics. But it will take experts who can optimize the software and other technologies to deliver. In order to make this happen, 40% of businesses are hiring digital marketing agencies and 39% are using freelancers.

Clark says both the agencies and freelancers offer similar value. Adding they are usually more experience in a particular field of marketing than an in-house team. She goes on to say, “Hiring a noted expert in the community can ensure that businesses receive the best results on their projects.”

Marketing Budget

The marketing budget of any organization will dictate how far they can extend their reach. And for small businesses, the budget is almost always in a state of flux. But according to this survey, 36% spend less than $10K annually on digital marketing.

However, the report says the data also accounts for marketing employees’ salaries. So the 36% of businesses are paying a marketer $10,000 a year or they do not have marketing employees. And when it comes to the marketing, small businesses also have many different approaches.

Not everyone is looking to get $10K in ROI from direct sales. Some businesses create campaigns to spread the message of the company to increase interest with the goal of acquiring long-term customers.

Businesses launch campaigns for everything from brand awareness to lead generation, product launch, special promotions, sales and more. The key is to optimize today’s digital marketing solutions, talents, and opportunities to grow your business.

Clark ends the report by saying, “Small businesses realize the value of digital marketing but can improve their strategy with better resources and goals.”

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Just 6% of Small Businesses Focus on Keeping Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends



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What Small Business Owners Should Know About Investing In The Stock Market

If your small business is taking off and you have spare cash to invest – there are few things to consider before you make a decision where to put the money. Experts warn that a sound investment strategy is an important business plan to have – and there is a list of what must be taken care of before you decide to invest in stocks.

Entrepreneur reading stocks on tablet

First things first:

Although a good idea, investing in the stock market should be fairly low on your list of priorities, and should not be something you jump into without careful planning. Small business owners should first have a sound investment plan.…

The post What Small Business Owners Should Know About Investing In The Stock Market appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

The health and wellbeing of small business owners is a critically important public health issue. It is especially important when it comes to mental health. After all, small businesses account for the employment of more than 54 million people in the U.S.

A new report by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reveals 62% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. Granted the study was conducted in Canada, but studies carried out there are usually applied in the U.S. and vice versa.

But when it comes to the issue of depression, the numbers are probably higher in the U.S. This according to Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery and Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a workplace and career psychologist.

In an emailed release, Fielkow says, “I’m not shocked by this at all. Based on what I see with my clients, I expect that this rate is even higher in the United States. Business owners are so busy taking care of their employees that they forget to take care of themselves. They also hide their depressed feelings to keep up company morale.”

The Goal of the Study

Titled, “Going it Alone: the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada,” the study looks at the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs. According to the CMHA, the goal of the study is to better appreciate the unique pressures business owners face. At the same time, try to find ways to improve the mental health experiences of entrepreneurs.

The study looks to understand:

  • What mental health issues entrepreneurs report.
  • The impact of mental health concerns on business objectives and entrepreneurs’ personal lives.
  • What strategies and/or support entrepreneurs use to manage these issues.
  • What barriers they face in accessing services and support, including lack of access and limited awareness of support.
  • The cost of mental health services.
  • Stigma-related concerns, such as concern for reputation and discomfort discussing the issue.

The report comes from a survey of close to 500 entrepreneurs.

Key Findings

The study says generally entrepreneurs are likely to experience mental health issues frequently. On top of the 62% who say they feel depressed at least once a week, another 46% also experience low mood or feel mentally fatigued. And these mental issues interfere with their ability to work for 46% of the respondents.

Why Business Owners Feel Depressed

In the past 12 months, 28% said they experienced or were diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most common of these conditions are mood and anxiety disorders. This was 8% higher than the general population.

Other mental health-related issues include feelings of uncertainty and/or inadequacy (51%), depressed mood (50%), and mood swings (39%). But even with so many conditions, 79% say they are happy with their state of mind at least once a week. And only 20% feel the need to get mental health support and services.

Do Depressed Business Owners Seek Help?

When it comes to getting help, a number of barriers prevent entrepreneurs from actually seeking mental health support.

