The 10 Biggest Challenges Facing Small Businesses

There are many problems that are encountered by business owners throughout the course of managing their business. All entrepreneurs must be prepared for solving problems that come their way. However, creating a startup is not an easy task.

New entrepreneurs are usually not prepared for the problems coming their way. The first thing to do is to understand that problems are an everyday part of every business and then face each problem with determination and a proper solution.

Here are some common faced problems in new businesses and their solutions.

1. Money
Money is known to be one of the major causes of problems that can lead business to failure. For a new business, the biggest mistake is expecting instant profit. Young and eager entrepreneurs start up a business with little money, assuming they will earn big and then invest that money again in their business. It is significant to understand that you cannot get an instant profit at the start of your business. Experts advise not to expect much profit for at least two years. Always prepare for the worst case scenario. Before starting a business, ensure that you have enough money to sustain you at least up to two years. Start slowly and patiently.

2. Time
The phrase ‘time is money’ holds true, especially for a business. It is essential for new businesses to manage their time wisely. Planning everything in advance and ensuring everything is done on time is very important for the prosperity of any business. Ensure the schedule you are making is achievable and stick to it. Give yourself enough time to perform a task with accuracy. Plan your future projects. Make adjustments accordingly. Utilize calendars and planners to make sure you don’t miss an appointment or a deadline. Spending time effectively can actually save you money and even earn you more revenue.

3. Lack of Knowledge/Skills
This is one of the top most mistakes made by entrepreneurs. It is important that you have ample knowledge about the industry you are entering, your competitors, your target market, current trends, advertising and marketing techniques as well as financial know-how. You must possess the skills needed to start up a new business. If you are not prepared, educate yourself. Do proper research, ask other business owners, read relevant books and websites. You may end up with a huge loss if you start your business without having the required knowledge and skills.

4. Information Overload
The only thing constant is change! This phrase is true as well as change is continuous and we witness it happening all around us. Today, information keeps changing. New facts and data keeps emerging and replacing old beliefs and trends. Due to this information overload, it gets difficult to find effective solutions. It becomes a challenge for a new business to sort through this data and come up with good decisions. However, one easy solution is to look for the authenticity of the data. Check its references, and the writer. Learn to use keywords to narrow a research topic. Start asking successful businessmen about their experiences. Learn from them.

5. Lack of Direction and Planning
This problem prevails because of not creating a thorough and detailed business plan. Many young entrepreneurs are so excited about setting up their very own business that they fail to prepare a proper business plan. It helps in focusing on the goal and mission of the business. It determines the financial situation of the business, the roadmap to follow, market research and analysis of the competition. A business plan is basically an investment to your business.

6. Working in the Business rather than Working on the Business
Usually entrepreneurs get so worked up with the paperwork, satisfying customers and doing all the necessary things in keeping the business running. They fail to fulfill some other equally crucial tasks. It is important that you take a day or even a few hours to analyze your business. Determine which area needs attention, do an inventory review, review cash flow of your business, review payrolls and employee benefits. It is also important to update your corporate minutes, your contracts and your agreements with stakeholders annually. Hold meetings with your managers and other employees to connect with them.

7. Innovation
Unfortunately, there are many new startup companies that stick to the age old book rules. They don’t try to create an innovative culture, even majority of the big businesses struggle with innovation. People get accustomed to the work culture and they don’t think outside the box. Businessmen and employees stay away from change and resist whatever changes that take place in the company. The best thing to do is to be open to innovation. When bringing a change, ensure that all your employees are prepared for it. Discuss it with them in a meeting, tell them how important it is to be innovative, make them understand how beneficial it will be.

8. Trying to Do It Alone
Coping with everything alone is also one of the most common mistake new business owners make. They believe that they can manage everything and don’t need any advice or help form anyone. Initially, they do seem to be successful in this strategy as the cost is low since they handle everything. However, as the work starts growing gradually, the workload takes a toll on the new entrepreneur. Mistakes start being made and the quality of work starts decreasing. You may even start losing customers soon. This is why this strategy is not successful in the long run. Hiring two to three employees is more beneficial for a start up business. It is better to pay a small amount to your workers than lose double the amount in the future.

9. Getting Clients
For a new business, it is difficult to attract prospects and retain customers. With a small marketing and advertising budget, new entrepreneurs are unable to reach out to a wider audience. Potential customers are usually hesitant to going for a new business. They prefer going for companies that have experience and a large customer following. However, the good news is big companies charge more. There are many clients and customers who are looking for companies that provide cheaper, but good quality service. Providing excellent service to them will ensure that they remain your customers and even recommend you to others.

