The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Tips

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Finance

Generating Capital 

Take out a loan

A small business loan can be a great way to finance your business to take it to the next level. With a solid business plan and profitable model, most banks will be happy to lend you money. 

Get a credit card

Credit cards are extremely useful for small businesses. Managing cash flow can be difficult at times, so having the ability to delay a payment with the help of a credit card can really come in handy. 

Ask friends and family

Your friends and family may be one of the best places to go for a small loan or investment. They've known you for a long time (or all of your life!), they know that you're trustworthy and they know that you've got a good head on your shoulders. 

Try crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter

Crowdfunding has rocketed in popularity over the last few years, and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. If you've got a unique product or a quirky brand, you may see some success by trying this out.

Allow product pre-sales

If you've got a product that you want to bring to market - and this will work especially well with crowdfunding - show off the idea and a prototype, before allowing product pre-sales. The 

Seek angel investors

Angel investors use their own disposable finance along with their expertise to help small businesses flourish. Whilst they hope to see a good Return On Investment (ROI), many are in it for the pure satisfaction of seeing a new or small enterprise succeed. 

Look for venture capitalists

Quite similar to angel investors, there are many venture capitalists out there that would also be willing to invest in your business in order to help it grow. The difference between the two is that venture capitalists will typically be much more focused on how much money they're going to earn out of it. Typical investment figures are higher too. 

Apply for Government grants

Government grants can be a fantastic way to generate additional capital. It's in the country's best interest that your business succeeds, so the Government are always looking for new ways to boost growth in new businesses. 

 

Saving Money

Be environmentally friendly and energy conscious

Being eco-friendly isn't just good for the planet, it's good for your bank balance too! The less energy your business uses, the less you'll be charged. 

Work from home

Working from home means you won't have to invest in office space, and you'll also be able to save some money on your bills at home as you can track them as business expenses. Two birds, one stone! 

Keep track of ALL costs – they’re tax deductible

Ensure you keep a receipt of every single business expense you ever have. Petrol, milk for the office and more will all help to reduce your tax bill at the end of each year. 

Get friends and family to help

Need a hand with some work? Get your friends and family to chip in! Who knows, they may even do it for free - as long as you buy them a drink or two at the end of the day.

Be reluctant to give credit

Making relationships with new clients or customers is essential for businesses, but this doesn't mean you have to give credit just to win them over. Allowing '30 day credit' might be standard procedure for bigger businesses, but it can lead to cash flow problems - particularly when you're a smaller company. 

Learn new skills rather than employ

Only employ someone if you really need to. Don't employ someone to carry out tasks just because you can't or don't want to do them. Do the dirty work where it's needed and you'll be rewarded in the long-run. 

Improve your ability to negotiate

Standing firm or being creative when it comes to negotiations is essential - getting the same product or service for a better price will help your business to succeed. Good negotiators are confident and assertive, but not arrogant or rude. 

Shop around for a better price

You don't always have to buy from the person or company that you're negotiating with. Shop around, you may find a better price and a better service. 

Buy used equipment

Do you really need a brand new, top of the range printer for your small business? Sure, it might print things out in ultra HD, but when you're sending letters or invoices to people that feature really isn't necessary. A second-hand printer from a reliable brand would be just as effective at getting the job done, and would be much cheaper too. 

Make use of free software

You may not always need to purchase expensive software in order to do your job. There are almost always free - or cheaper - alternatives. For example, rather than splashing out on Photoshop for your design work, you have online options like Pixlr or Canva

Start small – you don’t need a dream office until you’ve earned it

Your dream office can wait until you've made it big. You've likely got years of hard work to do first!

 

Accounting

Record all costs and sales from the get-go

When you're starting out, it's easy to go with the mindset of tracking your finances once things have picked up and once you're in full swing. Don't do this! Always track from the beginning, you'll thank yourself in a month or two's time when you don't have to go back and dig out all of your old expenses.  

Get a good system in place

What day are you going to do your finances? Do you have time set aside whilst at work, or will you have to do it of an evening? Planning and organising in advance, and having a concrete system in place, can allow you to manage your finances - and your time - much more efficiently. 

Outsource your financial work to an accountant

If you simply can't get your head around your finances or don't have the time to devote to keeping on top of them, you may want to consider outsourcing your financial work to an accountant. It may be pricey, but it's one less thing for you to worry about. It also allows you to reallocate your time to other areas of the business. 

Get a place on a free HMRC workshop

In the UK, you can learn about tax returns on a free workshop run by HM Revenue & Customs. They'll also teach you more about self employment, PAYE, VAT, self-assessment and more.

Ensure you budget for tax

Remember, not all of the money you bring in is profit. Ensure you've budgeted correctly for things like VAT.

Set up a separate bank account for your tax

To make it easier for managing finances and tax bills, you can set up a separate bank account. You can then set up a clever little direct debit that will automatically move 20% of each incoming transaction into your 'VAT' account. 

 

Marketing

Online

-Website

Purchase a simple, memorable domain name

If you want your website to spread via word-of-mouth (hint: you do!) then you won't want a confusing or long - or both - domain name. Keep things simple, short and avoid using hyphens.