The number one reason (36%) is the stigma attached to mental health. People are concerned about the organizational and reputation implications of seeking help and/or taking time off work. The good news is, the report says 46% are reporting their organization is working to end mental health stigma.

Additional barriers entrepreneurs face includes the cost of mental health (34%) and lack of access to support (22%).

Who is More Likely to Experience Mental Health Issues?

In the report, female entrepreneurs say they experience some issues with far greater frequency than their male counterparts. This includes feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy, depressed mood, and feeling overwhelmed.

Entrepreneurs with businesses which are going through early growth stage also report higher incidents of mental conditions. This is perfectly understandable because of the many stresses associated with growing a business. Especially a small business without the right funding.

Recommendations

For most small businesses addressing the issue of mental health is going to be way beyond their comfort zone. But it is important to create a safe environment for employees to report their condition without any repercussions.

Some of the recommendations in the report are to:

  • Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs.
  • Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance.
  • Include mental health in entrepreneurship education.
  • Strengthen research on entrepreneur mental health.
  • Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, the report says, “We need a more nuanced narrative that allows entrepreneurs to show their vulnerability and ask for help when they need it.”

Read the full report here (PDF)

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week

The health and wellbeing of small business owners is a critically important public health issue. It is especially important when it comes to mental health. After all, small businesses account for the employment of more than 54 million people in the U.S.

A new report by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reveals 62% of business owners feel depressed at least once a week. Granted the study was conducted in Canada, but studies carried out there are usually applied in the U.S. and vice versa.

But when it comes to the issue of depression, the numbers are probably higher in the U.S. This according to Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery and Dr. Andrea Goeglein, a workplace and career psychologist.

In an emailed release, Fielkow says, “I’m not shocked by this at all. Based on what I see with my clients, I expect that this rate is even higher in the United States. Business owners are so busy taking care of their employees that they forget to take care of themselves. They also hide their depressed feelings to keep up company morale.”

The Goal of the Study

Titled, “Going it Alone: the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs in Canada,” the study looks at the mental health and well-being of entrepreneurs. According to the CMHA, the goal of the study is to better appreciate the unique pressures business owners face. At the same time, try to find ways to improve the mental health experiences of entrepreneurs.

The study looks to understand:

  • What mental health issues entrepreneurs report.
  • The impact of mental health concerns on business objectives and entrepreneurs’ personal lives.
  • What strategies and/or support entrepreneurs use to manage these issues.
  • What barriers they face in accessing services and support, including lack of access and limited awareness of support.
  • The cost of mental health services.
  • Stigma-related concerns, such as concern for reputation and discomfort discussing the issue.

The report comes from a survey of close to 500 entrepreneurs.

Key Findings

The study says generally entrepreneurs are likely to experience mental health issues frequently. On top of the 62% who say they feel depressed at least once a week, another 46% also experience low mood or feel mentally fatigued. And these mental issues interfere with their ability to work for 46% of the respondents.

Why Business Owners Feel Depressed

In the past 12 months, 28% said they experienced or were diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most common of these conditions are mood and anxiety disorders. This was 8% higher than the general population.

Other mental health-related issues include feelings of uncertainty and/or inadequacy (51%), depressed mood (50%), and mood swings (39%). But even with so many conditions, 79% say they are happy with their state of mind at least once a week. And only 20% feel the need to get mental health support and services.

Do Depressed Business Owners Seek Help?

When it comes to getting help, a number of barriers prevent entrepreneurs from actually seeking mental health support.

The number one reason (36%) is the stigma attached to mental health. People are concerned about the organizational and reputation implications of seeking help and/or taking time off work. The good news is, the report says 46% are reporting their organization is working to end mental health stigma.

Additional barriers entrepreneurs face includes the cost of mental health (34%) and lack of access to support (22%).

Who is More Likely to Experience Mental Health Issues?

In the report, female entrepreneurs say they experience some issues with far greater frequency than their male counterparts. This includes feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy, depressed mood, and feeling overwhelmed.