10. Poor Marketing
Apart from a detailed business plan, a marketing plan is also important for any business. Once you have a clear idea about your target market and your competition, you can allocate a budget for advertising and promoting your business and decide which medium to advertise through. You can also decide your product pricing through target market analysis. Make sure you that your pricing can be easily afforded by your target market and that your advertising effectively reaches them.

12 Metrics Your Small Business Should Be Tracking

Okay, you have implemented all strategies that you formulated for increasing your sales and achieving business growth. Now it is time for the rewards to reap in. But what if this is not the case? How can you be sure all your strategies were effective and played out well?

There is only one way to do this. You must track your progress and you can do this when you keep a close tab on your business metrics. So which of these should you take a note of? Here are the top 12.

General Business Metrics

1. Sales Revenue
Sales is the income that is generated when customers purchase your products and services. Needless to say, this metric should always rise upwards, but you must still track it regularly so that you can gain a deeper insight. Correlate your data with costs incurred in marketing, product improvements and other similar expenses. More advanced metrics like return on sales, asset turnover ratio can also be utilized if you want to measure your performance in the market.

2. Customer Loyalty
How can you get your clients to become loyal? By enticing them to buy and later on encourage them to do this in increased quantities and more frequently. Later, these people will be promoting your services on your behalf. But how do you do this? Treat them just the way they like. Get feedback from them through surveys and polls, and act on it. Stats claim that if your customer loyalty increases by 5%, your profits can shoot up between 20% and 100%.

3. Customer Acquisition Cost (also known as Cost per Acquisition or CPA)
The cost of customer acquisition is a value that reflects the costs incurred to get a new customer. You can get this value if you divide the total of your acquisition costs by the number of your new customers. Once you do this, the resultant value will reflect if you are marketing campaigns are effective or not. As time passes and you build your brand image, this metric must decrease.

4. Operating Productivity
Productivity is a very important factor for any business. You must know the potential of your (virtual) staff and you must ensure that they are giving you their very best. If that is not the case, it will be difficult for you to manage your operations and you may also face financial difficulties. Here you can also include the cost for the online tools you use in your business. Needless to say, your productivity figures should continuously rise in any given period.

5. Gross Margin Size
The gross margin is the difference between your revenues and operational costs. This is often expressed as a percentage. The greater this percentage is, the more you can retain on every dollar and enjoy increased profits. When your volumes increase, your efficiency should improve and your costs per unit should go down. Until this happens, you cannot really cash onto more profits.

6. Monthly Profits and Losses
There are many people who regard profits to be the difference in operational costs of a product and the price a customer pays you for it. This will never give you an accurate value. Instead, you should include all the fixed costs as well such as mortgages, taxes, utilities and your employer’s salary. There are two main ways with which you can increase profit: charge a higher price or reduce your operational expenses. Studies claim that if your profits are less than 60%, it will be difficult for your business to grow.

Online Marketing Metrics

7. Conversion Rates
Website development and building an online presence requires time, energy and expenses as well. Since you spend so much, you must get something in return. Conversion rates can give you a true picture of your effectiveness. Conversion rate is the ratio of visitors who generate an action on your website to the total number of visitors. This action can be anything like registering for a newsletter or buying your product. The higher the conversion rate, the better it is for your business.

8. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit your website and then leave it without going through any other pages. This metric is associated with all of your ads and keywords, each of which generates a different value. If you keep a tab on this metric, you will be able to improve your SEO optimization.

9. Average Page Views
Average page views for every visit reflect the engagement levels of your visitors. Should you measure this, you can determine if you are an influence or not. You may not get any instant conversion but the fact that this metric rises is a good sign. So when will this be? When your content offers value and compels people to know more about you. Just make sure that all of this is optimized with relevant keywords.

10. Average Cost for a Page View
If you are a publishing authority, this metric is of vital importance. You can use this to reach out to your audience and generate a profit for them. You can determine the average costs per page if you know what the revenue of each page is. As long as the costs are below the revenue, then it is fine. You can generate revenues by making use of paid channels.

11. Average Time
The time an individual spends on your website is a very important metric. Obviously, if you have more page views, it means people are staying on your site longer. But there are other ways as well for increasing the average time a visitor spends on you site. For instance, if people find you credible and you have aroused their interest, they will want to know more about you, and so they will stay on your website longer.

