Key Targets for Small-Biz Success

May 12, 2009

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There is no doubt the mettle of entrepreneurs has been tested lately. While many remain resilient, others could stabilize their business by considering these strategies.

The current economic downturn has made it difficult for businesses of all sizes.

The following strategies could help stabilize small businesses during tough times but, they may also help small-business owners improve their companies in any business climate.

Clarity and Focus Marketing coach Ken Partain writes on American Express OPEN's OPEN Forum that having clarity and focus are key to having a successful business during a boom or recession. Partain advises business owners to be clear about their ideal target market and how their products will benefit their clients. "When you are clear about what you do and who you serve, the prospects can easily determine if they are a match for you," he adds.

Along with clarity, small-biz owners must be focused on their strategy for matching their products to clients and keeping money flowing. This way, they are not expending energy in multiple directions and can achieve what they set out to do.

Have an Eye for Opportunity Be open to new markets. According to Visa Small Business' March Spend Insights newsletter, small businesses are responding to the downturn by reaching out to new markets and increasing cold calling efforts.

Susan Reid, a business coach and consultant, suggests on American Express OPEN's OPEN Forum entrepreneurs "cultivate an eye for opportunity." Some strategies for reaching new markets are co-marketing with complementary businesses, focusing on emerging markets or expanding services and product lines.

Bootstrapping One of the best ways to thrive during a recession is "to do exactly what you should do anyway: run it as cheaply as possible," says programmer and author Paul Graham on his Web site. "The cheaper your company is to operate, the harder it is to kill." One way to cut cost is by looking at bills and statements and asking if these expenses help to get or keep customers, Small Business Trends recommends. If they don't, it may be time to cut these expenses out.

Re-think Pricing While experts disagree on whether to cut prices during the downturn, what small-business owners ultimately decide will make a big impact on their business. Reid recommends avoiding price cuts if possible, as "it's more difficult to raise them later. ... Keep your rates constant." Instead, she suggests offering different payment options or repackaging products to be able to provide a lower price point.

However, if discounting is necessary, check out today's 5 Tips for Discounting Prices.

DIY Marketing To generate business, companies must get in front of potential clients. "Build your reputation," Reid recommends. "Experts get more attention ... [and] get the lion's share of the market. Being an expert means your cash flow will increase, you can command more for what you do, and more people will be willing to buy from you."

At the same time, small-biz owners can send marketing messages directly to customers or take advantage of the Internet to get the word out about their business, Small Business Trends advises. Companies can post videos on their Web sites to show off their products or services; plus, Google likes video content, which increases the likelihood of a company's Web site being found online. Adding a forum section on the company Web site not only lets current customers talk to each other and with the company, but can also foster word-of-mouth advertising.

Decrease Product/Service Offerings Depending on the company's strategy, decreasing the product or service offerings can be an effective way to generate revenue. By cutting products or services with little value, companies can focus on their core products, allowing them to differentiate themselves and maintain (or increase) price points for what they do best, Small Business Trends suggests.

Check on Customer Service Customer loss is the last thing businesses want to occur during a recession. One way to prevent clients from walking away is by having good customer service. On the American Express OPEN Forum, venture capitalist and start-up guru Guy Kawasaki suggests owners test their customer service process and the user-friendliness of their Web site and support systems.

Kawasaki lists 10 ways to do this HERE. Also, see How to Give (and Know You're Giving) Good Customer Service.

Once the recession is over, practicing sound business strategies should not be forgotten. Small-business owners must continue to stay on top of their costs, expand their market share and constantly work to maintain, if not grow, their businesses.

Resources

3 Things Every Small Business Owner Needs to Survive and Thrive by Ken Partain American Express OPEN Forum, Dec. 24, 2008

To Lay Off or Not Lay Off. That Isn't the Question by Susan Reid American Express OPEN Forum, March 9, 2009

Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy by Paul Graham PaulGraham.com, October 2008

Top Small Business Marketing Trends for 2009 by Ivana Taylor Small Business Trends, Jan. 16, 2009

Visa Small Business Spend Insights Newsletter Q4 2008 Report Visa Small Business, March 2009

10 Tiny Things Every Small Business Owner Should Do in 2009 by Guy Kawasaki American Express OPEN Forum, Dec. 31, 2008

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