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How to Break Through 5 Common Barriers to Small Business Growth

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 21, 2013

Trying to grow your business, but thwarted at every turn by problems within your own organization or by external factors such as broken supply chains?

For many businesses, the biggest obstacle to growth isn’t poor sales, financing or tough competition; it’s often the business itself!

So, if you find yourself operationally ill prepared to grow, what can you do about it? Here are some strategies that can help you break through some of the common barriers to growth that many small businesses experience.

1. Watch the indicators for growth

Before you embark on any growth strategy, step back and take a look at some key business indicators to help you decide whether you are actually ready for growth!

Are you successful in a current market and want to open a new location? Are you about to clinch a big sales deal? Is your sales pipeline full? Is product development success opening the door to new opportunities?

These are all important indicators that will drive growth and should be constantly monitored to ensure you are able to effectively prepare for that growth. Study your pipeline, conversion rates and market trends in dashboard form every day.

2. Keep one eye on your competition, but always think big picture

Underpinning any growth strategy should be a deep knowledge of where you stand against your competition. A simple SWOT analysis, reviewed quarterly, can help you determine where you fit in relation to your competitors and areas of opportunity to exploit your strengths and their weaknesses. Likewise, it will give you a good view of any threats to your growth and guide you towards developing a plan to fix or compensate for these.

Then take a look at your market – your potential customers. Do some market analysis to find out how your customers view your business and what they see in the competition that would make them buy from them instead of you.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself – how does your competition position itself in the marketplace relative to your business? How does your business/product/service contrast with theirs? Why would a customer buy from you and not them? The answers to these questions will help you see your strengths, exploit market opportunities, and execute a tactical plan to get ahead in areas that you don’t measure up to the competition.

3. Always be recruiting talent

Setting the stage for growth has to involve superstar employees. Even if you can’t afford to right now – keep looking for talent and bring them on part-time or on a contract or hourly basis. Another option that can help guide your growth is to work with an organization like SCORE. SCORE provides free business mentoring services and can partner you with someone with business management experience to help you steer your business on a path to growth. Whether you need help across the entire business, or are looking for help with functions such as business planning or marketing, SCORE can pair you with a mentor for free.

Get more tips in 6 Options for Staffing your Growing Business.

4. Constantly assess risk

If there’s one thing being a manager or business owner teaches us all, it’s that we must always anticipate and manage risk. Look ahead—what variables could occur that might compromise or damage your growth plans? These could be supply chain issues, hiring and training problems, competitive activity, cash flow, or patent infringements. Include these in your SWOT analysis and develop a plan to prevent or manage any issues.

5. The bottom line

If there’s a common thread here, it’s the importance of being prepared. This, of course, means having a plan. Never embark on a growth strategy without a plan. It doesn’t have to be encyclopedic, but it should contain the key elements discussed above.  Break your plan down into chunks – have one strategic plan that contains your market findings and helps inform where you are and where you want to be. Then assemble smaller plans. For example, have a day-to-day operations plan, a hiring plan and a marketing plan, each of which lay out the tactics for using your business resources to accomplish your strategy.

If you don’t have a business plan, check out SBA’s Build your Business Plan Tool. This step-by-step online tool guides you through the process of creating an actionable plan.

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

6 Ways to Market to Penny-Pinching Customers

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: February 19, 2013 Updated: February 19, 2013

The Great Recession technically ended back in 2009, but you wouldn’t know it from the way Americans are spending (and saving) these days. Despite some natural post-election optimism, issues such as rising food and energy prices, Congress’ “fiscal cliff” and debt ceiling struggles, and the rise in the payroll tax mean Americans are still clutching their wallets tight. With many Americans widely feeling that “we’re not out of the woods yet,” how can your small business develop marketing messages that resonate with penny-pinching prospects?

