Small Business Saturday Blog

How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28Inspiration | Planning | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Credit: pexels

My typical approach when faced with adversity is to see every problem as having a solution. This healthy attitude helps me problem solve, and prevents me from wasting any time. These days, you are spoilt for choice with resources and advice that can help you navigate the testing first few years of your new business. This advice is useful regardless of what vertical you are in, so keep reading for some advice on how small businesses should act when faced with challenging situations. 

Don’t panic – find a solution 

As a small business owner, you are important as the leader of the team. A lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. One of these responsibilities is the need to stay calm under pressure. Panicking will hinder you from staying level-headed and coming up with a problem to your solution, and it will make your employees stressed too.

Problem #1: Insufficient funds to make necessary investment 

Financial problems are common in businesses of all sizes. However, your finances may be a little more unstable if you are just starting up. It’s commonplace for businesses to make a loss until their third year. You need to pull up all of your data and analyse it thoroughly to determine where the leaks are in your ship.

Are any of your accounts or departments operating at a loss? Perhaps your clients aren’t paying you what you truly deserve for your services?

Here are some points for you to consider if you are running into financial hardship:

● If you feel you deserve more money for your products or services, consider showing your clients the great results you have delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, within reason.

● Are there any projects or product ranges that just don’t yield enough of a profit margin? Take a look at this article for inspiration on ways you could cut costs, from shopping around for the best deals on your overhead costs, to embracing cloud technology.

● Have you thought about diversifying into different lines of business to supplement your existing revenue? Maybe selling your product offering online will help you generate the revenue that you need to grow? This is so easy to do – there are a lot of online store creators on the market for you to get set up in a matter of hours. Take a look at start up favourite Shopify, popular among SMEs thanks to its premium designs.

● Securing funding might be what you need to do when all else fails. This article has more information on these sources of funding, including loans and grants.

Problem #2: No time to make important changes to your business 

credit: Pexels
 
As a small business owner, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work and responsibility that comes your way. You need to be realistic about your workload and manage your time effectively. Here’s how:

● Delegate the tasks you feel can be handed on to your employees, once they have received proper training. This will allow you to focus on the big picture task of growing your business.

● Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well will help you stay focused and productive, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks

● Luckily, there are plenty of time-hacking apps available to help you with your time management. Toggl is great to keep track of how long tasks are taking you, and Rescuetime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Give these apps a try make your days go further.

The most important thing about the problems you face is to see every experience as a valuable lesson.

Make sure that you make a report for every problem you face and document exactly what your solution was. Offering your employees guidance on how to implement solutions is key here, too – communicating effectively with them will save you from encountering the problem again.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing consultant and freelance writer, working with large brands to help them blossom. She loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with the world and encouraging entrepreneurial dialogue.

Three helpful ways your phone can reduce paperwork

Monday, June 12 at 10:56Digital | Plan | Planning | Small Business | Small Business Saturday


Paperwork is the eternal enemy of the small business, stealing valuable desk, shelf and cupboard space throughout your office and offering little in return. For a business like ours, paperwork can quickly get out of hand, become disorganised and cause havoc when we need to find one particular document.

The good news is that it doesn’t take a company-wide restructuring effort to seriously reduce your paperwork. Taking simple steps can drastically reduce the amount of paperwork you generate. Since we all carry a smartphone around with us, I thought I’d look at three easy ways you can use your phone to reduce your paperwork.


#1 Scan Receipts 

Go back to the mid ‘90s and a lot of small businesses would have had a similar expense filing methodology: Take your receipts, shove them in a drawer and hope you never need to find any specific receipt again. If your expense were ever queried, it was a mad scramble through boxes, cupboards and old storerooms in search of an elusive slip of paper that, in all likelihood, had been eaten by a mouse.

Thankfully, things are a bit easier now.