12. Percentage of Return Visitors
The percentage of your return visitors lets you measure their engagement levels. This metric will vary for each of your keywords, and you should focus on keywords that are associated with greater percentages. Do this, and it will help you in increasing your conversion rates.

How NLP Coaching Can Benefit You and Your Online Business

Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP is one of the most powerful tools to make a dramatic shift in someone’s life. You can use NLP to gain control over your emotions, state and behavior and also to increase your efficiency and motivate others to positivity. And what about your business? Does it get to enjoy some benefits as well? Yes, as far as your small business is concerned, NLP can help you in reaching out to your customers and formulating strategies that work.

Okay, so you are not sure if NLP coaching is a great idea or if it will work for you or not. No problem; if any of the following is true in your case, you know NLP is for you.
• You want to up your game and take your small business to the next level. But there is one major problem – you have no proper plan that can help you achieve this.
• You spend a lot of time with your business, but despite all your efforts, you just are not getting the results you want.
• You have no idea about what you want your business to achieve or how you can do it. As for the goals and mission, you are not very sure about them anymore.
• You have a (virtual) team, but their skills need to be honed in the right manner.

Before we get involved with the details, we will quickly look at ways in which NLP coaching can help you and your business.
• Taking your business a level or several levels up
• Increasing your profits
• Identifying, planning and achieving your business goals
• Improving your company’s vision and fine tuning it
• Enhancing your communication with both your (virtual) team and your customers
• Developing and leading your (virtual) team in a more effective manner
• Saving your time and costs
• Nurturing relationships with your clients

But wait, there is more:

For the high achievers:
• Set performance goals and metrics for yourself
• Practice your skills and polish them
• Remove all obstacles that spring up in your path

For the sales people
• Develop long term relationships with your clients through win-win situations, which are beneficial for them and your company
• Identify the needs of your customers and encourage them to do business with you. You will be able to do this through improved questioning techniques.
• Understand the relationship between time and your company, which helps you do more in less time
• Present your products such that they have a powerful impact on your customers, who are enticed to buy them
• Analyze the responses to your actions, become more flexible and cash on this to improve yourself continuously

For the managers
• Build strong relationships with your team so that they look up to you and perform like you want them to
• Define your objectives clearly and formulate plans to achieve them. Fine tune the strategies so that your success rate climbs higher
• Reduce the resistance of your team and make it more flexible to all the changes that are implemented
• Motivate your team so that they are more productive and perform better
• Manage all meetings effectively while ensuring that no conflicts arise
• Use one-to-one sessions with your team for training them, mentoring them and giving them a review of their performance.

nlp coaching

All NLP coaching programs are based on a basic principle. All of us have the potential as well the resources to achieve everything that we want to. The problem is that people do not realize this and even if they know they have the capabilities, they fail to use them in the right manner. Naturally, the results are not what you will want. If your go through our NLP coaching program, you will be able to recognize all your resources and strengths and use them effectively and take your business where you want it to be. So how does NLP achieve all of this? It uses global models such as the Wheel of Life, GROW model, the Circle of Excellence and the Resolution Strategy to help you in changing your behavior and understand yourself and your business in a better way. All along, you learn to identify your goals and you also realize the steps and strategies that can help you achieve them. It is a very complete plan that starts from formulation and goes right up to measuring your progress.

And you need to know that the best part of NLP coaching is that it can help you achieve what you want to without confiding the exact details to your coach. With the things that you do share with them, you can completely trust them with it and they will guide you accordingly.

So what is the end result?
• You perform to your maximum potential. But how? By progressing through a structured framework that will let you develop yourself
• You learn to identify your goals. Achieving them becomes easier when you create milestones and break them down into small, achievable steps
• You stay focused and your motivation levels remain high
• Your company will progress and your business will grow

How to Generate Business Leads with Social Media

Keep reading to know the basics of lead generation and discover valuable tips for improving it on social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Reddit.

What Is a Lead?
In marketing, any potential customer that is interested in your business and products is considered a lead. Leads for sales are not only obtained through direct marketing; even indirect forms of advertising and business promotions can be used to increase your contact list of existing and potential clients.