Start by understanding what your customers and prospects are worried about so you can tailor your marketing message accordingly:

  • A Gallup poll conducted last month reports that for consumers with incomes under $24,000, the costs of food and energy were the biggest concerns (cited by 81 and 80 percent, respectively), with healthcare costs (70 percent) and taxes (67 percent) close behind. Lower-income and middle-income consumers are being hit hard by the expiration of the payroll tax cuts in January, which cut about $1,000 in take-home pay from someone making $50,000.
  • Upper-income consumers (with incomes of $90,000 and up) were more likely than lower-income consumers to be worried about longer-term issues such as taxes (cited by 79 percent) and the federal debt ceiling (66 percent).
  • If you’re a B2B business selling to small business owners, know that they’re worried about the same costs consumers are. A recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey found small business owners say taxes, energy costs and healthcare costs are hurting their businesses more than anything else.

So what kinds of marketing approaches will resonate with each of these groups?

Lower and middle-income consumers are worried about the short term. Their paychecks just got smaller while their cost of living is rising. As a result, they’ll be responsive to marketing that offers:

  • Immediate discounts. Draw them in with sales, coupons, stock-up-and-save specials or two-for-one offers.
  • The ability to stretch a dollar. Position your business as an advocate, helping them save for what’s important to their households. That could include offering flexible payment plans or layaway programs to help them afford bigger purchases.
  • Understanding. Emotion is important in purchasing decisions. Your marketing should appeal to these customers’ desire to provide for their families, treat themselves and have fun without breaking the bank.

While upper-income consumers have some of the same short-term concerns, they are more focused on long-term issues such as how taxes and government regulations will affect their future income and savings. As a result, they’ll be responsive to marketing that offers:

  • Flexibility. Upper-income consumers want to splurge when they can, but to do this they also need to save when possible. The three-tiered pricing strategy works well with this group. Develop a silver, gold and platinum package in the low, mid-priced and high-end range. Often, customers who might normally go for the lower price will be more open to buying a midrange package when there’s a higher-priced option, because they feel like they’re still saving money.
  • Value. Your product or service doesn't need to be rock-bottom priced if you can convey its ultimate value. In other words, is what you sell worth the cost because it saves time, saves money in the long run or will last 20 years?
  • Understanding. For this group, focus on the longer-term benefits your product or service offers, such as how it protects their investments in their homes, helps them become better at their jobs so they have more job security, or helps them create lasting family memories.

 

 

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

5 Tips for Successfully Navigating the SBA Loan Application Process

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 19, 2013 Updated: September 3, 2015

In the market for a business loan? Heard about SBA loans but not really sure how they work or how to go about applying for one?

The following are common questions that small business owners have about SBA loan programs and the loan application process.

1. How do SBA loans work?

While the SBA does offer numerous loan programs to help small business owners finance their businesses, it doesn’t actually lend businesses the money. Instead, a bank makes the loan, which is backed by the SBA. This allows the bank to take a little more risk than they otherwise might.

So this means that if you are seeking a business loan and don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan, perhaps because you don’t have the collateral or years in business to justify the loan, the government can help – although you still need to work primarily with a bank.

2. Who makes the decision that an SBA loan is right for my business?

If you’ve been turned down for a traditional bank loan, or are curious about SBA loan programs, where should you start? Should you go to the bank and ask for an SBA loan, or would they instinctively guide you towards one?

While your local SBA district office can help explain the available loan programs and determine your eligibility for them, you’ll need to find a local SBA lender to kick-start the application process. These banks and financial institutions can help you determine which loan program might be right for you, whether it’s a traditional bank loan or an SBA-backed loan. They are also your point of contact for processing your loan application.

3. How do I determine which SBA loan is right for me?

The SBA offers numerous loan programs depending on your business profile, financing needs, growth plans and so on. There are a number of ways to identify the right loan program for your business.

If you are in the early stages of exploring your financing options, check out the SBA’s Online Loans and Grants Search Tool. Answer a few quick questions about your business and the tool will suggest government financing programs for which you might qualify.

Once you’ve done your research, consult your local SBA District Office and ask them to steer you towards a few SBA lenders in your area so that you can be sure you’re getting the right loan program for your business – and the right bank!

4. How should I prepare for my meeting with the bank?

Preparation is key and it’s important to understand some of the criteria that might influence your eligibility for an SBA loan. These include credit factors – such as making timely debt payments (payment on existing credit relationships, both business and personal, is considered an indicator of your ability to repay a loan), cash flow projections and your debt-to-worth ratio. Collateral and working capital are other factors that may impact eligibility.

