“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” Wise words by John Allen Paulos which seem more relevant now than ever.
Economic cycles, supply chain disruptions, and geopolitical factors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to external forces that affect your business. On top of this, the global pandemic’s lockdowns and social distancing measures heavily impacted small business operations in 2020 and 2021.
The only absolute certainty is that you’ll face significant business challenges at some point. Whether you made it through COVID-19 or are just starting up, the following small business tips will help grow faster in the new normal.
Play the 2-minute video overview and read on for the in-depth details below.
1. Know and understand your customers
Buyer behaviour changed rapidly throughout the pandemic. Shoppers were not only purchasing in new ways but also from different places. McKinsey reports that across four countries surveyed, 40% of consumers switched brands or retailers during the pandemic. Whether in the B2B, B2C or D2C space, it’s crucial to understand how your customers and their expectations are evolving.
Tools like Google Analytics can bring new insights into what’s resonating with your customers. Their time on page, bounce rate, and other behavioural data will give you solid data on what they like and dislike.
Surveys will give you more tailored and specific information. Applications like SurveyMonkey and Typeform make it quick to set up surveys and start capturing information. Use email campaigns, social media, and your website to get surveys out there and start collecting the information you want.
Don’t forget about the good old conversation when it comes to understanding customers. Consider running a company-wide blitz on actively asking customers for feedback. With a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, everyone can log information into one system and make it easily reportable.
2. Showcase your expertise
Social proof is a powerful way to build trust in your company. A few efficient ways of creating this proof include:
Ask your happy customers for testimonials. All you need is a few sentences from them to build social proof, which you can use on your website, newsletters, marketing content, and more. Particularly in the B2B space where your customers are constantly busy, it helps to provide a few suggested variations as examples to speed things up.
Think about video testimonials if they’re suitable for your business. In the new normal of video meetings, your testimonials don’t need to be high-budget professional productions. Video conference recordings have become more accepted than ever as content that can promote your business – and your expertise.
Case studies work as engaging stories that show how you’ve helped similar customers solve common problems. There’s more opportunity for readers to relate and form an emotional connection with your business with a case study format. On the flip side, they take much more planning, research, time, and commitment to create. If you’re stretched for resources, look at whether you can outsource your case study creation to get them turned around quickly.
A recent Gartner report shows that 85% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That represents a huge opportunity to boost social proof (and sales) by getting reviews working for you. You can encourage happy customers to leave their reviews on sites like Trustpilot and Product Review. Also, set up a Google My Business account so that people searching for your business can see your details and reviews.
3. Ask for referrals
A proven way to lower your cost per customer acquisition (COCA) and improve customer lifetime value (CLV) is to acquire customers through referrals. According to a study, Do Referral Programs Increase Profits, CLV of referred customers was 16% higher than non-referred customers.
Before asking for referrals, identify who your best customer advocates are. The ones who like your company and have good experiences to share are the perfect customers to initiate referral conversations. Make sure you’ve demonstrated a high amount of value to those customers, so they feel it’s a worthy exchange bringing you potential new customers. Also, ensure you have a great relationship in place. Get to know your referrers and build rapport, which will make referral conversations much more natural.
For more ideas on how to ask for referrals, see HubSpot’s in-depth guide.
4. Social media scheduling and automation
Social media is snowballing in effectiveness at reaching and selling to new audiences. Oberlo reports there are 3.78 billion social media users worldwide as of 2021 – a five per cent increase from just 12 months prior.
Social content is now faster and easier to create than ever before. Instead of managing each social platform manually, powerful digital tools like Canva will help you create, schedule, and publish social content across multiple channels quickly and easily. Applications like Sendible also let teams manage calendars, work collaboratively, and provide in-depth reporting on what is or isn’t working.
If you want a complete end-to-end marketing automation solution, HubSpot is an excellent option. The platform includes a full social content calendar, email marketing, automated nurturing, advanced reporting and more.
The use of these social media scheduling and automation tools will help you grow your audience without spending hours managing each channel manually.
5. Increase collaboration with tools for the “new normal”
Workplaces and how they operate were revolutionised during the pandemic, as businesses were forced to work remotely where possible. The positive realisation many have since come to is that remote work can increase collaboration, help employees work more effectively, and support fast business growth when armed with the right tools.
Video conferencing applications like Zoom and Google Meet that helped teams stay connected and collaborative during lockdowns are now the “new normal” of communication in hybrid environments. In addition, cloud file storage and sharing platforms like Sharepoint and Dropbox are helping businesses work cooperatively regardless of where employees are located. ERP systems like NetSuite even bring secure role-based access to all core business functions to operate your entire business remotely, using cloud technology.
Most companies now have a toolkit of cloud applications that keep everyone productive and collaborative – no matter where teams are working.
6. Make inventory management more efficient
Effective inventory management can take a lot of time and effort to get right. Many companies start off using spreadsheets to track inventory – after all, it’s a familiar technology to most that’s easy to pick up. Spreadsheets get messy very quickly, though. As your business grows and inventory increases, it becomes impossible to efficiently track back-orders, expected stock levels, and re-order points without a degree in formulas and functions.
The reliance on manual updates and processes also limits scalability and drives up the risk of errors. There are only so many hours in the day to update data manually, and fixing data errors eats up even more time.
An inventory management system gives you complete visibility of your stock position, back-orders and commitments, and demand estimations. Cloud-based systems update everything in real-time, which is particularly helpful if you display stock levels on your website or customer portal. As a result, your customers will always see live inventory information – which also removes the need to check by calling or emailing.
A proper inventory management system can streamline your business, save you a lot of time, and put you in a position to scale.
7. Leverage automation to do more with less
Attempting to scale without efficient processes can be disastrous. As orders increase, bottlenecks become more evident and slow things down – when you should be speeding up instead. The more you can leverage automation, however, the more smoothly your business can operate.
Think about the manual, repetitive tasks your team is doing every day. What needs human intervention, and what doesn’t? When thinking about the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule), which 80% of operational tasks are only generating 20% of your outcomes? Focus on those tasks to save time and do more with less.
Start by implementing simple automation, such as email auto-responders to acknowledge customer queries and set expectations of when they’ll hear back. Then, when you’re ready to save serious time, consider cloud-based ERP solutions like NetSuite. A cloud ERP system streamlines and automates processes and delivers in-depth insights from across the business. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is a consolidated system that includes inventory, warehousing, supply chain, procurement, sales and CRM, marketing, and more. NetSuite cloud ERP can automate everything from holding min and max stock levels to accounts payable and receivable automation. Find out 9 Key Areas of Your Business to Automate for more ideas.
Bonus tip: work with the right technology partner
Working with the right technology partner is just as important as choosing the best systems to help your small business grow faster.
When it comes to ERP systems, an experienced ERP partner will tailor a solution to your needs and focus on the outcomes, not just implement the software. This type of technology partnership should be long-term and continue providing value well into the future.
DWR delivers the tools to amplify success; by bringing the right ERP technology, process framework, and team of business experts together. The team has executed 250+ projects on time and to budget. The cloud ERP experts form lasting relationships with their customers, consistently looking for ways to add value to new and existing implementations.
Talk to an ERP expert at DWR about your unique challenges and ideal business operations. They’ll give you the advice and ideas you need to grow your business faster in the new normal. Take the next step to leap ahead.