If you are a small business owner, you are one of 30.7 million small businesses stimulating the economy in the United States. Organizations like yours are truly the backbone of our country— providing more than 1.5 million jobs annually. Being your own boss and running a business is a rewarding experience, but it is certainly not for the faint of heart. More than 50 percent of all small businesses fail within their first year of operation, and more than 95 percent fail within the first half decade. Throw in a global pandemic and those numbers skyrocket. COVID-19 has left 31 percent of small businesses in the U.S. non-operational.
It’s more important now than ever to have a concrete plan in place for continued growth. If you want your small business to see the other side of this pandemic, be sure to be aware of these common small business mistakes.
Failing to make people management a priority
The old adage is true: employees really are a company’s most valuable asset. It is their effort, enthusiasm, and passion for the brand that will translate into sales and loyal repeat customers. Your employees can be your biggest cheerleaders and brand ambassadors, but if they don’t feel supported and valued in the workplace, they can be severely brand-damaging. This was the case when a lack of transparency in the pay model of DoorDash, a popular food delivery service, led to the retaliation of drivers who left negative online reviews regarding employee welfare.
How to fix it: Many businesses are struggling just to keep their employees on the books during this pandemic, let alone provide raises, benefits, and extra perks. Pandemic or not, make your people feel valued by being as transparent as possible at all times. Make it a priority to provide a fair living wage and develop opportunities for compensation reviews at certain milestones. Be very careful to not micro-manage and make it a point to provide channels for open communication so employees feel comfortable addressing concerns and constructive feedback without fear of backlash. Most importantly – just let them know you genuinely care about them.
Failing to develop a cohesive brand
As previously mentioned, your employees and customer service operations are a huge part of securing loyal repeat customers. Repeat customers are important because it is very likely that they will regularly spend more on your products than a new customer would. Additionally, repeat customers can provide (free) word of mouth marketing for your business.
The best way to develop a strong base of loyal customers is to create a consistent and positive brand experience that really resonates with your target audience. Does your business have an established set of brand guidelines? If not, you could be missing out on an entire group of customers that would otherwise be passionate about your brand.
How to fix it: Having a cohesive brand involves everything from your logo, color schemes, and social media copy to the design of your brick-and-mortar store. Start by doing research on brand guidelines, brand identity, and customer brand experience. Really think about how you want your customers to feel when they are interacting with your brand. If this is beyond your expertise, consider bringing in an expert to help your brand stand out from the rest.
Not having a strategic online presence
If you don’t have a strong online presence for your small business, you could be missing out on a lot of potential customers. Online marketing is arguably the most important form of advertising in this tech-driven era. Plus, it is virtually free for the most part— making it a much more cost-effective option when compared to traditional print, radio, and television advertising.
Though it may seem too easy to be true, it is important to realize that online marketing could be damaging if not approached strategically. Unlike the traditional mediums mentioned above, having an online presence creates a platform for two-way communication between your brand and your audience, making web and social media an extension of your customer service department. If you’re not diligent in monitoring and controlling what is being said about you online, unsatisfied customers will do it for you.
How to fix it: Start by building a website if you haven’t already and be sure to optimize it with your brand and user experience in mind. Next, ensure all of your business information is correct on Google and on your social media profiles. Most importantly, start responding to both positive and negative comments with grace and poise. If managing your online presence is outside your realm of expertise, designate someone with experience in digital marketing handle it.
Failing to adapt to the pandemic
Right now, all small businesses are treading water just to stay afloat. While we are living in this “new normal,” it is important to remain flexible and be careful not to become paralized in the face of uncertainty. Policies and guidelines can and will change at the drop of a dime, so it is crucial to be able to make fast decisions confidently— even if you have to make adjustments later on.
Guidelines and restrictions have been placed on communities and businesses across the country. In the majority of instances, masks and social distancing are required when entering a public space. No matter how you feel about it, remember the first point in this article — your employees are your biggest asset. Failure to make their health and safety your number one priority could result in loss of staff, internal outbreaks, and bad press.
How to fix it: If you haven’t already, come up with your pivot plan. How will you pivot your current business strategy to help you and your team not only survive, but maybe even thrive during such a turbulent time. Take the hotel chain Red Roof Inn for example — a company that relies heavily on travelers to book their rooms. With the travel industry projected to lose up to $1.2 trillion this year, the popular hotel chain took advantage of the new work-from-home situation many office employees found themselves in and offered rooms at a discounted daily rate. Providing a quiet and isolated make-shift office space was not only a smart way to grow and help out their customer base, but it also filled rooms and kept revenue coming in.
2020 is undoubtedly a tough year for small businesses. As uncertainty continues to loom over our heads, the only thing we can do is be diligent, resourceful, and determined to not give up. Give your small business a fighting chance by recognizing these and other common small business mistakes, and put a plan (or two, or three) in place to keep afloat.