SBA offers guidance on all the factors that lenders look at here.

You’ll also need to ensure you are in good standing with your state treasury and the IRS (i.e., you’ve paid all taxes owed).

And don’t forget the most important document – your business plan with at least three years of financial projections; a view of what you’ll do with the proceeds of the loan; and solid proof that you know your industry and target market. This is particularly important for start-ups that don’t have a financial history. The bank will base its decision on your industry experience and future plans.

If you don’t have a business plan, check out SBA’s Build your Business Plan Tool – a step-by-step guide to help you get started. You can save the plan as you go and download it when you’re done.

5. What do I need to complete my SBA loan application?

An incomplete loan application won’t do you any favors with the bank and could slow down the entire loan process. Familiarize yourself in advance with the key components of the loan application – from the right forms, to the necessary background information. Refer to this SBA Loan Application Checklist to ensure you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed. SBA also offers a free online training course: How to Prepare a Loan Package.

Additional Resources

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

How a Virtual Office Creates a Professional Corporate Image

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: February 14, 2013

During the initial stages of the business credit building process, I’m sure you have heard about the importance of setting up a commercial office location. A physical location that is zoned for business speaks volumes for your company and its operation.

If you decide to use your home address for your company’s business address, keep in mind that some lenders may not extend credit to a “home-based” business. However, you still have many credit opportunities with a home-based business; so don’t let that stop you.

If you do decide to use your home address, make sure you designate a specific area in your home where you can run your business in order to allow for the proper home office tax deductions.

But, if you’re adamant about having a commercial address but renting office space is out of the question, then you may want to consider a virtual office address.

Some companies offer a turnkey corporate image with all the tools you need to not only run a business, but to meet the business credit building requirements.

For a flat monthly fee, you get a business phone number, a live receptionist answering phone calls, a corporate business address for all your mailing and packages, personalized voice mail box that converts to email, and even a fax number that will convert to email.

It is an excellent solution for start-ups and small businesses looking to keep costs low while gaining all the resources of a professional corporate image.

If you are searching for a virtual office, consider one that includes the following:

  • Dedicated business phone number
  • Professional live receptionist answering calls in your business name
  • Corporate mailing address
  • Business fax number
  • Fax forwarding to email
  • Voice mail forwarding to email
  • Corporate voice mail boxes
  • Call forwarding to multiple phone numbers

While there are many companies offering virtual office services that can accommodate your business, it’s important to utilize the most cost effective solution as a startup company. There are companies that offer this type of service at an affordable price so you can establish a corporate image with all the resources already in place.

Keep in mind if you decide to set up a virtual office, make sure that all of the information you supply is identical to the information you have on your corporate documents. This includes things like the spelling of your company name to the description of your business operation.

Remember, there should be no differences in your company information across all business documents, registrations and listings.

Give your business the professional image you require to get ahead of the competition while you meet the compliance demands from creditors, suppliers and lenders.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

3 Simple Ways To Improve Customer Satisfaction Today

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 14, 2013

As business owners, we’d all like to think of ourselves as providers of great customer service. As small business owners in particular, it’s quite possibly your biggest differentiator. After all, how often is it that you walk into a national chain restaurant and are greeted by name, handed your favorite drink and made to feel like part of the family?

But great customer service is also about knowing how to handle problems, responding to and resolving issues—something at which agile small businesses can often excel.

If customer satisfaction is your goal, then great customer service will get you there.

Here are three simple things you can do to embed customer service into your business philosophy and day-to-day operations:

Listen and Learn

Listening is key to effective customer service and it can also help boost your profitability. Here are two ways to prove to your customers that you are listening–and tips on how to make it count:

  • Everyday Customer Interaction – Show you are listening to your customers by taking notes or repeating back what your customer has said. Listen to their words and tone. Observe their body language. Provide them clear and concise communication. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding before you provide a response. If you can’t respond immediately, be sure to provide a timeline for response and make a note in your calendar to do so. Follow up, confirm the resolution and check for customer satisfaction and completion.
  • Facilitating Feedback – If you don’t have a reason for face-to-face interaction with a customer, look for ways to stay in touch and show you are listening and eager to keep the lines of communication open. For example, follow up with a customer after a sale to prove to your customers that you want to hear from them. Hand out in-store or post-sale surveys to find out what they’d like to see from your brand—and stay active on social media (more on this below). Customer service is, after all, about meeting the needs and expectations of the customer as defined by the customer. By soliciting feedback and using that information to inform your business you will find new ways to ensure your business is relevant to them and hopefully open new lines of profitable opportunity.

