So you want to own your own small business, eh?
It’s a very attractive idea, especially for those who have spent the entirety of their working lives working under someone else. The idea of setting your own hours, writing your own company guidelines, working from home, and potentially making thousands of dollars from a company you started yourself is compelling, but the reality is that (especially in the middle of a global disaster like the pandemic) the business world is very cold and inhospitable, likely to chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t careful.
In whatever industry your new company is attempting to establish roots in, you’re likely going to be up against competitors who have had time to let theirs grow deep, and you’ll be competing for an increasingly limited resource: the attention and devotion of customers.
What is to some an old and tired metaphor is to others a visceral, inarguable truth… In a capitalistic, post-pandemic economic landscape, “it’s a jungle out there.” And you’re likely to be caught in the traps of others if you don’t have a fair bit of market knowledge and if you don’t learn from the examples of those who have failed before you. In a constantly changing economic landscape, success comes to those who know how to follow market trends and avoid commonly-known pitfalls.
For business owners entering the marketplace for the first time, consider this your survival guide. Here are a couple of common mistakes that small business owners make that can bury your business beyond recovery if you make them in this increasingly competitive market.
Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing
If you’ve been in the business world for a while, you may have certain preconceived notions about the efficacy of traditional marketing techniques, such as posting ads in the paper, sending advertisements through mail, or writing jingles for network TV. You may believe that solid marketing is as simple as effectively and clearly stating your business’s purpose, as well as the value you can provide to customers.
However, recent trends show that (especially in the wake of the pandemic) customers are migrating to digital spaces at an accelerated rate, and the most lucrative opportunities for advertisement are now on social media sites like Facebook and TikTok. Instead of relying on more traditional methods of advertising, you will want to get ahead of companies that are still relying heavily on these techniques, not recognizing the potential in digital advertising. Following the model established by companies like Duolingo and Wendy’s, you should have accounts on every major social media platform and create content that is both entertaining and informative. The more meme-able your ads, the more likely they are to get in front of millions of eyes, and the more likely your brand recognition overall will skyrocket.
Limited Staff? Take Matters Into Your Own Hands
In the beginning, you’ll likely be running on a skeleton crew, with little money in the budget to hire professionals to take care of essential functions like payroll and filing taxes. While you could always spring for hiring personnel to take care of your finances, you should never outsource what you can do yourself; take online classes instead, and you will be able to do the work of two people yourself. While educating yourself will still require you to spend some money, it will save you money in the short term, as spending money on an online class will likely cost less than a salary with benefits for a new employee.
Failure to Keep an Eye on the Competition
At every stage of your business’s growth, you should be aware of what your competitors are doing right and wrong. How low are their prices compared to yours? What kinds of social media techniques are they using, and are customers engaging with them? What kinds of promotions are they offering, and how are they taking advantage of our currently-remote environment to cater more effectively to the customer’s needs?
Your competition should act as a barometer of sorts, letting you know if what you’re doing is as effective as it could be; knowing what they’re doing and what has succeeded will allow you to capitalize on their success, whereas knowing what has failed will enable you to avoid similar pitfalls.
It’s a tough market out there, and often small businesses get swallowed up by more prominent companies even if they’ve managed to survive the impact of the pandemic. But by avoiding these common pitfalls and staying abreast of current trends, your chances of surviving these tough times will go up and up.