Entrepreneurs with businesses which are going through early growth stage also report higher incidents of mental conditions. This is perfectly understandable because of the many stresses associated with growing a business. Especially a small business without the right funding.

Recommendations

For most small businesses addressing the issue of mental health is going to be way beyond their comfort zone. But it is important to create a safe environment for employees to report their condition without any repercussions.

Some of the recommendations in the report are to:

  • Develop flexible and relevant mental health support for entrepreneurs.
  • Create tools to help entrepreneurs achieve better work-life balance.
  • Include mental health in entrepreneurship education.
  • Strengthen research on entrepreneur mental health.
  • Shift the popular view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

In conclusion, the report says, “We need a more nuanced narrative that allows entrepreneurs to show their vulnerability and ask for help when they need it.”

Read the full report here (PDF)

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "62% of Business Owners Feel Depressed Once a Week" was first published on Small Business Trends



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How to Plan a Startup Team Building Retreat

As startup culture takes over the modern generation, it has become more necessary than ever to encourage team-building efforts. Most start-ups deal with a skeletal group and work through many stressful situations together. When such a variety of work is being dealt with with a small group, animosities can arise very quickly.

Team building retreat activities

Team-building efforts like corporate retreats are a great way to bring the team together. Not only do your employees get to spend time together, but they also do group activities and learn to build trust. These simple activities can bolster group confidence and help them do work together without any problems.…

The post How to Plan a Startup Team Building Retreat appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

For most small businesses, growth is a primary objective. And while achieving growth is wonderful, it often presents issues for companies that are unprepared to scale up. When these issues aren’t dealt with swiftly and effectively, the business will eventually crumble due to scaling mistakes.

Managing the Chaos of Growth

Growth is a topic entrepreneurs love to contemplate, but it’s not one that gets studied enough. If you’re willing to learn from the past – and even your peers — you’ll discover that others have already made a litany of scaling mistakes so that you don’t have to. They’ve also enjoyed profound successes and discovered what it takes to foster authentic growth.

Think about the most successful people, nations, groups, and companies in history and consider the way in which they grew. The Roman Empire, for example, had an expanse of five-million-plus square kilometers at its height. But it didn’t grow to that size overnight. The Roman Empire lasted for well over 1,000 years and was built over hundreds and thousands of invasions, battles, and political maneuverings — one square kilometer at a time.

Consider a modern example: Facebook. When Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard College students and roommates launched the online social network, they didn’t immediately start a national or global blitz and attempt to take over MySpace (the major social networking platform of the time). Instead, they started small. In order to join, you needed a Harvard.edu email address. Then they added another college. And another. And another. Eventually, they launched to anyone with a college email address. Finally, they launched to anyone and everyone.

Learning From Facebook

The Facebook launch model was all about the phenomenon of critical mass. They knew people wouldn’t join Facebook if they didn’t have friends on it. So instead of targeting hundreds of millions of people, they started small. They believed — and rightly so — that a few dozen users would lead to a few hundred, which would lead to thousands, millions and possibly even billions of users.

The Roman Empire and Facebook are an unlikely pair, but they are just two examples showing that growth has always been a huge focal point in politics, business, and life in general. However, for every story of successful growth, there are dozens of companies that attempt to scale up and end up crashing. Generally speaking, it’s because they fail to lean on the proven advice of those who’ve gone before them and attempt to scale up prematurely or too fast. In doing so, they bring on countless problems.

Hear this: Growth is good. However, growing too fast is arguably worse than staying put a little longer than you should. Yes, under certain circumstances, temporary stagnation can be better than premature growth. That’s not something everyone will agree with, but it’s a truth that’s supported by dozens of case studies and business obituaries over the decades.

Most businesses try to grow for the sake of growth and, in doing so, forget about the importance of establishing a strong foundation that can withstand the downward pressure that’s applied when there are more resources to manage, prospects to chase down, customers to keep happy, and money to allocate. You don’t want to make these same scaling mistakes.

