Although the economy has taken a hit due to Covid-19, the success of the vaccine program is pulling the business community out of hibernation. With summer here and spirits high, financial experts are predicting a boom as Britons reach into their dusty wallets. The real winners of this uptake will be those entrepreneurs who know themselves, their product and, most crucially, know their customers well enough to take full advantage. Make sure you have all the tools you need to get planning for the next six months – and take inspiration from whatever works.
1. Shower your customer with love
New business doesn’t always have to mean new customers. Not everyone can be a 3 Michelin star restaurant booked up for months in advance. In fact, your favourite local restaurant probably looks better on paper to the bank. If your local greets you by name, gives you your favourite table and drops the odd round on the house, they know you’ll buy more, tip higher and return. It’s a lot faster and cheaper to tempt an existing customer back.
2. Put your customer to work
People are ready to spend – so make sure they spread the love. Referring a friend and gaining a discount, or some sort of advantage, is tried and tested. Plan for this carefully though, and review feedback regularly, because done well, you can also turn this into an upsell that improves existing customer relationship.
3. Lean into the negatives
No parent enjoys hearing their child criticised. Likewise, if you have spent years building your SME from scratch, the truth can hurt. But you can’t let personal sensitivity get in the way of growth. If you listen to that criticism from the start and respond, your business will grow stronger and faster. The people who will give you the greatest insight into your weaknesses are your customers, so listen to their feedback. Nothing is unfixable and your customers will thank you when issues are dealt with quickly.
4. Find the right advice
Unless you are the second coming of Steve Jobs, it’s highly unlikely that your business is absolutely unique. You’ll be following in the footsteps of many other entrepreneurs before you – so make the most of their experience: it’s a lot quicker than figuring it out yourself. Five Guys didn’t invent the burger, but they did the UK fast food offer with incredible success. Consult widely and build a contact list with breadth and depth. You can never know too many people in your sector, and you can learn a lot of lessons outside it too.
5. Set micro targets for growth
A year is a long time in business, and as we all know from the pandemic, anything can happen in that time. Of course, you need long and medium-term targets, but don’t forget about the time in between, or it can fall fallow. Every customer base is built one at a time. Plan your time well and set realistic short-term targets for sales. Be extremely specific if you need to be and review regularly.
6. Gain new exposure through collaboration
Done well, this can be an extremely quick way to increase your reach. Social media makes links and partnerships immediately visible – and in a crowded marketplace, sometimes the less obvious the better. The fashion industry has to reinvent itself every year, and collaboration between brands is standard practice where stand-out is everything. If there is a positive message to be found in there, so much the better. The partnership between NASA and Lego benefitted both parties and helped inspire a lot of children.
7. Know your personal strengths and weaknesses
Running a small business is demanding because all aspects of its function are really down to you. Play to your strengths, but don’t avoid dealing with your weaknesses. If you are a planning whizz with a social media phobia, you need to address the gap. Think about who you know (it need not be a formal ‘business’ contact) and reach out. You aren’t going to get better at what you avoid, and instead of growing, your business could plateau.
8. Keep current and stay relevant
Back to customer loyalty again. Corporate social responsibility is now so much more than a box-ticking exercise, and many brands (great and small) have been caught off guard by the implications of their operations on social issues. For Gen-Z, brand values are at the top of the priorities list, and this goes for employment as well as customer choice. Gaining a young customer is very lucrative in the long term.
These are just some of the ways you can build growth quickly, and there’s been no better time to do it for 18 months. Good luck out there and enjoy the boom.