3 Easy Ways To Increase Sales For Your Small Business

Having started my business career using the more traditional bricks and mortar business route I know only too well how difficult it can be to increase sales for a small business. Sadly, nowadays it is even harder for local businesses to survive as more and more of us opt for the more convenient route of ordering our goods online… But are there any “tactics” that small businesses can employ to lure more of us to buy their goods or services?

Mobile Marketing-Promoting To The Converted

Many local businesses miss out “big time” as they waste too much valuable time and resources chasing new customers when the real money (and consistent income) comes from marketing to existing customers. After all, people who have already bought from you will already be aware of the quality of your product or service and providing that the buying experience that they had with you was good, then chances are that they will buy from you again and even encourage others to buy from you as well… They just need a little prompt or reminder that you are still open for business.

One of the easiest and most instant ways to promote to existing customers is to use mobile marketing. Let’s be honest most of us now carry our mobiles with us 24 hours a day and more texts are opened straight away than any other form of communication.

Indeed, most of us now provide a mobile phone number as our first point of contact as opposed to the more traditional landline contact number. Therefore all you small business owners out there need to make a point of storing these valuable mobile numbers and start using them to promote your business via a cheap text messages. Don’t worry of you don’t know how to get started as there are affordable training packages out there that will show you step by step how to set a mobile marketing campaign.

The best way to achieve instant results for your business by using this method is to promote an offer or a promotion. Let’s be honest we all like a bargain so simply offering, for example, a free glass of wine to customers who book a table at your restaurant on a quiet evening will help to attract more business. Even though it will cost you a glass of wine, you will more than make up for it by filling empty tables with paying customers.

Mobile marketing can benefit other small businesses too including texting appointment reminders for businesses like dentists or doctors, luring people into car showrooms via Bluetooth messages, promoting special offer up sells for businesses like beauticians or health spas. There are endless benefits that using mobile marketing as part of your local business marketing can offer, not least of all that it’s cheap, quick and offers instant results.

What Is A Business Without A Good Website?

I am amazed by how many local businesses are still not online. Given the ever growing popularity of the internet, small business that are not promoting their business online are losing out on massive income potential and are passing that business onto other business savvy owners instead.

Creating a website for your business does not have to cost a fortune… In fact some websites even offer free templates that you can use. You then simply need to purchase a domain name and some hosting for your website. If you lack the confidence or knowledge to do this yourself, there are websites out there that offer a way of outsourcing this task to others quite cheaply, simply check out outsourcing sites for that offer that type of service. Often you can put a bid on the outsourcing websites that will invite people to bid for the work. This can be a great way of getting the best value for your money.

Again, there are training packages available that offer step by step training on the best ways to create a website for you business together with the cheapest ways to drive traffic to the website including how to get onto page 1 of Google.

Without a doubt, regardless of what small business you own, it is vital to have a good internet presence to ensure consistent sales for your business.

Business Blogs- Seeing The Bigger Picture

It’s often quite challenging to persuade small businesses to start blogging. They fail to realise that writing a blog can significantly increase sales for their business; most sadly fail to see the bigger picture.

Blogging takes time but if you are consistent, your business will begin to see dramatic results. Blogging for your business can help you to connect with people, especially if you are careful to write in a style that is unique to you and that you offer valuable content. If you are careful to offer useful advice within you blog, then you will help to promote yourself as an expert who people can trust, which will result in the reader buying from you rather than your competitor. It doesn’t matter what business you own, whether you’re a dog trainer, a piano teacher, a shop owner or a driving instructor, writing a blog can offer an affordable and fun way of getting your business noticed.

You can then drive traffic to your business blog by sharing the link to your blog on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. There are also opportunities available, (for a small monthly fee) for small businesses to use existing high ranking blogging sites to promote their business.

These are the 3 ways that I personally consider to be the most effective way to increase sales for your small business. They are methods that I have personally used, with success, within all of my businesses as they are affordable and create instant results.

The Five Most Common Mistakes When Buying or Selling a Business

For most business owners buying or selling their business is a rare event indeed. In fact most businesses owners do it only once, when they exit their business to retire. Like most things in life the first time you do something is the occasion when you make the most mistakes. If you are selling a business you can’t afford to make mistakes because it’s the only chance you’ll get.

When buying a business making a mistake can leave you not only seriously overpaying for a business but having a management headache which may take years not months to put right and in the meantime will seriously damage the prospects of your current business.

It may be some comfort to know that it is not just smaller businesses the make horrendous mistakes, big businesses all too regularly fall into the same trap. I know from personal experience the business I worked for in my last corporate role was purchased by another company and the acquisition almost brought the acquiring company to its knees, because as far as I could see it made two of these common mistakes.

Mistake No 1 Getting emotionally involved with the sale.

Let’s face it, it’s exciting to be buying or selling a business and it requires a lot of management time. For the vendor selling a business there is the prospect of making that exit and having the money to retire. For the buyer there is the undoubted prestige of acquiring a business and the prospect of a big jump in company size or new geographic coverage.

The result for the unwary buyer is that in buying a business they get duped into paying too high a price because they get wrapped up in the chase. For the novice seller the process of selling the business gets dragged out over a long period of time, causing them to take their eye off the day-to-day management of the business, often leading to a downturn in its fortunes and so its ultimate price.