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

Now that you have a big-picture overview of the importance of scaling at a slow and steady pace, let’s explore some of the top scaling mistakes companies make that prevent them from doing so (and how it affects different areas of business).

1. Unnecessary Innovation

Growth is something that needs to be managed by people who have strategic leadership qualities. While everyone can have a say in how your business grows, be wary of letting innovators take the lead.

“Innovators are an invaluable part of your team, but they’re often not the best people to put in charge of scaling,” business consultant Rhett Power mentions. “The constant search for new ways of thinking and doing requires a heavy investment of time, energy, and — eventually — money. There will come a time when it’s more practical to focus on maintaining what you’ve built rather than redesigning it or trying to dramatically improve it.”

On a related note, product innovation is only one aspect of differentiation. As you grow, you’ll discover that it’s often more cost-effective and less resource-intensive to innovate customer service, customer experience, shipping/logistics, etc.

2. Poor Hiring

In terms of hiring and managing human resources, two things happen to startups as they grow:

  • First off, people leave for new opportunities. Either they realize they can’t handle the uncertainty of startup life and want the predictability of another job, or they choose to go off on their own and start a new business.
  • Secondly — even if nobody from the original team leaves — you find yourself in a position where you have to add positions in order to account for growth.

Whatever the underlying cause for hiring new employees is based upon, growing businesses frequently make the mistake of hiring the wrong people. While they may consider a candidate’s resume or technical skillset, they don’t take nearly enough time to evaluate whether they’re a good “fit.”

When hiring employees, ask yourself questions like: Do they possess an attitude that meshes well with our mission? Are they willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term results? Do they understand the vision of the company?

3. Disorganized Accounting

When your business is small, it’s fairly easy to keep track of finances. But as your company grows, you’ll find that it takes a much more purposeful approach to keep accounting in line. One of the biggest scaling mistakes growing companies make is losing track of accounting and drowning in disorganization. Not only is this frustrating, but it can have serious tax repercussions and legal consequences. Here are some suggestions to avoid a similar fate:

  • Hire a full-time CPA or outsource it to someone who is responsible for staying on top of financials. This is no longer something you, the business owner, can handle in addition to your other responsibilities.
  • Get your accounts receivable under control. Simplify your invoicing process and don’t let anything slip through the cracks. A failure to collect timely payment can hurt cash flow and limit your flexibility.
  • Reconcile all accounts at the end of each month. If you wait until the end of the quarter, you’ll find that it’s far more time-consuming and difficult to uncover what went wrong, where it went wrong, and how it can be fixed.

Accounting isn’t sexy, but it provides significant peace of mind. When you have your finances under control, you’re freed up to focus on other areas of the business.

4. Too Much Debt

Debt is a strategic tool for growth, but it’s not something to become overly reliant on. Many well-intended founders have relied so heavily on debt to grow that they unwittingly handcuffed themselves and eliminated future flexibility.

Whenever possible, try bartering instead of taking on more debt. If you’re in the B2B world, this is especially useful. You can offer your services to a company in return for theirs. By building out this network, you lower your overhead expenses and prevent the need for excessive debt. Obviously this can’t be done with everything, but it is a valuable strategy in many situations.

5. Too Much Focus on Sales and Marketing

When growth is the primary focus of everything you do, you’re inclined to spend all of your time and resources on sales and marketing. After all, that’s how you get new customers! But this may actually be a mistake.

When all of your attention goes to sales and marketing, you neglect creating value for your customers. Innovation goes by the wayside, customer service takes a backseat, and the errors and kinks in your product fail to get worked out in a timely manner. The result is a sub-par customer experience that negates any progress you make on the sales and marketing front.

6. Failure to Listen to Early Adopters

Another problem with constantly marketing and selling is that you don’t take the time to listen to your customers. Your early adopters, in particular, will let you know what they like, don’t like, or want to see. If you’re the only one doing the talking, you’ll miss the chance to implement simple improvements before scaling up your customer base.

