Even the largest international corporates started somewhere – and if you want your business to reach the level of success you’ve always dreamed of, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from those who made it. Here are some of our favorites!
Set measurable goals and targets
Big organizations are always looking for new ways to gain customers, keep their current customer base happy, and take advantage of new opportunities. But as with so many things in life, reaching your goals is that much harder when you haven’t outlined a path to reaching them. Large businesses set measurable goals and targets each year or quarter, and you should too. Having a vague goal of ‘get more customers’ makes it hard to hold yourself accountable; but setting a target of reaching 5, 10 or 50 new customers each month along with a well laid-out and systematic plan on how you aim to achieve this gives you something tangible to reach for. Even if you don’t achieve it every month, the very act of keeping track makes it easier for you to see what works and what doesn’t.
Listen to what your customers want
Amazon’s ‘Prime’ offering is a perfect example of this. They had noticed that customers responded extremely well to free “Super Saver Shipping” experiments – making it clear that their frequent customers wanted fast and reliable shipping. Although it was an unproven concept at the time, today Prime is one of their most popular membership programs.
So what can a small business learn from this? Even though no-one else is offering something like it at the time, giving your customers what they want is usually a risk worth taking. And, of course, you can only become aware of what they want by engaging with and listening to them in the first place!
Use big-business tools to cut costs
Whether it’s finding ways to reduce your monthly phone bill or outsourcing your accounting or payroll work, big businesses are always on the lookout for ways to bring their overheads down. Don’t assume that just because you’re still small, you can’t be implementing the same kinds of measures. Making use of services targeted at larger businesses – whether it’s software licensing or even better utility management practices – can make a significant difference to your bottom line.
Use your social media platforms to tell your story
One of the trickiest issues facing social media marketers today is finding a balance between giving the public what they want (which is usually fly-on-the-wall access to everything you do) whilst maintaining a professional distance. There’s a lot of pressure to be transparent, approachable and relatable – but many of us still feel nervous of displaying the inner workings of our business to the public.
One company that is striking the balance well is Starbucks – and their 12 million Instagram followers are lapping it up. They use the platform not just to reveal new products, but also to share behind the scenes shots and little everyday occurrences too. Remember that you’re in control of what you share, so if it’s positive, don’t hold back! As a small company, it could be highlighting the successes of an employee, giving a brief tour of your manufacturing facilities, some ‘meet the team’ interviews – whatever works for you. Giving customers a peek behind the curtain makes you come across a lot more human – and today’s consumers adore that!
Focus on your strengths will laser precision
When you’re running a small business, you often feel like you’re forced to become a jack of all trades, catering to a variety of different requests, branching out whenever there seems to be opportunity, or taking on projects that aren’t really in your realm of expertise. Getting too distracted from your original focus, however, is not going to do you many favors in the long run. In a way, this goes back again to having clear goals and targets. Make sure you’ve always got the big picture in mind, and step back to reassess when you suspect you might be going off track.
One company that does this really well is Walmart. Their vision was and always has been a laser focus on offering lower prices than their competitors. You can bet that there have been suggestions from within the company to expand this offering to include pricier ranges or offer more upmarket options too – but it’s their commitment to sticking to their guns that has made them synonymous with affordable, no-frills shopping. As a small business, it’s usually a good rule to stick with what you know best and build a reputation for excellence around that before you consider expanding your offerings too much.
Incentivize your employees to get on board with your vision
As an entrepreneur, you’re probably used to running on little more than a dream and heaps of enthusiasm. And this enthusiasm does carry over to your staff – but it won’t do so indefinitely. From the get-go, start building performance incentives into the relationships you have with your employees. This way the better the company does, the better they do, and the more involved they’re likely to become in the process of helping you expand.