Small businesses come and go. During difficult economic times, some companies seem to thrive, while others flounder. How can you know where to invest your money to see the most growth? How can you measure the results of any particular tool?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in the first year. By the fifth year, around half shut their doors forever. You don’t have to be in the bottom of those percentages. You can be one of the companies thriving at the five-year mark and beyond.
Every smart business owner knows the key to success is measuring results and reinvesting in your brand. How can you know where to throw your hard-earned dollars? We’ll look at five business investments you don’t want to miss out on and how to make sure they’re delivering results for your firm:
1. Build an Online Presence
Whether your business is a local service-based company or an e-commerce store, you need an online presence. Most people begin their search for local brands online. They seek out reviews and visit the website.
Your website and social media pages need a professional edge. Don’t just slap up an inexpensive, cookie-cutter theme and expect to draw masses. You’ll need a custom solution that meets your specific target audience’s needs.
You also must spend time focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) and driving traffic to your website. The more emails you collect, the better you’ll be able to stay in touch with those who are already your fans.
Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of a website is simple. You can track how many hits your site gets and what your conversion rates are. An average conversion rate might be around 2.5%, although it depends on the industry.
2. Map a Plan
When planning your sales territories and figuring out how to reach out to new markets, you need to map the place you’re already serving. Next, look at where your competition has a presence.
Use online mapping to figure out routing. The less time a salesperson spends traveling, the more time they’re spending with potential clients. Try to make routes as easy as possible without numerous criss-crossing territories.
A map might include everything from demographics of the citizens living there to drive time statistics. You can measure effectiveness by looking at sales records for your company and geocoding them by address to see what areas respond best to your brand.
3. Optimize Your Customer Service
All other things being equal, the business with the best customer experience (CX) is the one users will be most loyal to. If your service is top-notch, people will tell others about you. Free word-of-mouth advertising is worth more than any ad you can buy.
Think about your business model from the perspective of the customer. What tools can you invest in that will improve the overall CX? Are issues popping up frequently? How can you fix those before they become a problem?
Survey your customers and ask them what frustrates them when they call your customer service number. How can you make things run more smoothly for them?
Are you using multi-channel optimization? If someone buys an item online, can they return it in your store? If they talk to an agent via live chat is the conversation recorded when they phone in? No one wants to repeat the same thing repeatedly.
4. Switch to Cloud Computing
It’s your responsibility to keep your customers’ data secure. Laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) dictate you take steps to keep hackers from gaining access to personal information. If you serve anyone who lives in a European country, you’re subject to the GDPR, even if you live in the United States.
Cloud computing is a good first-line defense. Using a third-party provider for data storage gives you extra protection. They typically have the best security available and work hard to ensure it stays up to date.
Cloud computing benefits you in other ways, as well. You won’t have to have a huge IT department to keep things running smoothly, saving you in employee wages and benefits. You and your workers can access information from anywhere.
Remote access is particularly useful to businesses with field technicians or salespeople. They can pull up information on the fly and show the customer they’re on top of things.
5. Automate Everything
Look for ways to automate your business and free up employee time for marketing, networking and creating new concepts to grow the brand. Automation takes the grunt work out of your hands and puts technology to work.
Some things you can automate include inventory control with cloud-based servers. You could also add a chat bot to your site to interact with customers. If they have a question the bot can’t answer, a live agent comes into the picture.
Automate responses to emails and social media messages. A preprogrammed initial response allows you to greet the person and confirm their message was received. You can then follow up with personalized information.
Pay Attention to Results
While some investments have a clear ROI you can measure, others aren’t as readily apparent. For example, if you add automation, how much does it really save you? You might be able to measure the time it saves an employee and calculate the time by what they make per hour. However, it isn’t a full picture of the results as more energy is thrown to more creative endeavors.
Think about the investments that worked best for you in the past. Repeat those efforts. When something isn’t working for your brand, go ahead and replace it with a different solution. Over time, you’ll become adept at spotting which tools help and are worth investing in.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.
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