7. Failure to Develop a Culture

“If you’re scaling successfully, you’ve probably got great people working for you. Losing them at this stage is very easy if you’re not paying attention,” entrepreneur Matt Doyle writes. “Sometimes it’s just that responsibilities grow too fast, but I’ve also seen teams fail because the earlier members didn’t get along with all the new people who came aboard and didn’t understand/couldn’t maintain the culture that got you here.”

Culture is something you have to focus on from the very start. While it can evolve over time, it’s hard to go back and create an entirely new culture from scratch. Decide on what’s important and really instill these values in every existing employee and new hire.

Disciplined Scaling, Not Growth Hacking

This article isn’t meant to scare you away from growing, but it should give you pause and make you think twice before you pursue growth for the sole objective of getting bigger.

It seems that the biggest problem among today’s entrepreneurs and young business leaders is the belief that growth can be hacked. There’s even a buzzword for it: growth hacking. It’s the idea that you can implement a couple of shortcuts or find a few loopholes and grow your business in weeks or months, rather than years. Unfortunately, the notion of growth hacking has permeated the modern entrepreneurial mindset and led people to believe that they can do things that really aren’t possible or healthy in the long run.

Your primary objective should not be growth hacking. Instead, try focusing on what we’ll call disciplined scaling. You want to grow at a pace that’s purposeful, strategic, and steady. Sometimes this growth will happen fast, but more than likely, it’ll follow the gradual path of other successful groups, nations, and companies. And if this means avoiding a premature collapse, then by all means, slow and steady is a good thing.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

For most small businesses, growth is a primary objective. And while achieving growth is wonderful, it often presents issues for companies that are unprepared to scale up. When these issues aren’t dealt with swiftly and effectively, the business will eventually crumble due to scaling mistakes.

Managing the Chaos of Growth

Growth is a topic entrepreneurs love to contemplate, but it’s not one that gets studied enough. If you’re willing to learn from the past – and even your peers — you’ll discover that others have already made a litany of scaling mistakes so that you don’t have to. They’ve also enjoyed profound successes and discovered what it takes to foster authentic growth.

Think about the most successful people, nations, groups, and companies in history and consider the way in which they grew. The Roman Empire, for example, had an expanse of five-million-plus square kilometers at its height. But it didn’t grow to that size overnight. The Roman Empire lasted for well over 1,000 years and was built over hundreds and thousands of invasions, battles, and political maneuverings — one square kilometer at a time.

Consider a modern example: Facebook. When Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard College students and roommates launched the online social network, they didn’t immediately start a national or global blitz and attempt to take over MySpace (the major social networking platform of the time). Instead, they started small. In order to join, you needed a Harvard.edu email address. Then they added another college. And another. And another. Eventually, they launched to anyone with a college email address. Finally, they launched to anyone and everyone.

Learning From Facebook

The Facebook launch model was all about the phenomenon of critical mass. They knew people wouldn’t join Facebook if they didn’t have friends on it. So instead of targeting hundreds of millions of people, they started small. They believed — and rightly so — that a few dozen users would lead to a few hundred, which would lead to thousands, millions and possibly even billions of users.

The Roman Empire and Facebook are an unlikely pair, but they are just two examples showing that growth has always been a huge focal point in politics, business, and life in general. However, for every story of successful growth, there are dozens of companies that attempt to scale up and end up crashing. Generally speaking, it’s because they fail to lean on the proven advice of those who’ve gone before them and attempt to scale up prematurely or too fast. In doing so, they bring on countless problems.

Hear this: Growth is good. However, growing too fast is arguably worse than staying put a little longer than you should. Yes, under certain circumstances, temporary stagnation can be better than premature growth. That’s not something everyone will agree with, but it’s a truth that’s supported by dozens of case studies and business obituaries over the decades.

Most businesses try to grow for the sake of growth and, in doing so, forget about the importance of establishing a strong foundation that can withstand the downward pressure that’s applied when there are more resources to manage, prospects to chase down, customers to keep happy, and money to allocate. You don’t want to make these same scaling mistakes.