Mistake No 2 Not Having a Walk Away Number

Buying or Selling a business involves negotiation, in order to make sure you don’t pay too much when buying a business or get paid too little when selling a business you need to establish 1. What is the value of the business and 2. What is the maximum you’ll pay or minimum you’ll accept. Once you’ve established this you’ll be much better placed in the negotiation and you’ll be less likely to make mistake No 1.

Mistake No 3 Not understanding the Impact of Culture

This Ladies and Gentleman is the big one, of all the issues that get overlooked culture stands head and shoulders above everything else. Good businesses have strong cultures; their staff have bought into the fact that their way is the right way. Now imagine what happens when these staff are told, that their way is no longer the right way and your way is the right way. Yes that’s right they’ll find every reason to demonstrate the flaws in your system and why your way is not the right way. Worse they are butting up against your staff who are equally convinced that your way is the right way. So you tend either to have a very difficult integration problem because you now have two opposing camps or you have an attrition problem as the staff from the acquired company leave.

The seller will of course say that culture isn’t a problem, because to him it isn’t. Either there isn’t a problem with culture or it’s too late for you when you find out there is as he’s already got his money. Why don’t people address this problem? Firstly because so many don’t even recognise it as an issue and secondly because they have made mistake number 1 and are looking for reasons to buy rather than looking for issues.

Mistake No 4 Underestimating Management Effort

Buying a business is just the first step, now you’ve got to integrate it with the rest of your business so that means addressing, culture, strategy, planning, financial systems, sales, customer relationships a new organisational structure to mention just a few. The management effort to achieve this is considerable even if you have willing staff, so don’t be surprised if it takes 6 months to a year to get it all bedded down. This effort is considerable even if the new acquired company is small in comparison to yours.

Mistake No 5 Buying a business that is too big or too small

This tends to relate to the problem of biting off more than you can chew. Remember the bigger the business you buy in relation to you the acquirer the more political clout it will have and the more concessions you will have to make, and the longer integration will take. The more your management is focused on the acquisition the bigger the risk that they will let your core business slip and then you have a really big management headache, that is, trying to integrate the new business and recover your own.

The other side of the coin is that you waste your money on something too small which won’t payback a recent return on all the management effort required to integrate it into your existing business.

Once you understand these problems you are on your way to avoiding them and making your acquisitions a success and not a millstone.

Starting With the Right Legal Business Type, Sole Proprietorship

When starting your business, one of the things you will need to figure out is the legal form you should register your business as, in order to ensure that you are operating with the correct business profile and level of financial protection to suit your precise needs.

Though not a lawyer, having worked in several countries, across 3 continents, I have picked up a few things that I suspect will prove helpful in your decision making process, and would suggest that you consider some of the following issues carefully.

To start with, in all the countries I have worked, it was clear that there were usually a combination of 3 or 4 legal business types used to legally conduct business. And for the most part the similarities were significant.

The most common of these business types is a Sole Proprietorship. And though these may known by different names, in different countries, they are essentially subject to the same rules, regulations, financial protection and taxation.

So, when considering this business type it is good to be aware of essentially three key features that typically govern this type of legal business form.

1. You are personally liable for the debts of the business

With this type of legal business type, you are the business. This means that the bank can take your house in lieu of a debt incurred to conduct business. If you get sued for something you did wrong in your business, you also stand to loose your personal assets, including your house and car as they are all on the line.

From an operational perspective it means that bank accounts will be in your personal name, as if you had no business. Notably in most countries it would be possible to register a trading name, which you could attach to your bank account in order to receive checks in the name of your business, however it is still you that are on the hook.

One thing to keep in mind though is that even though operating your business as this type of entity exposes you to personal liability, in most countries where this is a serious risk, you are able to insure against liability from suits. And when it comes to debt, the upside is that you can use your personal credit history to conduct business cheaper, which if managed well, should never really prove to be an issue. Just pay your bills and all will be fine.

2. Your business is taxed as if it is you.

Simply put the profits from your business are treated as personal income, and you would declare it as such. You are also able to deduct most of your personal expenses, that relate to your business, from your taxable income, which might mean that if you work from home, a part of your living expenses could potentially be deductible. Essentially the business is you, and for the most part the expenses you incur to earn a living are treated as tax deductible expenses.

3. You are unable to sell the business, you can only sell the assets.

Though for the most part this will not prove a significant issue, it is important to realize that since you are the business, you cannot sell the business. You are able to sell the assets of the business, which may include trading names, stock, customer databases etc. however you have to be aware that to transfer the debts and liabilities of the business, you have to specifically contract that into the sale. And even then it does not necessarily resolve all the issues that may potentially arise, even after the sale of the business.

Here are some of the benefits of this type of business:

1. It usually costs nothing or very little to set up or register.

2. Business operating costs are considerably lower than the other available legal business forms, e.g. your accountant and lawyer will likely cost you significantly less, because things are just simpler.

3. It is easy to setup, and you can start operating your business very quickly.

4. As mentioned above you can rely on your personal credit history for conducting business so this will, initially at least, make things a little easier.

5. It is easy to close down as you simply stop doing business. There is usually little or no cost to shutting down this type of business, except of course for liquidating the assets and paying off debts and liabilities.

In a nutshell, if you are looking to operate a small business with little risk of someone suing you, and you are fine with putting your house up as collateral for your business debt, then this might be the one for you.

And though personally I do not prefer this type of business, either way I would suggest that you do take the time to discuss this with your accountant and lawyer before making a decision.

I wish you all the best with your ventures and invite you to share your comments and stories here.