Own a Small Business? These 5 Things Can Mean the Difference Between Success and Failure

The work and dreams that go into getting a small business off the ground are exhaustive, and there’s no doubt that you want to do everything within your power to ensure your business succeeds. So, what sets a successful business apart from others? Is there a formula that promises to give your business better odds of success?

Here, we look at five factors that can mean the difference between success and failure.

1. Filling a niche

One of the most important moves you can make before ever opening a business is research. The goal is to find an unmet (or undermet) need in your area. For example, if you’re hoping to open a daycare, find out how many daycare centers there are in your area and if those places have waiting lists. If you want to open a plumbing business, learn how many plumbers you’ll be competing with.

You may not end up owning the only business of your type, but you don’t want to be in a field that’s so crowded that it will be difficult to stand out.

2. Effective marketing

A busy world is like white noise, blocking out all but the loudest messages. Your customers (and potential customers) have a lot on their minds, making it easy for them to forget about all your business has to offer. While it may feel needless to spend money getting the word out early in your business, not getting the word out can spell doom.

According to Mailchimp, most small businesses spend between 2% and 5% on marketing. If you’re bringing in $5,000 per month, that means you can plan on spending between $100 and $250 toward your marketing efforts. Marketing includes everything from banners to mailed fliers and print ads.

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Marketing is an investment in your business, so naturally, you can spend more if your budget allows. The more people who know about your enterprise, the more likely you are to have a steady stream of customers.

3. Happy customers

Excellent customer service is a gift that just keeps giving. Once your business has provided it, you can expect word to get out. However, just as rumors of excellent customer service get around, so do stories about less-than-positive customer service.

Customer service boils down to this:

  • Know your stuff: The more information you can share about your goods or services, the more empowered your customers feel.
  • Keep it positive: Everyone has a bad day, including customers. No matter what’s going on, practice keeping your responses positive. A positive attitude can turn even the most sour customer around.
  • Become a team: If a customer comes to you with a problem, team up with them to find a creative solution. Don’t be afraid to talk it through with them and make them part of the process.
  • Make it quick: Let’s say you own a candle shop, and a customer complains that the wicks are burning down too quickly. As soon as you hear about the problem, begin researching a solution and reach out to the customer with your plan. No one likes to feel as though they’ve been put on the back burner.
  • Make it personal: Everyone wants to feel like more than a number or a tool you use to put more money in your business checking account. Treat everyone like the individual they are, giving them personalized attention.
  • Be an active listener: Show customers that you hear them when they call or visit. Actively listen to all they say. Even if you don’t agree with it all, respect their thoughts and feelings. Chances are, you’ll hear something that sparks an idea or provides you greater insight into what they really need.
  • Follow through: If you make a promise, deliver on it. When you keep your word, you show your customers that you respect them. In return, you build trust and goodwill.

4. The ability to embrace change

One thing you can count on in life is change. Technology changes and customer preferences change. The best you can do is keep up with the trends and understand that your business will have to change with the times to keep up.

If what you’re attempting to sell is sitting on shelves collecting dust, it may be because the time for that product has passed and it’s time to move on to something people want, need, and will pay for.

5. Passion

If you’re not passionate about being in business for yourself, or if you find that customer satisfaction ranks low on your priorities, it will show. As your business grows, conduct an occasional gut check to ensure you’re still wild about your business. If not, find ways to make small changes that will help you feel that spark again.

Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most courageous things you can do, but also one of the most satisfying. The icing on top is when the business you’ve worked so hard to create becomes a hit with a faithful customer base.

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