7 Scaling Mistakes Companies Often Make

Now that you have a big-picture overview of the importance of scaling at a slow and steady pace, let’s explore some of the top scaling mistakes companies make that prevent them from doing so (and how it affects different areas of business).

1. Unnecessary Innovation

Growth is something that needs to be managed by people who have strategic leadership qualities. While everyone can have a say in how your business grows, be wary of letting innovators take the lead.

“Innovators are an invaluable part of your team, but they’re often not the best people to put in charge of scaling,” business consultant Rhett Power mentions. “The constant search for new ways of thinking and doing requires a heavy investment of time, energy, and — eventually — money. There will come a time when it’s more practical to focus on maintaining what you’ve built rather than redesigning it or trying to dramatically improve it.”

On a related note, product innovation is only one aspect of differentiation. As you grow, you’ll discover that it’s often more cost-effective and less resource-intensive to innovate customer service, customer experience, shipping/logistics, etc.

2. Poor Hiring

In terms of hiring and managing human resources, two things happen to startups as they grow:

  • First off, people leave for new opportunities. Either they realize they can’t handle the uncertainty of startup life and want the predictability of another job, or they choose to go off on their own and start a new business.
  • Secondly — even if nobody from the original team leaves — you find yourself in a position where you have to add positions in order to account for growth.

Whatever the underlying cause for hiring new employees is based upon, growing businesses frequently make the mistake of hiring the wrong people. While they may consider a candidate’s resume or technical skillset, they don’t take nearly enough time to evaluate whether they’re a good “fit.”

When hiring employees, ask yourself questions like: Do they possess an attitude that meshes well with our mission? Are they willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term results? Do they understand the vision of the company?

3. Disorganized Accounting

When your business is small, it’s fairly easy to keep track of finances. But as your company grows, you’ll find that it takes a much more purposeful approach to keep accounting in line. One of the biggest scaling mistakes growing companies make is losing track of accounting and drowning in disorganization. Not only is this frustrating, but it can have serious tax repercussions and legal consequences. Here are some suggestions to avoid a similar fate:

  • Hire a full-time CPA or outsource it to someone who is responsible for staying on top of financials. This is no longer something you, the business owner, can handle in addition to your other responsibilities.
  • Get your accounts receivable under control. Simplify your invoicing process and don’t let anything slip through the cracks. A failure to collect timely payment can hurt cash flow and limit your flexibility.
  • Reconcile all accounts at the end of each month. If you wait until the end of the quarter, you’ll find that it’s far more time-consuming and difficult to uncover what went wrong, where it went wrong, and how it can be fixed.

Accounting isn’t sexy, but it provides significant peace of mind. When you have your finances under control, you’re freed up to focus on other areas of the business.

4. Too Much Debt

Debt is a strategic tool for growth, but it’s not something to become overly reliant on. Many well-intended founders have relied so heavily on debt to grow that they unwittingly handcuffed themselves and eliminated future flexibility.

Whenever possible, try bartering instead of taking on more debt. If you’re in the B2B world, this is especially useful. You can offer your services to a company in return for theirs. By building out this network, you lower your overhead expenses and prevent the need for excessive debt. Obviously this can’t be done with everything, but it is a valuable strategy in many situations.

5. Too Much Focus on Sales and Marketing

When growth is the primary focus of everything you do, you’re inclined to spend all of your time and resources on sales and marketing. After all, that’s how you get new customers! But this may actually be a mistake.

When all of your attention goes to sales and marketing, you neglect creating value for your customers. Innovation goes by the wayside, customer service takes a backseat, and the errors and kinks in your product fail to get worked out in a timely manner. The result is a sub-par customer experience that negates any progress you make on the sales and marketing front.

6. Failure to Listen to Early Adopters

Another problem with constantly marketing and selling is that you don’t take the time to listen to your customers. Your early adopters, in particular, will let you know what they like, don’t like, or want to see. If you’re the only one doing the talking, you’ll miss the chance to implement simple improvements before scaling up your customer base.

