Thanks to e-commerce, starting a small business today has gotten easier, technologically speaking. E-commerce involves the buying and selling of goods online on platforms such as social media.
New statistics suggest that about 90 million small businesses use Facebook Business, groups, and Messenger. Social networks, though, are not only used for marketing and promotions. Many start-ups, such as online stores, run their businesses on these platforms. Why spend on an office lease if you can transact with customers via Facebook or Instagram?
Indeed, there are more businesses today than there were a decade ago. This can also be attributed to expanded microfinancing services that provide start-up capital. According to BNP Paribas, microfinance institutions serviced 123 million customers in 2016 worldwide with a loan portfolio of USD102 billion. Thus, entrepreneurial funding has gotten easier.
However, with a lot of people taking the entrepreneurial road, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you run a successful business start-up in a highly congested market? How do you beat and stay ahead of the competition?
Check out the tips below on how to run a successful small business in a highly competitive digital age:
1. Stick to what you know best, or take the time to learn the trade.
Chances are you already have an idea of what business you would want to start. Business ideas get the ball rolling. One reminder: Just because everybody is doing it does not mean you should, too.
You want to run a neighborhood coffee shop, but do you know anything about coffee variants and their proper preparation? Do you have the skills to operate a kitchen that could serve several customers? What do you know about food safety and sanitation standards? Sure, you love coffee–and quaint coffee shops are all the rage these days–but do you understand the business of it?
Stick to what you know best, or take the time to learn the trade. If you have some experience, polish your skills and know-how by taking up training courses and seminars. Know the technical side of your trade as well as the operational areas such as logistics, marketing, and regulatory requirements. In other words, equip yourself.
2. Make informed decisions through a feasibility study and market research.
How can your new business prosper under the current economic climate? Is the cost of logistics reasonable? Do you have a market for your products or services? Is the market accessible, and can it sustain your operations? This is where feasibility studies and market research come in.
A feasibility study is an analysis that considers relevant factors to understand the likelihood of success or failure of a method or plan. According to Investopedia, it can also help you “identify potential obstacles and recognize the amount of funding it will need to get the business up and running”. You can conduct a feasibility study using available templates online, or commission someone to do it. You may reach business students who can develop the study for you at a reasonable price.
A market research is “the process of determining the viability of a new service or product through research conducted directly with potential customers,” says Investopedia. This involves gathering information for market segmentation and product differentiation, which can guide you in developing marketing initiatives. There are different types of market research:
- Primary research: This involves first-hand information on your market gathered from focused groups, interviews, and surveys. Primary research can help you segment your market and establish buyer personas. Its two variants include:
- Exploratory research: This assesses potential problems primarily through interviews or surveys with small groups of people.
- Specific research: This research often follows exploratory research. This takes a deeper analysis of the issues or opportunities you deem important for your business. You can interview a smaller or more precise segment of the market and ask questions about a specific problem.
- Secondary research: This is particularly useful when analyzing your competitors. This type of research involves trend reports, market statistics, industry content, and other data and public records you already have.
Business ideas with low investment are not necessarily the best. You have to know which are practicable, based on your resources and the present economic conditions. You also need to know which ones are viable for your target market. Conduct a feasibility study and market research to help you make an informed decision.
3. Integrate digital marketing into your marketing strategy.
Take advantage of the many wonders of social media, apps, and other tech innovations to market your small business. Integrate digital marketing into your marketing strategy. Digital marketing is the promotion and marketing of goods and services through the Internet using electronic devices. Digital marketing includes social media marketing, search engine marketing, and email marketing.
Through digital marketing, you can turn simple business ideas from home into a successful enterprise. Psycho Bunny, an NYC-based retailer of menswear, ran targeted ads campaigns to boost its e-commerce sales and saw a 55% increase in purchases and a 40% decrease in cost per purchase.
There is a long list of digital marketing techniques that can help you boost brand awareness, increase sales or any other goal you might have. If you are running an e-commerce business, you should at least know the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), on-page and content optimization, and link-building.
The advent of social media and the increased access to financing makes entrepreneurship a lot easier these days, but this is not without its challenges. You will come up against numerous other businesses that are also able to reach their target market via cost-effective means such as digital marketing.
Coming up with business ideas with low investment and high profits take hours of brainstorming and decision-making supported by an insightful feasibility study and extensive market research. In other words, you need real hard work. Finally, maximize the benefits of digital marketing. Integrate SEO techniques on your website, content, and social media campaigns. Reach your potential customers, and boost your sales without breaking the bank.