So you’ve taken the plunge and finally decided to open your own coffee shop. It’s everything you envisaged when you set out at the beginning: organically grown, Fairtrade coffee imported from Tanzania; deep, cushiony sofas your customers can get lost in, à la Central Perk; a small band of loyal regulars that you serve day in, day out.
But for some reason, your little coffee shop is never all that busy. From the branch of the multi-national coffee chain across the road the mermaid on the big green sign stares mockingly down at you as customers flood through their doors at all hours of the day. All you can do is sit there and think: This S****ucks!
In this situation, you can get angry or you can get even. Small business-owners need to be learning constantly from the successful businesses in their industry, even if they’ve found a niche and are trying to stand out.
Here are five key lessons that you should take on board when you’re running a young, growing business:
Number 01 – Know your audience
If you’re unsure about what type of person is walking through the door to your shop or landing on your website, then how are you ever going to create the perfect proposition to entice them into making a sale? From marketing products using the right channels right through to having the right payment methods at the checkout, major companies have conducted extensive research on who their customers are and what they want. Investing in smart analytics tools, devising rewarding loyalty programs, and having a strong social media presence can help you to understand who you’re selling to and, more importantly, how you can improve your approach.
Number 02 – Be an innovator
Small businesses entering a congested marketplace need to take an innovative approach in order to muscle their way in and convert customers to their brand. This can take obvious forms like new products, quirky customer experiences and outside-the-box approaches to problem-solving, but there are additionally lots of small ways that you can attract new customers through innovation. You could, for example, start accepting cryptocurrency payments alongside traditional currencies, or create a completely digital customer journey through your brick-and-mortar store. Many big companies don’t shy away from taking risks and being market disruptors, and start-ups should adopt the same attitude.
Number 03 – Identify new market opportunities
Starbucks, despite being the villain in this particular article, should be commended by the way that it identifies patterns in markets around the world, and adapts its product offerings in order to benefit from local tastes. Spotting trends in new markets, before adapting your products, services and operations to suit consumer preferences, will make your business more efficient and create new revenues streams you didn’t know were possible. For online businesses this means providing familiar, local payment methods that are popular in different countries and which make the checkout process simple for customers.
Number 04 – Provide flawless customer service
Having large-scale support networks is a luxury that big businesses can afford, ensuring instant help and support to all of their customers. Start-ups don’t have the resources to compete on this level, but they should still adopt a customer-focused mindset instead of a competitor-focused one. Amazon, the biggest retailer in the world, could save heaps of money by reducing its support function, but instead you can get through to an advisor within minutes, 24/7. Build loyalty by making sure that you take the time to solve every problem throughout the customer journey.
Number 05 – Flexibility is key
Large, successful businesses have grown because when opportunities and obstacles have presented themselves they’ve been clever enough to adapt their approach and surmount whatever is in front of them. Start-ups need to learn that the utopian vision they have of their business may need to be torn to shreds for success to be achieved. The mobile tech giant Nokia originally set up as a paper mill in Finland in the 19th century. Now, 150 years and a few million games of Snake 2 later, it has completely transformed itself – and is still in a state of constant flux as it reacts to customer preferences of 2019 and beyond.
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