Scaling a business is difficult at the best of times. In a volatile economy, just staying afloat can feel like a daunting task. The fact remains, however, that unless a business is growing, it's falling behind. The good news is that new and powerful tools are at the fingertips of entrepreneurs who are willing to learn from experience. Here are three powerful tactics for improving your business in the coming year.
1. Leverage the Power of Automation
Probably the biggest story in business technology over the past few years has been the rise of robust artificial intelligence (AI). Advances in computer complexity and data storage (most notably cloud computing) are enabling robust and portable AI systems with a diversity of business applications. In most cases, automation technologies serve to streamline business processes that are otherwise time-consuming and fraught with error. Customer relationship management (CRM), for example, can be done offline with phones and a Rolodex, but without the accuracy of digital accounting systems, there's a risk of dirty data or simply a lack of critical information. Where there's a lack of accuracy, there's also often a lack of efficiency.
Speaking of efficiency, if the ROI of your marketing campaigns always seems too low, consider how automation could help. Outreach through text and email has a tremendous return on investment, to the tune of $42 to every one dollar spent on an email campaign according to Constant Contact. That's due in large part to the fact that emails and SMS messages can be created and sent cheaply via sales automation software. It's always worth finding out if robotics could be handling the drudge work while human staff focus on creativity.
2. Refine Your Market
Selling to consumers is impossible without knowing them. Good marketing research is about far more than just having your finger on the pulse of the culture; you need objective statistics in order to plan targeted marketing campaigns. Consider having a link to a survey somewhere on your home page, or send them out as part of an email campaign. Don't forget to study demographics too. For example, if you're selling solar energy, find out what the regional level of concern about climate change is and tailor outreach accordingly.
If this isn't enough to hone your focus, consider fully embracing micro-niche or even nano-niche marketing. With such a diversity of communities and cultures out there, cornering a very small market of loyal customers can be the path to sustainable success. A vintage store has to compete with every other shop in the city or the internet, but that same store marketing itself to a particular aesthetic (like dark academia or steampunk) could quickly become the go-to source of products for that subculture.
3. Embrace E-commerce
If you haven't already done so, that is. Many if not most businesses have some online presence including options for online purchase and delivery. That number is only going to grow; in fact, Nasdaq research suggests that by 2023, 90.8% of all purchases will be conducted on retail websites; Statista's study seemed to confirm this trend, with e-commerce already totaling over $4.2 trillion in sales volume worldwide in 2020.
Even if your main center of operations is brick-and-mortar, it's worthwhile to sell through e-commerce platforms like Amazon or Ebay just to reach more potential customers. Here's where it's especially important to remember your niche and focus on branding to meet cultural expectations. A good example of this done well is the site Etsy. A quick look at the iconography and use of color by the platform's designers makes it clear that their target demographic is the DIY and vintage crowd. Sell your products on platforms that are most likely to get attention from your particular market. Always remember that customers tend to take a path of least resistance to purchasing items, so make shopping as convenient for them as you possibly can.
There's no single magic bullet for challenges affecting a business. That being said, there are always a few things you can start doing right now to help your business thrive under any circumstances.