What Is Lead Generation?
As mentioned above, leads are not solely created by paid advertising, as social media today has become a great source of lead generation. With the use of interesting content, businesses are able to get a higher fan following and are able to find more interested customers for their products or services. Thus, lead generation includes the numerous methods used by companies to increase their customers’ interest in their products, which eventually helps the business in obtaining the clients’ contact information so that they can be kept informed about all future products, sales, and promotions.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Reddit are seven of the most used social media sites on the web. These websites can help you in improving lead generation if you follow the right methods. A few tips have been provided below related to each site to help you get started on the right track to increasing your list of potential clients.

How to Generate Leads with Facebook?
Nearly half of all Facebook users log in everyday and spend almost half an hour on the site. Thus, if you do it right, you can generate a large amount of leads for your website with the help of Facebook. Here’s how:

• Post content on your site with Facebook ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons so that your site visitors can let you know about the content they enjoy reading and can share your site’s content with their friends.

• Create a ‘Form’ tab on your business’s Facebook page rather than asking your interested fans to go to your website. In this way, you will be able to get their contact information directly through Facebook rather than waiting for them to visit your website.

• Create a paid ad on Facebook. The ad campaign is cost effective with a pay per click policy and if you add a link to it that can take users to your contact information form, you will be able to get their details in a quicker and more effective manner. Facebook ads also allow you to specify your target market so that you can display your ad to the right people.

How to Generate Leads with Twitter?
Twitter is a social platform where countless users chat and tweet in real time, making the site a powerful tool for generating leads for your business. Here’s how:

• Create a landing page on your website that is specifically dedicated to your Twitter fans. They should be able to provide you with their name and email in return for a training video, a webinar, or other informational content.

• Always remember to offer a promotion that will hold worth in the eyes of your existing and potential clients, because they will only provide you with their contact details for an item that they truly need or want.

• Take an interest in your customers and engage them in conversations via the Twitter chat feature. Hold entertaining and engaging discussions that will compel users to participate in them. Clients appreciate businesses that take a genuine and keen interest in their buyers.

How to Generate Leads with Pinterest?
The rapidly growing virtual pin-boarding site, Pinterest, can be a great way to generate leads for your business. Here’s how:

• Use relevant and informative content with eye-catching images. If your company has produced an eBook or a whitepaper, use its front cover to pin it to your board. Make sure to link it to a Call-To-Action (CTA) and a landing page.

• Add hashtags to your pins so that they can easily appear in search results. Use the same hashtags that you are using for Google+ and Twitter to be able to synchronize all of your marketing strategies together.

• Evaluate the results of your created pin-board with the use of analytical tools. Discover which images generate better leads and pin similar content to improve lead generation.

How to Generate Leads with LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a social network that caters to professionals and businesses alike. Most companies have a presence on LinkedIn but are unaware of its lead generating methods. Want to generate leads via LinkedIn? Here’s how:

• Build a company profile page where you can inform your customers and other businesses about your company and its products and services. Link your webpage and services in your profile statuses and other information.

• Use LinkedIn groups to your advantage. Join groups related to your industry and create new ones to connect with new people and generate leads to your business.

• Set up a LinkedIn schedule and visit the social site on a daily basis. Respond to discussions in groups or start a new one, update company status on the profile page and check to see who has viewed your profile. Make this a daily habit and you will see that being active on LinkedIn has paid off by providing you with additional leads.

How to Generate Leads with YouTube?
YouTube allows you to share videos related to your business. Users of the site will then be able to view your posted file and with the right CTAs and links, you can even generate links for your business. Here’s how:

• Create videos that are of high quality, especially if you cater to other businesses. Professional looking videos give credibility to your company and attract more people towards your products.

• Remain active on the site and upload videos on a regular basis. It will help in generating better leads for your company.

• Use catchy titles for your videos and do not forget to add a link to your business website in the description. This is how lead generation will take place, so make sure that you are directing the viewers of the video towards a contact information form on your site. You can also add effective CTAs to compel the users to click your link.

How to Generate Leads with Google+?
Google+ is rapidly climbing the ladder as a leading social media platform, so there are various ways to increase lead generation with the help of Google+. Here’s how:

• Target the correct audience according to the products and services offered by your company. You can use hashtags for this purpose to attract the right customers and make it easier for them to search for your business and its products.

• Use visually appealing content, this means that you need to post videos and images along with your text. Remember to add links in the description to generate leads to your site.

• The content you share should be unique and should be posted at regular intervals. Set up a schedule for posting on Google+ and find interesting material to add to your profile along with links that connect to your website.

