Managing a business really means working thirty different jobs at once. This is part of what draws entrepreneurs to the work as it is challenging and, therefore, rewarding. It can also be a source of great confusion and frustration at times, especially when a business isn’t doing as well as the manager knows it could be.
The following will explore some of the things you can do to help encourage your business to grow and thrive. Special attention will be paid to drawing in more customers.
Before you begin making any changes, it is crucial that you get really specific about your purpose with the business. This will include particular goals regarding sales and revenue but also will include your overall aim with the business. Why are you selling this product or service? To make money isn’t a good enough answer. Every business that truly thrives is one that is solving a real-world problem for ordinary people. Do you want to make their lives easier? More comfortable? Safer? Figure out why your business is important and construct a statement around that.
As your business grows, you will encounter challenges you could never have anticipated. This is part of what it is to manage a business. If you have a statement that clearly outlines your values and your ethics (what is ethically acceptable to you in exchange for profit and what isn’t), you’ll have a paradigm from which you can begin trying to solve problems.
For example, let’s say one day (knock on wood), it is discovered that the primary material used in your product causes cancer. If one of your values is promoting the health of your customers and employees, you cannot carry on producing your product with that material, even if it ends up shrinking your margins.
This might sound like a far-fetched problem to have, but toxic ingredients are one of the most common problems bigger companies are having right now. And, you’d be shocked how many are not changing their ingredients or materials in response to new information. Triclosan, for instance, has been connected with several types of cancer and has been shown to wreak havoc on the endocrine system, messing up people’s hormones and increasing the risks of birth defects. Despite this, the ingredient is still located in hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, face washes, mouthwashes, and cosmetics.
As more and more customers develop the ability to educate themselves about products, ingredients, and materials, as well as other ethical concerns like labour rights, sustainability, and fair trade agreements, you can expect that sooner or later, the ethical stances of your company will be discussed. Moreover, having this information front and center on your website and as part of your employee training materials can result in more customers over a period of time. A good reputation takes time to build, but ethical companies are seeing very positive responses from clients and customers.
When running a business, data is your best friend. You want to know how people are feeling about your products and services, and you can’t do that without running tests on a regular. You should be seeking feedback on your website and beta testing new products. One of the most crucial elements of this testing is the acceptance that it is part of your job forever. That you should be constantly revisiting and testing everything you do to be sure that you’re keeping up with the times and customer expectations which vary widely. This is never something you do once and then leave. It should be a quarterly task at the minimum. Every few months, come back and see if what you’re doing is still working. If it’s not, adjust.
If you’ve done your due diligence with the ethics of your business and you’ve tested out your products or services and made things as perfect as they can be, then letting people try out your product or service will help gain you more sales, follows, and loyal customers. If applicable, offer free trials of your products or services.
You might have to get creative with this. When it comes to books, many authors give out the first few chapters of their book for free. When it comes to software, companies often allow people to try out the program for a week free of charge. This makes life easier on your customers by taking away some of the pressure to make buying decisions as they will have proof of concept or quality before they make a choice to spend their hard-earned money. People want to drive the car before they buy it.
As a bonus, this step will help reduce some of the stress that comes with returns, cancellations of services, or other refund-based situations as it will be less likely that someone will be mistaken about what they’re getting into and want to return it.
Finally, once you’ve gotten your company paradigm shifted to the right place from which to make decisions and tested and improved your products to the best of your ability, and found the right audience for your services using free trials and other gifts, it’s time to focus on customer retention—getting customers to come back and buy more or different products for you.
Encouraging loyalty among customers involves excellent customer service (which you have because you’ve been testing and pivoting based on the feedback, right?) and the occasional discount or reward to get them back on site. If you have an email list, this gets even easier. Sites like The Gift Card Cafe allow you to send gift cards to people in a number of formats for promotions (buy one get one free) or discounts (10% off). When someone is on the fence about a purchase, a gift card can make the difference. This sort of approach is an excellent way to get people to return to their online carts that have been abandoned with items still inside.
The above four steps might seem simple, but if they’re continually applied with dedication, they can be mighty. Whenever you’re in doubt about the direction you need to take your business in, return to that first step and your purpose: what are you trying to do for other people?