Filing is super easy in the digital era. If you use any new accounting software, there’s probably an option to snap a picture of your receipt on your phone and upload it to the service’s records. Alternatively, if you don’t have a subscription, you can snap pictures anyway and upload them to a free cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox.

 It doesn’t have to stop at digitising purchase records, either. Get snap happy with your phone and scan invoices, payslips, utility bills and everything else for easy reference and peace of mind.


#2 Electronic signatures

If you’re dealing with someone over a long distance, signing a document can be an absolute nightmare. You print it, sign it and fax it over. They then sign it and re-fax it to you. Suddenly, there’s three pieces of paper in the world when you only needed one.

With electronic signatures, however, you can streamline the whole written agreement process, cutting down on both paperwork and wasted time. And with e-signatures set up on your phone, you can sign documents from anywhere in the world!


#3 Ditch your paper black book

A lot of businesses and business owners still swear by their black books and I’m not going to try and dissuade you if you use one. However, huge paper diaries stuffed with extra notes, letters and messages are a thing of the past and will almost certainly disintegrate or surprisingly disappear if you give it enough time.

Digitising your black book and saving it to your phone provides substantially more flexibility and security, ensuring you have access to all of your contacts, notes and communication wherever in the world you are.

About the Author - Gary Easton cut his teeth working at one of the Big Four auditors KPMG. However, a few years ago, Gary decided that SMEs deserves a better service and left to found Tax IQ, a specialist SME accountant based in Edinburgh.

A Beginners Guide to Corporate Wiki

Friday, May 20 at 17:17Digital | Planning | Quick Guide | Top Tips

In the business world wikis have begun to boost performance and overall client satisfaction as they provide various functions and assist multiple goals. Maybe the Wiki concept you have in mind is associated with Wikipedia but it´s important to understand that it´s not the same thing starting from the fact that they pursue very different objectives.

In order to understand the concept, let's begin with a simple example which I´m sure is common to any type of organization: A project was recently started and team members began to search for past experiences and relevant information only to find that experiences had not been properly recorded and that information remained in the PCs and personal file servers of previous team members. Step by step set of instructions that explained: what to do, what you should have done and what needs to be avoided is not readily available for the team so they start from scratch and along the way they begin to encounter the very same roadblocks.

The above example is a common scenario for organizations that don't have a centralized place for information and experiences to be stored. What's worse is that resources are wasted as teams invest time doing things over and fail to reach consistency. Even client expectations are juggled as this sort of practice does not reinforce what your brand stands for. So what can be done about it? How can we avoid those angry reinventing the wheel moments and help teams incorporate best practices and important information?

Corporate wikis are a great place to start as they provide various functions in order for team members to store and co-create content together. In this sense it´s important to mention that the Wiki experience is different from having intranets as they are more dynamic and users are at the center of the strategy as they are responsible for curating and creating content across the company.

Wiki software also allows you to create FAQs, manuals and other form of vital information which can also prove to be extremely helpful in the service desk sector in order to assist client requirements. For example, ticket handling and calls can become stressful when customer agents have to attend the same requirements over and over again while clients are put on hold and have no early and proactive access to information. Wikis can centralize important product or service information so that clients can search for answers themselves which in turn helps create a better customer journey with little to none bottlenecks.

Wiki software comes in many forms and prices. Open source options are available but they have one basic problem: you need extra coding hours in order to customize it so that it suits your company´s identity and security patterns. You might also have existing software and programs, so having a Wiki that can integrate with them is a must in order to avoid multiple access points. Evaluating content reuse is also important so that you can have a clear idea of what information is valuable in terms of customer service and projects. This can also help you spot trends and insights regarding your customer´s behavior. So, being able to incorporate tools such as google analytics is great.

Existing SaaS companies like ProProfs, incorporate these functions and have the advantage of being cloud based which helps reduce costs associated to storage and maintenance.

From the above we can clearly perceive the benefits of having wikis as opposed to losing valuable information and not being able to reach out properly to customers.

