Opportunity awaits small business owners in 2022; but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be easy.
The beginning of the year has already proven to be a bit of mishmash of positives and negatives for business owners. On a great note, the grip of the pandemic appears to be waning, the small business economy is poised for massive acceleration, and small-business loan approval rates are expected to rise throughout the year. On the downside, supply chain issues are still dogging production, historic inflation is out of control, and an unenthusiastic labor market just kind of doesn’t want to work anymore.
While all these issues are telltales of continuing volatility, universally almost every small business can benefit from focusing on those things they can control. And it all boils down to creating connection and engagement throughout your business.
Prioritize Customer Experience
Throughout the pandemic, customers simply learned to adjust to the new normal of often mediocre engagement and lackluster service, even with the businesses and brands they most admired. Everyone it seems set their customer experience expectations low as industry waded through the struggles of lockdowns and other mandates. Purchase orders sometimes sat in limbo, calls often went straight to voicemail, and customer relationships ultimately suffered.
To stand out in 2022, reimagine ways to enhance your customer experience. Consider reworking your Company Vision into one that takes a customer-centric approach. Speed up response times and enhance efficiencies in your customer service capabilities. Perhaps restructure your return and exchange policies to be more customer-friendly.
Personalization is a big customer-focused trend as we move forward. Let customers interact with your business on the communication channels they prefer; be available by phone, in-person, on video conferencing, in a chatbot, or through social media messaging.
In short, make your customer experience be guided more by their wants and needs than by the status quo.
Attract the Talent You Need
The volatile labor market and an under-enthusiastic workforce have made hiring and retaining talent incredibly challenging for business owners over the last 24 months. While employee ennui is at a historical high, attracting new talent and retaining your team is imperative to the success and growth of your business.
While wages are certainly an important part of the equation, monetary compensation isn’t the sole driver of employee acquisition. Attracting talent truly starts with creating a company culture in which people want to work.
So roll up your sleeves and engage with your current employees. Ask them what they like about working for your business, what they perhaps don’t care for, and what their dream working environment looks like. Leverage that information to start shaping and molding your company culture into something special.
Realistically, you will never be able to suit everyone’s vision for your company, but opening up the conversation is a great start. For smart ideas and further insight into acquiring the talent you need, read “Making Your Business Incredibly Attractive to Jobseekers.”
Picture this. You are unable to deliver a product to your customers because a part is on backorder. People are getting frustrated, and you are plagued by calls and complaints asking what gives. If you are like many business owners, you provide some pat response like “Sorry for the delay, we are experiencing supply chain issues.” And leave it at that. Then the customer just sits and waits, seemingly indefinitely, with very few answers and very little clarity - until they just move on to your competitor.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, consider transparency.
By taking a forthcoming and transparent approach as reasonably possible, customers feel valued and are therefore more likely to remain loyal to your business.
In our hypothetical scenario above, a simple explanation says a lot. “We are waiting on a late shipment of widgets from Singapore. We expect them to arrive next week. Should there be further delays, we will reach out with some options we feel might best suit you.”
By taking a transparent approach in your communications, you show respect for your customers and fortify those relationships. Consider this transparent communications model with all key stakeholders in your business.
Leverage Social Media
Social media is an exceptional tool for building your brand identity and connecting with your customers. But all social media isn’t created the same, so being on the right platform is essential.
If yours is a B2C company, your social media efforts may be best suited on Facebook, Instagram, or perhaps even Pinterest. If you are a B2B company, your best bet is to stick to LinkedIn.
But regardless of your audience or your channel, it is important you don’t dilute your brand message with noisy photos of your office parties or silly memes. Instead produce meaningful posts and attractive graphics that relate to your target and create opportunities for engagement.
Social media should be considered a key branding tool in your business, not a marketing afterthought relegated to entry levels or interns. Stay on-brand and on-message, while posting regularly, professionally, and with polish.
As we continue to gravitate toward the next-new-normal, communication and authenticity will be key differentiators as your business competes for market share. By creating authentic opportunities for conversation and engagement with your customers, employees, and key stakeholders, you are better positioned to distinguish your business in a crowded field and elevate your brand to the next level.