No one could argue that our world isn’t changing fast—and I don’t mean just technology-wise. Consumers aren’t spending like they once did, manufacturing and shipping costs are fluctuating wildly, and the age of the environment is slowly (finally) being ushered in. On top of that technology has really changed the way people shop, interact and buy – not to mention the way entrepreneurs market their businesses.
Here are ten rules to make sure your business grows and prospers:
1. Find a Niche. For small businesses, it is best to find a niche. A small company with limited resources can efficiently serve niche markets. Concentrate your efforts on a fairly narrow market offering. This entails sticking to what you do best, and becoming an expert in that field. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
2. Be small, yet think big. The most common question of small business start-ups is “How can I compete with my big competitors?“ Small businesses have inherent advantages over big businesses, including flexibility, ability to respond quickly, able to provide a more personalized service. As a small business owner you have the ability to provide that personal touch to your customers that the big guys don’t. Often, that personal connection sets you apart and goes a long way to building trust and credibility with your customers.
3. Differentiate your products. Present the benefits of your products and services to your customers, highlighting the unique solutions they offer to their problems. Avoid being a copycat; rarely do imitators succeed in the market. Sometime you won’t be able to look a potential customer in the face given distance, so you can leverage technology to share your product via your screen and really walk a customer through your offering one-on-one.
4. First impressions counts. You often do not have a second chance to make a good first impression. Everyone you come in touch with is potentially a client or a referral to another client because they are either impressed with you as a person or impressed with your skill at providing a certain service or product. Make sure that you are always presentable, professional in your ways and knowledgeable about your business.
5. Good reputation. Your business hinges on its reputation. It is imperative that you build a good reputation for the quality of your products and support services. Remember that two things guarantee success: high quality goods and superior service. Always aim for quality.
6. Constant improvement. Entrepreneurs know that they should not be rigid in their ways of thinking in their quest to improve their best products and services. You risk being left behind by the fast-paced competition if you cling to the “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking.
7. Listen to your customers. Be market driven: listen and react to your customer’s needs. Customers need to feel that they are important to you because they are! When you focus on your customers and gain their trust, they will not only recommend you but they will also remain loyal to you. Remember, personal recommendation and word-of-mouth are the least costly yet most effective marketing strategy for your business.
8. Plan for success. An entrepreneur should understand the power of planning. A good plan helps you increase your chances of succeeding and can help you define your business concepts, estimate costs, predict sales and control your risks. It tells you where you are going and how to get there. Going into business without a plan is like driving into a foreign land without a road map.
9. Be innovative. Innovate your offerings constantly, keeping pace with technological changes. Challenge the status quo and try new, innovative way to collaborate with your prospects, customers and peers. Keep your eyes open for new ways of doing things, and apply those that can improve the quality of your products and efficiency of your operations.
10. Work smart. As an entrepreneur, you need to possess self-confidence, plus a never-ending sense of urgency to develop your ideas. Studies have shown that the individuals who succeed in entrepreneurship are far-sighted and can accept things as they are and deal with them accordingly. They know how to manage their time, balancing work and play. These people are oftentimes quick to change directions when they see their plans are not working. More importantly, they recognize their weak points and move on to nurture alliances and acquire the skills they need to put their business on the right track. They realize the importance of working smart, knowing that it is not the quantity of work you do, but what you do and how well you do it.
At the end of the day, remember, life is short. Be passionate about what you do!