These type of benefits are not just meant for big business, on the contrary if you start from day one when your company is small, meeting new challenges and growth won’t be a problem since everything will be properly centralized and structured. The challenge is bigger when companies start when they are already big as the amount of information and experiences to be handled will also be greater.

In this sense make the right decision and embed wikis in to your company´s culture from day one!


"David Miller is an educational researcher who has several years of experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. Currently, he is pursuing research in online knowledge base software and is also a contributing author with ProProfs."

10 steps to launch your pop-up

Tuesday, July 21 at 10:04Planning | Retail Space | Shop Share | We Are Pop Up

Hundreds of independent retailers are hosting pop-up brands with We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare as a way of forming exciting collaborations, pooling their resources and creating a buzz about their business.

In our last article we spoke about how to make sure that brands and retailers find the right match. This time, We Are Pop Up has put together the top 10 steps for brands for launching your own pop-up, to break down the process into a go-to checklist for starting your own temporary retail space.

1. Pick a space

Choose your space wisely, as the location is very important. It should not only suit your budget, but also your brand identity. Find out how far it is from the nearest station or transport links. You want plenty of foot traffic, but make sure it’s the right demographic for your products and price point. Check out the surrounding area, including the neighbouring businesses and the passers-by. Do they match your audience and style?


2. Think about finances

Your budget and the amount of stock you have tend to be defining factors for how large your pop-up will be, its location and its duration. Start with your budget and work backwards. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to top up your budget, and sites like Kickstarter and Crowdfunder are two of our favourites at We Are Pop Up - they can help get financial backing for your project, while also building a community that will be passionate about your concept from the start.


3. Promote your pop up

You need to start promoting early to create a buzz around your pop-up. This can even be before you’ve confirmed your space. Be sure to use a combination of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to target your specific audience. Contact any relevant magazines, bloggers and local press to tell them about your concept and launch date with plenty of notice so they can get you in their busy schedules. Drop us a line at We Are Pop Up too so we can put the word out about you on our channels.


4. Tickets

If your pop-up is a ticketed event, use a company like Billetto or Eventbrite to deal with your ticketing. They take away the admin headache and it’s also a useful way to increase the visibility of your pop-up on a platform with an established audience.


5. Design a store that works

Think about colour, layout and theme. It is important to stay true to your brand identity, but a pop-up is also an interesting way to experiment with the message you want to send; create a unique experience and tell a story. Use Pinterest for inspiration - why not start with We Are Pop Up’s Top 10 mood boards to see how other businesses have done it. Layout also has a significant impact on sales - where you place a product in the shop and how it is displayed can be a defining factor. Did you know 64% of products are sold from eye level within a shop?

Hint: take a look at We Are Pop Up’s top tips for visual merchandising and building your brand story here.


6. Test, listen and iterate

Set out your key aims for your pop-up and measure them daily, be it sales, new social media followers, press coverage or otherwise. For sales, try out different products in your shop - pay attention to how customers interact with your items to find out which are the strongest performers on your shop floor as well as what’s not working. From this you can decide what to highlight and what to rotate, to help refine future choices.

It’s also important to speak to your customers. How did they hear about you and what do they think of your pop-up, product range, in-store experience and so on? Not only can you gather valuable information and feedback about your concept, but you can also learn a lot about your consumer base itself in terms of their experience and expectations.


7. Collaborate

Think about how you could join with other small businesses to enhance the overall experience of your pop-up. We Are Pop Up’s ShopShare provides a way to quickly and easily create concession stands, or even form your own micro-department store. Ultimately it allows you to pool resources and extend your reach by accessing the extended community behind each brand.


8. Set up a workshop

Consider creating an interactive element like an in-house workshop or studio, maybe even as part of a ShopShare. From our experience, having this element in the window of your pop-up can increase sales in the shop by 800%. It enables you to demonstrate a product’s unique selling point directly to an engaged audience and also tells the story behind your business in real life.