In order to have effective customer service, you must know what your customers want, provide it to them on a consistent basis and ask them how you are doing.

Look For Ways to Treat Customers As You Would Like To Be Treated

Remember, how you and your staff communicate with your customers is just as important as what you communicate. Remember that your customer wants to see the sunny side of you and your business, so have your filter on and put yourself in their shoes.

A good way to instill this attitude among your staff is to do some simple role play in which they act out a few scenarios that involve both easy-going and difficult customers. Observe how they handle the situation and coach them on areas to improve.

For example:

  • How are customers being greeted? — Put them at ease and make them feel comfortable!  This sets the tone for the rest of the transaction.
  • Demonstrate that your customers are valued Let them know you think they are important.  Your sincerity makes them feel good about you and the organization.
  • Ask how to help your customers Find out what they want. It is important that each customer encounter makes them feel satisfied.
  • Don’t challenge disgruntled customers — Listen, reassure them that you’ll escalate or act on their complaint and follow through until resolution.
  • Help customers Help them get what they want. Make it easy for customers to locate or obtain the information they need. Answer their questions in a timely manner.

Carry Customer Service Across All Your Customer Touch Points

Remember to carry through on your customer service goals wherever your business has a presence. This means both online and offline. More than ever, social media is a systematic part of your customer service model, so if you have a presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and so on, be sure you are actively listening, engaging, monitoring and responding to your customers online. This blog offers some tips that can help: How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

4 Ways to Use Google Hangouts in Your Business

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: February 13, 2013

Small business people still seem to be in the process of catching on to Google+, the social network created by Google. Google has made a number of moves to encourage people to use Google+. It has tied in several applications to Google Plus.

One of those applications is Google Hangouts. Hangouts are a type of online group meeting using webcams so that each of the participants can see and hear the others. Think video conference and webinar all rolled up in one.

With Hangouts, you can hold group presentations online and automatically record them for YouTube, and archive them for later access. You can stream live broadcasts directly from your website, YouTube channel and/or Google+ profile with just a few clicks. Even better, you can save your recorded Hangout videos and post them on your site. If you wanted to try offering webinars, this is a no-cost way to do it – because Hangouts are completely free to do.

So what exactly can you do with Hangouts? Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Conduct Team Meetings

With so many teams having members spread out in different locations or working from home, just scheduling an in-person team meeting can be a challenge. Traveling to attend meetings can be costly and more importantly, time consuming.

Conference calls are the typical way of handling meetings when everyone cannot be present. But phone communication leaves a lot to be desired. When you can’t see facial expressions, miscommunication can arise. Worse, in today’s world, team members can succumb to distraction and start focusing on their smartphones instead of the team participants. When you can see one another, those issues are minimized. People tend to stay alert and engaged.

Need to share a Web URL to the team, or share your screen to show them something? With Hangouts you just push a button and you can do that.

With Hangouts, the person who happens to “hold the floor” and is speaking at the moment, has his or her video screen showing in the large view. Other participants’ screens are minimized until they speak.

And yes, you can restrict Hangouts to make them private.

2. Hold Webinars

Have you ever wanted to share expertise and have it available online, perhaps to establish yourself or a company executive as a subject matter expert? Or perhaps you want to start a webinar series as part of your content marketing repertoire. Or maybe you want to provide a question and answer session for customers or prospects, about a product offering either for sales or customer support purposes.

Hangouts are an interactive way to do all of the above. Hangouts normally are limited to 10 active participants (available to 15 participants with Google+ premium features). Their small size of active participants keeps them rather intimate and encourages participation and questions.