Buy a hosting package from a reliable provider that will assist in basic setup

It doesn't cost a fortune to get your website up and running - not even close! Find a reliable hosting provider in your country that can help you get set up if you need it. Search for reviews, check they guarantee 99.9% uptime and ensure they have a good support team on hand 24/7. 

Create yourself a cheap website using WordPress

You don't have to splash out mega bucks for your small business's website. All you need is a WordPress installation (your hosting provider should be able to assist with this for free, if needed) and you're on your way. WordPress is extremely easy to use, and you can install a theme and get your content live in under a day! 

Choose a mobile-friendly WordPress theme

In this modern age, having a website that works seamlessly on any device is a neccessity. Not only because users will find it easier to browse and purchase, but also because Google rewards websites that are mobile-friendly with higher visibility in their search results. 

Keep things simple, not flashy

Your website should be simple and effective, getting your message across in as few words or pictures as possible. Keep things static and succinct - it's a business you're advertising, not a fairground. Unless you actually run a fairground business, of course. 

Try to avoid high website costs unless you’re an online store

Unless you want to be selling thousands of products on an e-commerce store, you can keep things reasonably cheap. Using the aforementioned WordPress setup, you could get your site online in a rapid time on a very small (or zero) budget. 

Prioritise your website goals – education, lead generation, sales, email signups…

Don't try to make your website do everything. Keep it extremely simple, and focus on one thing. Do you want more leads? Point everyone towards your contact form wherever possible. 

Improve your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Being visible within Google is extremely important for your business nowadays. Recommendations and word-of-mouth used to be huge for businesses, but there's not much need for this anymore when someone can quickly Google businesses in their area on their phone, and have hundreds of recommendations within a second. 

Maintain a consistent brand image

Choose a couple of fonts, complimentary colours and the style of image you will be using - these need to remain consistent across your site and across your business as a whole. 


-Social Media

Post frequently, whilst being engaging and responsive on social media

Maintain a high - but not overbearing - volume of posts on a daily basis. Depending on the type of business you run, a different number of post will be sufficient. A typical target you should be aiming for is 5-10 posts a day, 7 days a week. Respond to customers in a friendly, timely manner. 

Start small and slowly extend your company brand        

You don't need to sign up and follow thousands of people straight away, tweeting 200 times asking people to follow you. Start small, grow organically and be clever in your tactics to attract new followers. 

Use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule social posts in advance

Worried about how you're going to post so frequently, even when you're not working? Fear not. With tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer or more, you can schedule your posts in advance. This means you can always be online - even when you're not! 

Set up searches to monitor mentions of your brand name

Use a tool like Mention that will constantly monitor the web for mentions of your brand name, and will email you to tell you exactly where and when you were mentioned, too. When you're mentioned - good or bad - you have the chance to respond to say thanks, or to help resolve an issue in an extremely quick time. 

Refrain from trying to sell

Social media is there for interaction - it's not a sales platform. Don't try to sell to your customers. Keep things light-hearted, fun and interesting. This way, your followers will enjoy following you. In turn, this leads to higher brand recognition and the higher chance that they will purchase from you, or use/recommend your services in the future. 

Measure your results and tweak your strategy

Keep on top of your strategy. What's working on Twitter? What isn't working on Facebook? Constantly learn, adapt, refine and improve. 

 

-Reputation Management

Respond to social media complaints in a friendly way

Always be polite and friendly, no matter how irate or rude your customer is being. Remember, social media is - for the most part - all public, meaning everyone can see how well, or poorly, you're responding to complaints. Most people understand that mishaps happen from time-to-time, it's how you deal with them that matters most. 

Interpret whether comments need a reply – a reaction can go either way

Not all mentions on the internet require a response. It depends entirely on the circumstances and the nature of the mention, but it's an important judgement call to make. If someone is angry or disappointed with your service, you'll always need to respond. If someone is delighted, they may require a quick "thanks!" - depending on the platform you're on.

If people are talking on a forum about how wonderful your service is, there's no need to sign up and chime in; simply take their praise on board and continue to offer great service. 

Be understanding when responding to negative reviews

Remember - the customer is always right. This is especially true when everyone can see every word spoken between you and your customer on social media. This doesn't mean you have to give in to every demand, but be calm, understanding, helpful and polite - even if you ultimately end up saying no. 

Ensure that positive reviews of your company show highly in Google

When people search for your company, you want to show that you're trustworthy. Ask satisfied customers to leave you a review on a site like TrustPilot, or Google+

Be transparent – be clear in your policies

Describe your company policies clearly on your website, in a place that customers will be able to find them if they need to. Don't hide them away, and keep them from being long and confusing. 

Ask for help if necessary – don’t jump into decisions

Sometimes, following your instinct when you see a bad review of your company can lead you into a nightmare situation. We all say things we regret in the heat of the moment - but you can't let yourself do this when you're running or working for a business. Don't rush into a response, take a few minutes and ask someone else for their advice if neccessary. 


-Offline

48) Business cards

Take business cards with you wherever you go.

