Is your business stuck in a rut?
Change things for the better with these 11 simple steps:
1. Snoop around
“Do some competitive analysis,” said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an online job seeking service based in Boulder, Colo. “Go out and visit your top five competitors and see what they are doing. After checking them out, brainstorm on what they do that works and how you can make your company better.”
2. Tap local resources
“Check out your local Small Business Development Center or Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) office,” said Denise Beeson, a professor of small business management at Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, Calif. “Just go to www.sba.gov and find a location near you. They offer consulting to SBOs for free or almost free.
“They will review your company and give you tips on how to increase revenue in the future.”
3. Schedule a chat
“Schedule a brainstorming session with members of your team and talk about something you haven’t discussed in a while,” Sutton Fell said. “Try to get everyone there for the conversation. Getting fresh ideas can really help. This can also fire up employees and remind them that their input is valid.”
4. Create a contest
“Set up a social media contest; it is a great way for people to get involved in your brand,” said Charlie Scala, owner and co-founder of Roominate Marketing, a online marketing consultancy based in Hull, Mass. “For example, if you own a restaurant, set up a Twitter contest where patrons pick their favorite menu item and write 140 characters about why it is their favorite.
“Then, of the people who responded, draw a winner. Make sure the prize matches the level of effort to enter the contest. Creating a contest is a free way to communicate with your customers.”
5. Make a list
“In most companies, there is no shortage of ideas, but there is often lack of bandwidth, budget and time,” said Sutton Fell. “Start a list of the things you’d like to accomplish, even if you can’t do them right now. Then, go back and review the list when you need inspiration.”
6. Incentivize loyalty
“Build your business by using your existing client base,” Beeson advised. “Develop a loyalty program for customers to refer their friends or other businesses to you. Then give your customer a nominal gift for the referral. You’ll find that those customers will give you other, like-minded customers.”
7. Visualize success
“A business owner needs to see what they want in their business in order to make it grow,” said Chris Curran, a Morristown, N.J.-based business coach and author of Leap Beyond Your Limits (Goal Ability, 2010). “If you use your mind to visualize [your definition of success] everyday, you will magnetizing yourself to achieve it.”
8. Update web presence
“A lot of small business websites are static, which doesn’t encourage people to come back to see new things,” Scala said. “Re-evaluate your website on an annual or bi-annual basis. Add video and a blog. You are sure to get more traffic on your site if you make small changes on a regular basis.”
9. Take a break
“Stop and take a breath,” said Christine Moynihan, founder of Retail Visioning, a small business consultancy based in Walpole, Mass. “Take an honest look at what is going on right now in your business. What is going well? What isn’t working? So many SBOs get caught up doing and not thinking. Instead, make time to reflect.”
10. Focus your actions
“There are a lot of actions we can take, but not all of them lead us to success,” Curran said. “For business owners, three things bring them business: meeting new prospects, presenting their product or service and asking for business. If you focus on those actions, they will bring you results.”
11. Shake things up
“If you’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time, try them a different way,” Moynihan said. “You don’t have to commit to that idea, but just try it for three months. Changing things can give you a new perspective. It can work to your advantage.”
Katie Morell is a freelance writer based in Chicago, specializing in small business concerns.