7. Failure to Develop a Culture

“If you’re scaling successfully, you’ve probably got great people working for you. Losing them at this stage is very easy if you’re not paying attention,” entrepreneur Matt Doyle writes. “Sometimes it’s just that responsibilities grow too fast, but I’ve also seen teams fail because the earlier members didn’t get along with all the new people who came aboard and didn’t understand/couldn’t maintain the culture that got you here.”

Culture is something you have to focus on from the very start. While it can evolve over time, it’s hard to go back and create an entirely new culture from scratch. Decide on what’s important and really instill these values in every existing employee and new hire.

Disciplined Scaling, Not Growth Hacking

This article isn’t meant to scare you away from growing, but it should give you pause and make you think twice before you pursue growth for the sole objective of getting bigger.

It seems that the biggest problem among today’s entrepreneurs and young business leaders is the belief that growth can be hacked. There’s even a buzzword for it: growth hacking. It’s the idea that you can implement a couple of shortcuts or find a few loopholes and grow your business in weeks or months, rather than years. Unfortunately, the notion of growth hacking has permeated the modern entrepreneurial mindset and led people to believe that they can do things that really aren’t possible or healthy in the long run.

Your primary objective should not be growth hacking. Instead, try focusing on what we’ll call disciplined scaling. You want to grow at a pace that’s purposeful, strategic, and steady. Sometimes this growth will happen fast, but more than likely, it’ll follow the gradual path of other successful groups, nations, and companies. And if this means avoiding a premature collapse, then by all means, slow and steady is a good thing.

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This article, "The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make While Trying to Expand Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends



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4  Ways to Make Your Business More Comfortable for Clients

Modern companies pay great attention to office design — and it isn’t just for bragging rights. Every workplace has a specific feel, and this ambiance will have a very real effect on how people engage with your business. While there are various goals that you can strive to achieve, one of the primary objectives should always be comfort. This should factor in how employees will feel in your space, but you cannot overlook the most important people to every business: clients. You want to ensure that anyone who comes into your space is instantly at ease and will be happy to stay as long as it takes to close the next deal.…

The post 4  Ways to Make Your Business More Comfortable for Clients appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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For a Crucial Key to Small Business Success, You Won’t Want to Miss this Event

Digital technology has improved virtually every aspect of business operations. This includes the customer side.

Being able to listen and respond to what customers say about your company is an invaluable edge. When used properly, the information can provide great insights into improving the products and services you offer.

In today’s business and information technology environment, the Voice of the Customer (VOC) is an in-depth process of capturing what customers expect, prefer and dislike.

“Listening to the Voice of the Customer” is a workshop by Applied Marketing Science (AMS) which will teach you how to listen to your customers. The workshop will be held from October 16-17, 2019 at the University Club of Chicago.

The workshop is a two-day event which will cover ways you can use customer information. This includes identifying customers for interviews and asking the right questions.

It also teaches how to analyze the information you have gathered about your customers to determine what they are most concerned about. This will be achieved with machine learning and journey mapping techniques, which will be explored in the workshop.

You can download the course overview here (PDF).

Get $100 off the course registration price by entering Discount Code SMALLBIZ.

Click the red button and register.

Register Now



Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Listening to the Voice of the Customer Listening to the Voice of the Customer
October 16, 2019, Chicago, Ill.

Led by veteran product development and market research experts, this course will introduce Voice of the Customer (VOC) market research and teach you to use it to accelerate innovation in business-to-business markets. The workshop uses a lively, interactive format with numerous hands-on activities and practice exercises to build skills and will also expose you to the latest applications of these techniques in areas such as machine learning and journey mapping.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ ($100 Off)


More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "For a Crucial Key to Small Business Success, You Won’t Want to Miss this Event" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

For a Crucial Key to Small Business Success, You Won’t Want to Miss this Event

Digital technology has improved virtually every aspect of business operations. This includes the customer side.

Being able to listen and respond to what customers say about your company is an invaluable edge. When used properly, the information can provide great insights into improving the products and services you offer.

In today’s business and information technology environment, the Voice of the Customer (VOC) is an in-depth process of capturing what customers expect, prefer and dislike.

