What is a common mistake that small business owners make when their businesses begin growing? What do you wish you’d known from the beginning? How can you parse through the massive range of small business advice on the web?
In your small business, you’re constantly making decisions that will have long-reaching impacts on your business. Understanding common mistakes small business owners make is a huge step to shape your thinking and decision making.
With that in mind, we’ve collected some of the best small business advice on the web to help you turn your vision into a reality and sustain that reality over time.
So what mistakes do small business owners make, and how can you course correct? Let’s dig in with our best small business advice.
Small Business Advice 1. Planning is Your Best Defense
Your initial business plan is the cornerstone of your enterprise. Putting the work in here will save you a ton of time and energy later on, but getting started can feel overwhelming.
Let’s start with a few questions to shape your planning process:
- Who is your ideal customer, and what channels will you use to connect with them?
- What is the standard price point for products and services in your industry?
- How much do you need to charge for your product/service to be profitable?
- What sets your product or service apart from similar offerings?
- Are you prepared for success? What aspects of running a business fit neatly into your skill set, where will you need to grow, and what will you need to delegate?
- Why would a consumer choose to buy from you, rather than a larger competitor?
The answers these questions should help you to think critically about your market, your audience, and your own strengths and weaknesses. Spend time coming to your conclusions.
Early on, your biggest challenges will likely revolve around finding and connecting to customers. Remember: just about any industry will have established players by the time you enter the field.
Over time, your focus will likely shift to growing and scaling in a way that is manageable for you and your team. By laying a solid groundwork now, you can avoid a lot of hassle once your business has grown- after all, it’s significantly easier to make changes while your business and customer base are still small.
Our favorite small business advice says it’s important to do more than think about a plan. Put it in writing.
Map out the time and funds that you can realistically invest in your business. Really dig into your market research and get a sense of the playing field.
Think critically about your product (or product line) before you get too far into building your business. In the words of Close.io CEO Steli Efti: “Don’t fall in love with your idea, fall in love with the problem you’re solving.”
Your initial brilliant idea will need to grow and change over time, and you need to be willing to change with it.
Not sure how to start a business plan? Check out these sample ecommerce business plans.
Small Business Advice 2. Delegate with Authority
It’s common knowledge that running a small business means that you’ll wear many hats, and a lot of small business advice focuses on the ways that you can balance your different responsibilities. As the old saying goes: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Thing is, doing everything yourself can quickly lead to burnout, and the results will often be subpar. Learning to delegate is key to running a successful business.
Even if you go the microbusiness route, there will be times when you’ll need to turn to a freelancer or another qualified professional to get the best possible results. In the words of Jon Acuff: “Hustle the right way. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing what you need to do.”
Remember: your competition is likely working with professionals in a range of fields to optimize the different elements of their businesses. Your individual skill set won’t always be able to compete and that’s okay.
So what tasks should you delegate? Generally, it will depend on the personal strengths and weaknesses we explored earlier. Let’s look at a couple of examples to shape your thinking.
Your logo is an element of your brand that will likely be with you for a long time. While free tools like Canva are fairly intuitive and can be incredibly useful, you may be better served in the long run by bringing in outside help, especially if graphic design isn’t part of your skill set.
Your business needs to project an image of professionalism, and low-quality materials make it hurt customer trust in your brand.
Accounting is another area where many small businesses find it helpful to work with a professional. Come tax season, you’ll want to maximize write-offs and deductions, which means that it’s vital to work with someone who has a deep understanding of the system.
Spend some time thinking about the parts of your business that you need to delegate to your team and the elements you should outsource, and include funds to hire other professionals in your budgeting.
Small Business Advice 3. Craft a Powerful Web Presence
About a third of small businesses today don’t have their own website, and many small businesses that do have websites have unprofessional pages that don’t encourage customer trust.
You might think that your operation is too small to need a website. The fact of the matter is this: you will limit your options without a strong digital presence. To put it another way: for your business to succeed in a 21st-century economy, it’s vital to connect with customers online.