9. Follow up

Don’t forget, it’s not all over when the pop-up closes. The fortune is often in the follow-up. Collect customers’ contact details in-store and communicate with them regularly beyond the life of your shop. Can you give them a discount flyer to encourage them to repeat buy on your website or come to another event? Keep them up to date with your news, and invite them to the next pop-up.


10. Evaluate and learn

The beauty of a pop-up is that it is an opportunity to experiment, test and learn. Be bold, and take risks. Then afterwards, focus on what went well and what didn’t - learn from any mistakes and plan how to build on successes in your next one. Finally, get back in contact with We Are Pop Up and we will be on hand to take you to the next stage.


Final Thoughts

Launching a pop-up is a tried and tested way to grow your business, get a new brand concept off the ground, test new markets or create a buzz about your next project. There are new pop-up space opportunities daily for you to explore on wearepopup.com and with planning, collaboration and an eye on these top tips for launching, every small independent business can achieve pop-up success.

How to: create a small business marketing plan

Tuesday, May 12 at 15:55Marketing | Planning | Small Business


Are you a small business without a marketing plan? We’re sharing 5 quick tips on how to get started and create a marketing plan that works!

Why is a marketing plan so important?


A marketing plan is the driving force behind your sales. Without a plan in place, your marketing activities will likely be sporadic and inconsistent, generating ineffective and disappointing results. Not a good approach if budgets are tight! Ultimately, no plan = a weakened sales effort.

A well-thought out marketing plan will keep your business on track to achieve defined goals. It will ensure that your marketing activities are carried out in a controlled way (within budget), and that your results (and profits!) are maximised. That’s what we want!


5 quick tips for a winning marketing plan


One: Plan and co-ordinate

A truly effectively marketing plan will deliver results when it is aligned with a wider business plan. Don’t have one? Don’t panic! Even if you just have a skeleton business plan, be clear on your business goals and what you are looking to achieve within the next 12 months. Clarity at this level will shape your marketing plan and ongoing activities, helping you to meet (or even exceed!) your business objectives.

Two: Know your audience

Define, research and locate your target audience. Go beyond the usual demographics and really try and understand your target customers. What are their motivations, aspirations and needs? How and where do they consume media and information about products and services? Research doesn’t have to cost you money – there are plenty of free DIY market research options available to you.

Three: Be clear on your brand positioning

Your brand positioning will be a key ingredient that adds life to your marketing communications. Think about the genuine benefits that your business offer customers and why should people buy from you (over competitors). Dedicate a window of uninterrupted time to creating a concise, unambiguous description of what your business offers. This exercise will also help you to develop your elevator pitch and feel confident introducing your business to prospective customers, business partners or investors.

Four: Know your numbers 

How much profit do you make on each sale? Before you can allocate your marketing budget, get comfortable with how your business is currently performing and where potential growth opportunities are. How big are these opportunities? This information (combined with your business goals) will help you allocate your marketing budget and significantly impact your success. Remember that even a modest marketing investment can achieve great results if invested wisely.

Five: Embrace SMART goals

A winning marketing plan will include very specific, goal-driven measures for each activity. The goals for each of your planned marketing activities should be ‘SMART’:

Specific: well-defined

Measurable: know if the goal is obtainable/know when it has been achieved

Agreed upon: agreement with all stakeholders as to what the goal should be

Realistic: within the availability of knowledge, resources and time

Time-specific: defined time period in which to achieve the goal

Review, test, adapt

A marketing plan should be seen as an evolving guide that helps you to shape your marketing decisions. To be successful, ensure that you regularly refer back to your plan – review, test and adapt your marketing campaigns - and don’t leave your carefully crafted marketing plan gathering dust!



Paula Hutchings is the owner of Marketing Vision Consultancy. Recently featured in The Times, Paula works with a wide range of small businesses and start-ups- helping her clients to engage with more customers and to grow.


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