“Listening to the Voice of the Customer” is a workshop by Applied Marketing Science (AMS) which will teach you how to listen to your customers. The workshop will be held from October 16-17, 2019 at the University Club of Chicago.

The workshop is a two-day event which will cover ways you can use customer information. This includes identifying customers for interviews and asking the right questions.

It also teaches how to analyze the information you have gathered about your customers to determine what they are most concerned about. This will be achieved with machine learning and journey mapping techniques, which will be explored in the workshop.

You can download the course overview here (PDF).

Get $100 off the course registration price by entering Discount Code SMALLBIZ.

Click the red button and register.

Register Now



Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Listening to the Voice of the Customer Listening to the Voice of the Customer
October 16, 2019, Chicago, Ill.

Led by veteran product development and market research experts, this course will introduce Voice of the Customer (VOC) market research and teach you to use it to accelerate innovation in business-to-business markets. The workshop uses a lively, interactive format with numerous hands-on activities and practice exercises to build skills and will also expose you to the latest applications of these techniques in areas such as machine learning and journey mapping.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ ($100 Off)


More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "For a Crucial Key to Small Business Success, You Won’t Want to Miss this Event" was first published on Small Business Trends



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10 Small Business Investment Tips from the Pros

Small businesses often only have limited resources to work with. Whether you’re looking to improve your marketing efforts or go on a business trip, it’s important to consider every investment carefully. These tips from members of the online small business community can help you make the most of the resources to have.

Choose the Right Paid Platform for Your Business

Paid search and paid social both have their benefits when it comes to reaching more customers. But if you have a small marketing budget to work with, you need to carefully consider which platform is the better fit for your business. Jacob Baadsgaard discusses in this Marketing Land post.

Create Instagram Ads That Convert

Instagram is becoming increasingly popular with a variety of consumers. That means it might be worth considering for your paid strategy. But it’s important to make sure your ads are ready to convert. Get some valuable tips in this Social Media Examiner post by Michael Stelzner.

Do Keyword Research Without Spending a Penny

You’ll probably need to expend some resources to make the most of your SEO strategy. But if you can save on things like keyword research, you can reserve those resources for other things. Bhavin Tanti elaborates in this MindStick post. And BizSugar members shared their own thoughts here.

Get the Most Out of Your Next Business Trip

If you invest in any trips for your business, you want them to actually make an impact. Whether you’re attending meetings or going to marketing events or trade shows, here are some tips from Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers to help you make the most of your next business trip.

Make Use of Video Marketing

Video production can require some time and money. But the benefits almost always outweigh the costs. In this 3Bug Media post, Gary Shouldis explores why every business should make use of video marketing in some way.

Consider Process Automation Benefits

Process automation allows your business to cut down on the time spent on certain daily tasks. Though it can be an investment, there are a ton of benefits to consider. Alex Gallia elaborates on some of the most important ones in this Process Street post.

Grow Your Agency or Freelance Business Without Spending a Ton of Money

When you’re first starting out as a freelancer or agency business, you probably only have a small budget to work with. This means you need to make the most of those limited resources you have access to. Katie Lundin offers some insights for doing so in this Crowdspring post.

Create and Edit Responsive Search Ads in the Google Ads App

If you’re going to make use of paid search ads, you need an easy way to create and edit ads that will actually make an impact on your potential customers. The Google Ads App is one option for doing this, thanks to some new features. Learn more in this Search Engine Journal post by Matt Southern.

Consider the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

To make the most of your marketing efforts, you need to determine which strategies are going to make the largest impact. Inbound and outbound marketing both offer benefits, so it’s up to you to determine how to best use each. Check out this Octopost article by Eyal Katz for more. Then see what the BizSugar community is saying about the post here.

Do Social Selling the Right Way

If you want to make the most of your social media efforts, you might consider adding some social selling into the mix. This tactic is gaining traction in a lot of industries. But there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Christian Zilles details those processes in this Social Media HQ post.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

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This article, "10 Small Business Investment Tips from the Pros" was first published on Small Business Trends



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