Belt-tightening is getting old. We‘ve heard a lot about it in the last few years and I’m tired of it. Besides, you can only tighten so far. But there are ways to increase revenue and cut costs without inflicting pain on you, your employees or your customers. In fact, some of these may open doors to new opportunities and new ways to grow.
Let’s look at actionable ideas, things you can do without getting a loan from your uncle.
1. Talk to employees. Ask them what they’ve heard on the sales floor, on the street, or in the break room. Any ideas for more efficiency? What’s selling? What’s not? Is this an opportunity to do a special promotion to clear out slow-moving products so you have room for the hot items? What are customers asking for that you haven’t got? Any ideas for new marketing tactics? You may have a FourSquare or Groupon user in the warehouse who can show you how it’s done. New products, new marketing techniques can give your revenue a jump start.
2. Talk to customers, in your store or online. If you have an enewsletter, ask for feedback. Do a survey of your email list or through social media: What would you like us to carry? What could we do better? What do we do well?
3. Take a stand. What do you want people to associate with your business? Are you more environmentally conscious? Concerned about sustainability of the materials you use? Chances are your customers care about these things. This may be an opportunity to tie your values to your marketing. More and more consumers want to buy from a socially responsible, values-driven companies.
4. Do you use social media? If not, check them out. Lots of free user-friendly instructions at each site (Facebook, Twitter, etc., as well as free webinars). Spend a few hours getting up to date. Do you know what Groupon, FourSquare and other business-attracting applications are and how you might use them?
Do you think you could take a tiny dip in the social media pool? You want to get your name out there where potential customers see it. There’s no better way to do that than through an effective social media program. Social media are also great for improving customer service, which translates into customer loyalty and more sales. You can find out what customers are saying about you, build on the good stuff and respond quickly to any complaints.
5. Leverage your assets. What about special relationship-building offers and freebies? American Express offers Facebook ads in exchange for reward points. If you are using a charge card, why not take the opportunity to try out Facebook ads? You may discover a whole new way to market without spending any extra.
Can you offer special relationship-building promotions to your customers? Look around for partnership possibilities? Can you band together with other businesses to have a “shop in our area” marketing event?
How’s your technology? Are your employees getting the information they need to serve customers well? Could you save money or increase sales by upgrading technology? Yes, I said that these would be suggestions that didn’t require a loan from your uncle, but it may be that a new phone system could cut your monthly bills … a lot. Or that a customer management system could increase repeat sales.
6. Find a cause you believe in and support it. Do you support your local Little League? Are you conscientious about recycling and reusing? Speak up and let your customers know that you care. Make your values part of your business image. If you don’t have a relationship with a nonprofit, look around your community. You don’t have to take on world hunger but you could donate time, goods or money to a food bank. Or give employees time off to help out. Or give in-kind services. What do you do that a nonprofit might need?. Successful entrepreneurs build “giving back” into their business plans. It works!
Yes, I know these all take time and time is money. But that old saw works both ways: Time costs money but, when used wisely, it can make money. Invest a little.
Have you reassessed your business lately? What did you find? Were you able to find new ways to grow?