With Google Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast your Hangout publicly. You can record it, edit the recording, and share the recorded event online.

If the cost of webinar software has kept you from experimenting with webinars or customer Q&A sessions, then Hangouts are a low-risk way to experiment. Same with technology issues – if you have been concerned with the technical elements of holding webinars, hangouts are pretty easy. There’s a free Google video chat plugin you will be prompted to download and install upon your first Hangout – but it’s fast and easy. You don’t have to worry about trying to make recording software sync up. You simply start a Hangout, name it and you’re good to go.

3. Offer Consulting Hours

Remember when you were in college and your professor held Office Hours so students could get individual help? Why not offer the same feature as a consultant?

You could offer customized coaching services. A Hangout session with your client can replace phone calls and emails, or lengthy and expensive travel.

For smaller consultants and professionals, it can differentiate your business from competitors. You’ll look high tech, at no extra cost. And Hangouts can allow you to offer an expanded range of services, such as paid coaching sessions that can be advertised and scheduled on your website. Musicians can offer paid music lessons. Only your imagination is the limit.

4. Hold a Press Conference

Who says press conferences are limited to big companies? Recording artist Taylor Swift hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album. During the live chat, Taylor answered fan questions from around the world, let them know what they could expect from her album, and debuted its first single. When her single was released on iTunes it went straight to number one, faster than any other song in history.

Have a big announcement – whether it’s a new executive hire, a new product, or simply to announce that you’ve won an award? A Google Hangout lets you tell the world and provide an interactive record of the announcement.

There are many ways for small business owners to use Google+ Hangouts to connect with their customers, build their brands, monetize their businesses, and create buzz. Check out the Google Live Events calendar to help spur some of your own ideas. You can also add your own events to the calendar to increase your reach. And check out this article with more ways to use Google Hangouts.

 

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

November 8, 2002 - Final rule, Control of Emissions From Nonroad Large Spark-Ignition Engines, and Recreational Engines (Marine and Land-Based), published in the Federal Register.

August 14, 2002  - Proposed rule, Control of Emissions from Spark-Ignition Marine Vessels and Highway Motorcycles, published in the Federal Register.

April 20, 2010 - Letter to Honorable Lisa P. Jackson, Office of the Administrator, Petition to Reconsider the Construction and Development (C&D) Effluent Limitations Guideline (ELG) Final Rule.

April 2010 - Review Of Technical Issues Related to the Final Effluent Limitation Guidelines for the Construction and Development Industry prepared by Andy Bollman, E.H. Pechan & Associates, Inc.

The Bigger Financial Picture – Is it Time to Hire a CFO and Where Should You Look?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 11, 2013

So, your business is growing. While you may or may not have an accountant on hand, what about your bigger financial picture? Is it time to hire a Chief Financial Officer?

More than just a bookkeeper, payroll administrator or keeper of P&L and cash flow statements, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can help you plan, model, forecast and make better business decisions. A CFO looks at your business holistically–this includes people, processes and systems–and ensures that together you have accurate financial information to plan for the future.

A CFO will also work with you or your accountant to understand the drivers for business performance. They’ll pick up on signals that might indicate a problem (such as a potential cash flow issue down the line), and help you make informed decisions about reaching your business goals.

Are You Ready for a CFO?

We all have sleepless nights worrying about the direction of our business; when cash flow will take a turn for the better; or where our next higher margin client is coming from. And being a small business owner, wearing all those hats, it isn’t easy to step away from the day-to-day details and look at your business as a whole.

A CFO can help with these worries–and needn’t break the bank in the process.

How to Cost-Effectively Hire a CFO

If your business is growing fast, then you could consider hiring a CFO on a part-time or as-needed basis and start delegating some of that financial angst. Management consulting firms often offer this type of service. If budget really is an issue, consider the volunteer services of SCORE.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. SCORE mentors deliver free, confidential, valuable advice for your business needs across diverse industries and business functions including finance, marketing, operations, technology and more. Connect with a mentor here.  

Not Quite There Yet? Consider an Accountant

If you are still in start-up or growth mode—or feel you’d benefit with the help of someone to take care of your daily financial obligations such as account payables and receivables, payroll, taxes, and make sound judgments to benefit your personal and business finances—then you should really consider hiring an accountant. If you already have one, consider leaning on their services a little more.