Don’t worry if web design isn’t your forte. There’s a ton that you can do to build a professional online presence even if you’re not personally tech-y or can’t afford to hire a web designer. So what does it take to put together a stylish website for your business? Let’s start by looking at three important elements that separate a professional site from the rest.
Mobile optimization: Over half of all web traffic in 2018 took place on mobile devices. If your site doesn’t work well on mobile, you’re likely driving away potential customers.
SSL certificate: A valid SSL certificate shows up as a padlock next to the URL of your site. It’s essentially proof that your site is safe and trustworthy. . If you’re asking for any kind of personal customer information (i.e. contact info for your mailing list), an SSL certificate is vital.
Custom domain name: You want your site URL to be memorable, easy to type, and short.
How can I build a professional site?
Start by looking for an intuitive web builder that gives you the flexibility to put your brand front-and-center. The Selz online store builder comes with a range of state-of-the-art themes that are easy to customize to your branding without restricting your vision.
Every Selz page is mobile-optimized and comes with a free SSL certificate, plus the ability to register a new domain name or bring your existing domain name with you. Selz also offers powerful blogging capability so you can build up a base of content to drive traffic to your site and connect with your customer base on a deeper level.
Small Business Advice 4. Invest in Marketing
You can have the best products on the web, offered at the best prices, but your business will struggle to find customers if you don’t have a strong approach to marketing. In particular, if your business is digitally-based (as opposed to a brick and mortar storefront), you’ll need a marketing focus from the very beginning to help you grow and scale over time.
Don’t worry if you have limited funds- “investment” means more than money here. We’re talking about time and effort as well.
Before you spend a dime on marketing, you need to have a sense of your customer base. In particular, it’s vital to figure out the ideal customer for your business and shape your messaging to them.
Not sure what an ideal customer looks like for you? Ask yourself:
- Is my ideal customer local to my area?
- Where do they hang out online?
- Which social media platforms do they use?
- What kinds of advertising are they most likely to respond to?
- What need or desire does my product solve for my ideal customer?
From here, you can start shaping your approach to marketing.
What’s the best small business advice to market my small business?
PPC, or pay-per-click advertising, is a popular approach that doesn’t need to be a massive financial investment. Essentially, PPC involves buying ad space on search engines like Google or Bing. You are only charged when someone engages with your ad.
Start small here, craft your copy and imagery to see what works, and gradually invest more over time. Consider purchasing ad space on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram as well.
Content is a major way that businesses stand out online and connect with customers. Whether by traditional blogging, video content, or a range of other approaches, creating content that provides real value to potential customers is a major way to drive traffic to your site. You can improve your SEO and rank for the kinds of terms your customers are likely to search for, as well as featuring your products in a more fleshed out way.
Use your social media wisely
Social media is a vital part of running a business these days, but if you’re not careful it can quickly become a huge time suck. Rather than signing up for every platform under the sun, pick a couple of platforms and focus in on them. It helps if you enjoy using the social media channels that you choose, but it’s more important to think about how you can showcase your business using the specific toolset of each platform.
Instagram and Pinterest, for example, have a visual focus that’s great for fashion and jewelry businesses. Twitter, on the other hand, is popular for entrepreneurs selling Ebooks online because it is easy to share tidbits and start a conversation.
Small Business Advice 101: Email Works
Finally, let’s talk about email. Email marketing consistently converts at a higher rate than any other digital channel, and it makes sense- when someone signs up for your email list, they’re essentially asking to hear more from you. Consider offering discounts for customers that sign up for your newsletter and using other creative methods to build this list over time.
Email marketing is also a great tool for building up a base of repeat business because you can tempt customers back with exclusive deals, free shipping, and exciting new products.
What is a common mistake that small business owners make when their businesses begin growing?
One of the most common mistakes small business owners make is in the trajectory of their growth process. It’s easy to forget that every step you take along the way needs to be built to scale over time. Without solid groundwork from the very beginning, your business can end up struggling as it changes and connects to new customers.
The best small business advice we can give is this: at each stage of your journey, shape your decisions and processes to be flexible. Give yourself the room you need to meet the demands of the market.
What do you wish you’d known before you started your business? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.