49) Keep them simple

Make sure their design is kept as simple as possible - they don't need to be Da Vinci standard of art, they just need to be effective in their message. 

50) Make it easily readable

Ensure all of your text - which should be kept to a minimum - is clear, concise and easy to read on the background. 

51) Ensure colours match your brand

Your brand should be aligned in every piece of your marketing assets, and your business cards are no different. 

52) Utilise both sides! Imagery on one, wording on the other

Double-sided business cards are underused and underrated. Make the most of the small opportunity you have with each card!

53) Forget borders – printing is never 100% precise

Don't design borders around your business cards, and be sure to keep wording and important imagery away from the edges too. 

54) Thin business cards are like a limp handshake; the thicker the better!

Don't cheap out by purchasing the cheapest business cards you can get. 

 

-Leaflets

55) Attract attention

The most important part of your leaflet is to attract someone's attention; you don't want them to throw it away without even looking at it. 

56) Generate interest

After getting someone's attention, you want to keep it - give them a reason to keep reading or want to find out more. 

57) Ask the recipient for an action

The final thing you need from a reader of your leaflet is for them to take action: do you want them to visit your website, call you up, order from your catalogue? Give your leaflet a primary focus and goal. 

58) Less is more – keep wording brief

Just like with business cards, don't use a single word more than you need to. 

59) Size – A6

Keep leaflets to A6, they're small enough to go through letterboxes easily, but big enough to fit enough information onto. 

60) Use a lightweight paper with silk finish

Slim, silky. Easy and light to hold. 

61) Consider how you’re distributing them

If you want to post thousands of leaflets through people's doors, you'll need to consider how you're going to do this: post them yourselves over the course of several days/weeks? Or hire someone else to do it?

62) Use an envelope to boost engagement

Using an envelope is proven to boost engagement, because people are eager to open it and see what's inside. 

63) Insert a promotional code to track results

Tracking the ROI of any marketing campaign is essential, so give an exclusive discount code away on leaflets to boost sales whilst also being able to identify where the sales have come from. 

 

-Events

64) Number one priority: define your target audience

65) Plan format, content and location around your target audience

66) Don’t forget the little details; lighting, refreshments, parking etc.

67) Have a clear business purpose in mind

68) Prevent conflicting with bigger industry events

69) Be flexible – always have a backup plan

70) Forecast the finances and stick to your budget

71) Target sponsor donations

72) Detail how you will attract visitors to your event

73) Define a solid reason for why people should turn up

74) Never assume the benefits of your event are obvious

75) Talk to the media

76) Use Twitter hashtags (but don’t spam them!)

77) Get local bloggers involved

78) Incentivise other local partners to promote you

79) Use online registration forms to get an idea of numbers

80) Give early-bird signups a discount/bonus features

81) Make sponsors feel like royalty

82) Ask attendees for feedback

83) Remember that a positive attitude is contagious

84) Practice your presentation time and time again

85) Look your best at all times

 

-Other Low-Cost Offline Marketing Ideas

86) Network at high profile events

87) Offer to speak at other industry events

88) Offer a free service or consultation

89) Make use of a newspaper’s classified ads

90) Attend meet-up groups

91) Exchange services with another business

92) Join your local chamber of commerce

93) Create a referral scheme to spread via word-of-mouth

94) Turn your car into a mobile billboard

95) Provide sponsorship for local sports teams

96) Offer your product as a prize for local contests

97) Hold a competition

98) Offer a discount to a specific group of people

99) Send cards to your regular customers on special occasions

 

 

HR

-Staff

100) Consider whether you can outsource tasks before employing

101) Referrals from friends can be a great way to save on recruitment

102) Look for candidates used to working in small companies

103) See if you can take on an apprentice or an intern

104) Employ someone strong in areas that you are weak

105) Create an employee handbook

106) Give consistent feedback and rewards

107) Wise up on employment laws

 

 

Customer Service

108) Respond to every customer that contacts you

109) LISTEN!

110) Be quick and efficient in your responses

111) Embrace feedback and use it to better your company

112) Ensure you have great teamwork across the board

113) Empower your employees so they make correct decisions quickly

114) Monitor industry forums for feedback – but don’t react to criticism

115) Overcompensate for mistakes

116) Always apologise if you’re in the wrong

117) Realise that some people are never happy

 

 

Sales

118) Invest in a CRM

119) Ensure you have a mobile CRM for when you’re on the move

120) Prioritise your leads – start with the most likely to convert

121) Research ahead of all meetings

122) Don’t set unnecessary deadlines on yourself

123) Never appear desperate

124) Exude confidence

125) Be the expert – you are one!

126) Only sell to the decision maker

127) Nail assertiveness for negotiations

 

...And a bonus tip: always be organised with your business document storage

Call us now: 01949 831 781

Whitefields Storage Ltd, Tithby Road, Bingham, Nottingham, NG13 8GQ
Tel: 01949 831 781  Fax: 01949 836 500  -  Office: 09.00 to 17.00 Monday to Friday
email:sales@wdstorage.co.uk   web:www.wdstorage.co.uk