Do you ever wish someone would give you a cheat sheet of focus areas for your small business? Well, look no further! In this article we are going to outline five areas to help you maximize the efficiency and profitability of your small business. Let’s get started!
Invoice & Payment Process Management
Everyone wants to get paid, but not everyone wants to deal with the hassle of billing. Whether it’s ensuring that you have accurate content on the invoice or making sure the client pays on time, managing the billing process can be a headache for some small businesses. This is where automation comes in very handy. Some areas where automation can be beneficial to your business are as follows:
Recurring clients are the bread and butter of small businesses. As you develop a relationship with your clientele, you begin to understand what their desires are and what products or services they like. As a result, invoices might begin to look very similar from month to month. In such cases it may be advantageous to create templates either for those particular clients or even particular groups of clients. Websites like Paypal allow users to create invoice templates that help ease the amount of work you have on your plate, not to mention the fact that they save time.
Did you know that almost half of all invoices are paid late? When customers forget to stay on top of when payments are due, it becomes an added responsibility for your business to remind them. With software like Due, small business owners can send automated reminders to their clientele about pending invoices and balances.
There are so many ways clients can render payment for services these days, so it’s helpful to be as accommodating as possible. You may have some clients that prefer old-fashioned methods, like paying by check, while others are into currency of the future, like Bitcoin. Although it is important to offer variety, be sure to offer what makes sense for your business.
Social Media Marketing Strategies
In this day and age, almost everyone is on social media. It’s undeniable that social media offers great opportunities for small businesses to market themselves. So, how can small businesses start planning and managing their social media marketing strategy?
Goals give your business and your entire team direction on where to go and how to get there. When you first started your business, you most likely started by setting goals. The same should be said of your approach to social media. Ask yourself what you hope to gain through establishing a social media presence for your business. Aside from gaining more followers, your goals should also take the following into consideration:
Conversion rates from visits to actual transactions
A certain number of retweets, shares or comments per day, week or month
Reaching a particular number of likes or followers per week or month
Choose a Social Network
Social networks serve a variety of purposes and target a variety of demographics. When choosing social networks for your business, you should consider choosing one that is the best fit for your particular niche and can generate a lot of authentic engagement. Below is a brief overview of the top three social media networking sites and which type of customers they can serve the best.
Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites, with around 2 billion active users every single day all over the world. The site allows users to create a personal profile where they can share statuses, photos, videos, and links to websites. Users can also create pages for their businesses and organizations. Through Facebook pages, you can create sponsored ads and target specific demographics. Organic engagement can be difficult to garner due to Facebook’s evolving algorithms, but because people visit Facebook pages for businesses just as much as they visit business websites, it is wise to have updated information posted on your own page.
Twitter for Business is a great tool for spreading awareness about new products, services and updates about your business. One of the most common reasons why businesses create Twitter profiles is that customer support can be easily provided. With just a tweet of 240-280 characters, clients can share their concerns directly with someone in your business and get an immediate response. Also, when you tweet as a business, be sure to create interesting and engaging tweets with hashtags so that your followers will share your tweets with their followers and anyone who searches the hashtag can get direct access to your business profile.
As opposed to the other networking sites, Instagram is a visual-based platform with 700 million active users that share various photos in various categories such as food, art, travel, business and even music. Moreover, Instagram has filters and other editing tools that allow you to edit and manipulate photos before posting them. While most users usually belong to creative fields, businesses can still use the platform to share photos of products in aesthetically pleasing ways.
Having three or more social media accounts can be a lot to manage, but fortunately there are apps that can help small business owners manage each account. Create a social calendar to serve as a guide for what to post and when (e.g. motivational quotes on Mondays or featured products on Thursdays). Through the use of online apps like Meet Edgar, HootSuite, Buffer, and Planoly you can schedule posts ahead of time and automate the whole process.
Client onboarding is the process for welcoming new clients into your small business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring that they understand the services available to them. It is also one of the most vital functions for any business because it directly affects the client’s experience with your company, which will ultimately affect profits. Here are a few tips on how to improve the client onboarding process for your small business:
Implement training programs
Training and development are as important to your small business as any other element. Your business is constantly developing a reputation, and that reputation is created or modified through every experience customers have with your staff. Through training programs, employees can get a better grasp of the standard of customer service you expect for your business. There are various ways to implement training programs. You could actually schedule a day or two for training sessions or have employees shadow their team leaders during business functions.
It is important for small businesses to hear directly from their clients whether or not they are satisfied with the products or services they have received. Not only does this let the team members know what they are doing well, but it also gives a room for improvement. Feedback is a valuable way of measuring what works and what does not that informs decisions about what modifications need to be made in the business.
Small businesses, especially those that start out as family businesses, typically have a very small number of employees. The only time new hires are considered is when there has been major growth in the business or the demand becomes too great. Most small businesses actually don’t seem to have a hiring plan, so the few employees they have end up doing double shifts and covering tasks outside of their field of expertise. Unfortunately, this can cause burnout for the employees and ultimately end in higher turnover rates. In order to remain functional, small businesses must begin thinking and strategizing about hiring employees that will help grow the business.
Consider your resources
It is hard to recruit new hires if your business does not have enough cash flow to pay for more employees. Someone business owners use loans to cover the gap between payroll and other expenses incurred by the business, but that is not advisable. Allow your stakeholders to weigh in on the income and the expense of hiring new recruits before making any plans.
Project management involves the planning and organization of a company's resources to move a specific task, event or duty toward completion. It typically involves a one-time project rather than an ongoing activity, and resources managed include personnel, finances, technology and intellectual property. (Investopedia)
When your business hosts special events or is pushing a particular promotion, it is important to strategize with your team members on how the labor will be divided, who will be the one in charge, and when specific tasks need to submitted. Although having meetings with your staff is a good way to check in and find out what has been done and where everyone is, there are now applications that you can use to track everyone’s progress (Asana, Trello, and Microsoft Project). These apps are great resources to save your team time, so you can focus on the most important aspects of the project.
After going through some of the areas we have outlined above and tailoring each area to fit your business, it is important to incorporate these changes into the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your business. Try these ideas out and keep what works and toss out what doesn’t work. Take the strategies that work and make SOPs that will guide every member of your business team to ensure the quality of work being delivered.
~ Maria Kristine, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™