An accountant can save you time and clear up much of the confusion that you experience when it comes to managing your finances. This blog offers tips on finding and interviewing potential accountants: How to Find an Accountant Who Can Help Your Small Business over the Long Haul.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

7 Ways to Increase Foot Traffic to Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 7, 2013 Updated: September 12, 2016

Late last year, I hosted a web chat with the SBA offering holiday marketing tips and ideas to small business owners. And while many business owners submitted questions relating specifically to the holidays, a large percentage of the questions centered on that age-old question: “How do I get more foot traffic to my store?”

Here are seven tried and tested steps you might want to consider:

1. Start from the outside and look in

If you are in a pedestrianized area, get to know who passes by your store. Literally, sit outside or close by your window and assess the demographic of who comes and goes. Do they window shop? Have they come from another store close by first?

Next, take an objective look at your signage and window display–does it appeal to your target demographic or buyer? For example, if you run a coffee shop and most of your business is done during the hours of 8 AM to 10 AM, think of ways to optimize your merchandising and window display to attract more buyers during these times. This could be as simple as using this time to hand out coupons outside, offering bakery samples to passersby, or promoting your latest offers using sidewalk signage.

2. Host a community event with a newsworthy tie-in

One of the best ways to increase foot traffic is to host a community or charity event. A great way to do this and get noticed is to tie it to a topical event. Say, for example, your local NFL or high school team is playing a critical game. Consider teaming up with other businesses nearby to offer game-day promotions/offers or a tie-in event. Host the event as a block party or at a central location downtown (even if you have to take your business on the road for a few hours). Don’t forget to be community-oriented—consider donating a portion of your profits to charity.

Feature the event ahead of time on your website and social media. For maximum impact, don’t forget to contact local media outlets—including radio channels—and email and mail out fliers to your contact list. 

3. Host a seminar or workshop

Both retail and service-based businesses can generate a good deal of foot traffic by educating their customers about how to get more out of what they are buying (even if you don’t make a sale that day). Florist shops could host a flower arranging class or realtors could host a house-staging workshop to attract potential sellers. And of course, publicize your event—in-store, online, via press releases and advertising.

4. Use location-based services to attract passersby

You don’t have to be a tech wizard to promote your small business using mobile apps that target consumers in the vicinity of your business. Groupon, Living Social, FourSquare and ThinkNear among others let you post information about your latest offers and limited-time deals to consumers within a certain distance of your business. You can also schedule deals to get delivered during key hours, for example, if you’re looking to boost foot traffic during off-peak times.

5. Engage old customers in new ways

It’s always refreshing when a store or restaurant you’ve frequented for some time starts doing something new. And thanks to the power of social media, doing something new or different and doing it well can quickly go viral.

So think about ways you can get the attention of older or existing customers. It could be as simple as offering a new type of discount (it may sound obvious, but offering something of value at a discount for a limited period of time can be attention-grabbing) or letting customers know about a new product or service you’ve added.

A straight-out sale is always a great way to bring old customers out of the woodwork. Send out an email or e-newsletter to your contact database and post it on social media. You might even host a secret sale first for a hand-selected group of customers.

If your business is service-oriented, consider offering a referral fee to existing customers who bring in new clients for you.

6. Put on your small business customer service hat

There’s a reason why consumers opt to frequent small businesses over larger chains—personal relationships. A smile, great service, product knowledge and enthusiasm will bring customers through your door and keep them coming back. So as you host new events, sales or workshops, use your small business advantage to the max!

7. Stay in touch

Staying top of mind with new and existing customers who you’ve engaged through your new efforts is not just about offering great products and services. It’s also about staying in touch.

If you host an event that brings in new customers, encourage them to sign up for your emails. A little incentive, such as a free giveaway in exchange for an email address, is always effective. Then stay in touch, set-up an e-newsletter program, send out regular updates about new product lines, company news, and events and start to engage with your customers via social media. (For tips, check out this blog).

What tactics have you used to increase foot traffic to your small business? Leave a comment below.

 

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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