As a small-business owner wearing many hats and managing the day to day of business it is important to take a step back, look at the big picture and continuously work on your business rather than in your business. Seems like the same thing? It's not.
Working in your business means performing the core functions that your business is built upon. Working on your business means ensuring you have systems, strategies and goals in place so you can effectively analyze the results you are getting and gather the necessary information to change and improve your performance.
For those needing a little help thinking big, here are seven steps:
1. Get comfortable with your numbers. A common mistake for small business owners is to view finances through an emotional lens, meaning they either look at them with fear when times are tight or delight when business is booming. However, looking at finances from this standpoint means you will miss important information such as what and why things are working or not working. Instead be open and curious with your finances. When you are constantly curious -- in both good times and bad -- you will always be learning and thinking constructively on how you can improve your business.
2. Know your assumptions. It is important to clearly define and understand your assumptions. You must know what your assumptions are so you can monitor your results and adjust accordingly. If you aren't reaching your projected numbers you can then compare the actual results to your assumptions and see what needs to be changed.
3. Ensure continuity of sales. Making the initial sale is only the first step. Once you have converted a prospect into a customer you must then work to keep them as a customer. It is far more cost-effective to retain customers than it is to gain new ones. Bundled packages, loyalty rewards programs, referral systems are all great ways to keep customers engaged in your business.
4. Have consistent marketing. Marketing is the relationship your business has with your customers - advertising, promotions and sales are all functions of marketing. Line up all your promotional material, business cards, e-mail signatures and online profiles and make sure they are consistent.
5. Target your communication strategy. If you're taking to everyone, you're talking to no one. Fear of missing out on some customers is a common mistake in marketing. The whole point of effective marketing for small businesses is to exclude some people. Laser in on your target market and talk only to them. You will inevitably attract other people as well, but they are not your focus. Don't get distracted and try to widen your net until you have dominated your niche target market.
6. Connect with your customers. One advantage small business owners have over large corporations is the ability to create a personal and emotional connection with your customers. People connect with stories, passion and people going after their dreams. Make sure you are sharing yours with your customers. A powerful way to stay in a daily conversation with your customers is through social media. Find out what social media outlets your customers are on and connect with them there.
7. Remember your business is not about you. Your business exists to make a difference in lives of your customer. This means you must think not in terms of why you want to sell your service or product to them, but why they want to become a customer and how you are going to make their life better.
Michelle Shemilt is the founder of Nudy Patooty, an eco-friendly undershirt line for women that protects womens clothes from everyday damage and reduces dry-cleaning costs. She also writes weekly on entrepreneurship and personal development on her blog www.michelleshemilt.com.