Growing a small business to success is no easy feat. It takes guts, determination and a relentless will that just won’t quit. As with any new venture, there are risks involved and hurdles to overcome. Though there is no way to completely eliminate obstacles, you can definitely conquer them. Here are five common small business challenges all retailers face, and how to leap past them.
1. Wanting to do it all.
There are so many aspects to running a business – there’s marketing, accounting, fundraising, operations and logistics, advertising, press and public relations…the list goes on. When you’re growing your small business, you may feel pressured to try all of the facets included in each of these business practices.
Not only is it exhausting to wear so many hats, it may not contribute to your bottom line like you think it does.
There are certain tasks you’ll need to do to keep the ship running – bookkeeping, order management and shipping out goods are the cornerstones of an online shop. But before you wear yourself ragged trying every new marketing, advertising or growth tactic, stop and ask yourself, will this increase my sales? If the answer is yes, and you can prove it, then do it.
But if you see a cool new ad opportunity and haven’t advertised on that site, pass. In the future, when funds are steady and you have some room for testing, then try it out.
In the meantime, spend your money and time only in areas where you know you will see a return on investment. Pick one or two marketing tactics – like email marketing and SEO – and focus on that. Build your sales first, then you can do that really cool publicity stunt or guerrilla marketing tactic you’ve been wanting to try.
For new small businesses, simplicity is best.
2. Fear of delegating.
We get it – your business is your baby. Just as first-time parents have a hard time leaving their kid alone with a babysitter, small business owners often face difficulty handing over the reins to an employee or teammate.
You’ve put everything into your business, and you want to be sure others handle it with the same tender care that you do.
Here’s the thing: if you love and regard your small business and want it to grow into a healthy, sustainable company, then you’ve probably hired people who will nurture your company and work diligently to help it grow successful.
You’re in good hands. So relax, and delegate tasks.
If you’re a nation of one and don’t yet have the funds to hire help, try automation tools that streamline operational processes. Inventory and order management software will handle tedious back-end processes and keep a watchful eye on stock, so that you don’t have to. Once you have the funds, here’s a list of 7 types of ecommerce employees to hire.
3. Access to funding.
We’re not all Rockefellers. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most small business owners are not, at this time, independently wealthy.
Growing a business takes money, and you may not have a ton of it. Crowd funding sites like Kickstarter give you a platform to raise funds for your project. Bear in mind, Kickstarter is better suited for creative projects (think fashion, textiles, art, etc.) and you only get to keep the money if you meet your funding goal (which you set) by the deadline (which you also set).
Another option is a business loan. Kabbage is a lender that specializes in meeting the needs of small businesses. They approve loans based on real-life data (not just your credit score), and can issue funds immediately upon qualification. To date, Kabbage has funded over $1 billion to help small businesses grow.
4. High expectations of success.
Listen, being a high achiever is fantastic. You need to have that kind of manic, unstoppable drive to be able to build a small business from the ground up.
However, you also need to set forth realistic expectations for what success may look like in the first few months or years of running your business.
Many SMBs begin their journey in online retail in hopes of achieving the elusive 4-hour work week. That’s great, but don’t expect that overnight, or even in a few years.
Set smaller, more realistic benchmarks for yourself, like growing your customer base quarter over quarter or ranking higher in search traffic for the keywords your products match. Focus on the things that bring you sales – not on whether or not you’re able to quit your 9-5 and buy a luxury jet. Don’t compare your business to others, either. Celebrate the smaller but still important wins, and persevere towards the next benchmark.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur is not a race, it’s a marathon.
5. Stewarding repeat customers.
Online shopping, while growing steadily year after year, lacks the face-to-face communication that a brick-and-mortar store offers. Buying online can feel cold and impersonal for the customer, if you’re not careful.
A cornerstone of growing and sustaining your online small business is creating a loyal following of customers who will shop from you again. In order to do this, you need to brand the buying experience. Optimize your website for user experience, connect with followers on social media in meaningful ways, and customize your packaging.
Start with a few small things, like asking a timely question on your Facebook page and responding to as many comments as possible. Include thank you notes in your packages, or if you’re low on time, insert a custom packing slip thanking them for their purchase instead.
Post testimonials on your website, offer a guest checkout for easy ordering and ship as quickly as you can. Online shoppers tend to have high expectations. Anticipating and exceeding their needs will help you steward repeat shoppers.
Takeaway: Stay Positive
Facing challenges is the reality of running a business. The key to reaching success is being able to overcome them and move forward unscathed. So brush yourself off, kick the roadblock aside and push onward – you’ve got this.