How to Generate Leads with Reddit?
Reddit is a social site that can be used to share information and interesting content. As a means of simply sharing interesting articles, Reddit’s policy does not allow businesses to market their products in a direct manner. However, there are still a few ways to generate leads from this site. Here’s how:

• Join subreddits that are relevant to your business and its products. Interact with other users on these forums and create awareness for your company.

• Find and engage in discussions and conversations that are related to your particular industry to make people aware of your business and gain credibility by providing expert advice on matters concerning your business field.

• Create a Reddit sponsored ad campaign where you post facts related to your industry and get it sponsored by the site to have it displayed at the top of the home page.

To Sum It Up…
The above given tactics can be used to generate leads on various social websites to provide your business with a larger list of potential and existing clients. So get started on your lead generation strategies today and increase your customer base!

Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to the early 2000’s era. Social media networks were relatively unheard of, companies still preferred to market their goods through physical media (such as billboards and direct mail) and MySpace was still the coolest trend among youngsters. Fast-forward to a decade later, social media has taken the world by storm, online marketing replaced physical marketing mediums, and MySpace is now replaced by Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks. So the point is, you never know what the future holds; nobody could have predicted we would be so reliant on social media websites as a means of communication. But there’s one thing that has remained rigid since 2007; the rise of social media marketing.

The Rise of Social Media Marketing
What? You thought Facebook became a $100 billion industry just out of the blue? The social media website gets a significant portion of its revenue through online advertisements. Companies pay top dollar for their products to be advertised through social media networks. Hard to believe is it? It might be much harder to believe the fact that 93% of marketers use social media just for business purposes. The rise of social media marketing may be attributable to several factors, one of which is the large consumer base, numbering to 1.2 billion users on Facebook alone! The other factors include the customer information that the social media accounts hold, which can help in targeting customers.

How to Get the Most Out of Social Media Marketing Segmentation
You see those sidebar or news feed ads and those aren’t just randomly placed there. In fact, the ad is targeted especially for users based on what their ‘likes’ or interests are, along with other factors such as location, age or gender. This is why social media marketing is so effective for businesses; it targets specific users that are most likely to subscribe to the services. For example, a local car repair company can simply advertise their ads on pages related to their particular location. This can save the small business a pretty penny while getting their word across to users.

Unfortunately, this is the first thing that most small businesses forget – segmentation. By not properly targeting their audience, they are not only wasting advertisement budget, they are also reducing the chances of prospective clients subscribing to their services. That’s not just something I just made up; think about it. If there’s a sidebar or news feed ad for a particular business every time you visit a random page, even though that business is about a 1000 miles from your residence, what would be the first thing that comes to mind?

Yes, by relentlessly placing social media ads without proper segmentation, you might possibly be bringing your business into the borderline of being considered as spam, adding a negative aspect to your business while driving away your potential consumer base.

Cost Effectiveness
Another reason why social media marketing can prove advantageous to small businesses is cost effectiveness. Not that this form of marketing is the cheapest (that distinction goes to email marketing), but social media marketing also helps small businesses cut back on other costs. For example, consider a small business running a Facebook page or a Twitter account to answer queries. Not only does the business get the opportunity to interact with the consumer base, they can also reply to their queries directly, essentially rendering customer service directly on the page, thereby not having to allocate a dedicated budget to that department.

There are certain tips and techniques to utilize social media as a marketing tool to its full potential. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

Going with the Times
60% of shoppers browse through the Internet on their smart phone while going to shop for products. Not convinced yet? Get this; Pinterest users are three times more likely to share content on their mobile phones than they are on a desktop. Mobiles are taking the place of the traditional desktop PC, but that is no reason to be distraught. In fact, you can stay a step ahead of the competition by simply keeping your social media marketing campaign mobile friendly. This means having a mobile version for your webpage, which the users can access while on their phones.

Using Hashtags
Hashtags are a relatively new tool utilized by Facebook, and was first limited to just Twitter. To make effective use of hashtags, make sure you use your brand name, a catchy tagline or a popular hashtag.

Adding the Reply Option
Another excellent social media marketing tool which small businesses should use is the ‘Reply’ option, which Facebook has introduced for page owners to directly interact with their customers in the comments section. This produces a more customer friendly brand image, which users appreciate. This in turn will not only encourage them to buy from your brand, but to also give positive feedback on your page.

Another great advantage of social media is that whatever is posted by a user on a page, it shows up on most of his/her friends’ news feed. This indirectly generates positive publicity, improving your brand image for prospective clients. Social media marketing is an excellent tool for small businesses to expand their horizons and diversify their market.