Zintro experts comment on small business strategy: Part 2

By Maureen Aylward

The Wall Street Journal reports that small businesses in the US are still struggling in the worsening economy. The study says that small businesses are tweaking business plans, shifting marketing strategies, and making changes to clientele, products, and services. Zintro experts tell us what they think the tweaks small businesses are making to stay afloat.

Danish Khan, a strategy and organizational development expert, points out that the tactics a small business might adapt will vary depending on the background and experience of the owner, many of whom are self-made entrepreneurs. “Small businesses often do not have too many processes, protocols, and tiers between the owner and the customer; therefore, any tactical moves yield results right away. In fact, any change, good or bad, will happen through the eyes of the owner,” says Khan.

Khan identified several shifts that small businesses are making:

  • If a business owner has sufficient liquidity, he or she is buying the property the business is on to avoid the rent expense and write it off on accounting books.
  • Owners are cutting back on headcounts by replacing staff with technological applications and solutions even in supply chain management with respective suppliers.
  • Small businesses are focusing extra attention on high yield clients that can yield 80 percent of the revenue.
  • Small businesses are reducing overhead costs by purchasing smartly, and that means they are no longer spending money on storing inventory.
  • Small business owners are diversifying their operations being in several locations that focus on multiple ethnic groups and demographics; therefore, they churn inventory between locations.
  • Owners are focusing on building a relationship of complementary products and supplementary products to manage operations smartly.

Richard Owen, a management consultant, says that small businesses do not usually have the luxury of reducing their overhead in comparison to larger competitors. “The alternative is to add value. Small businesses can do this by hiring experienced professionals that have been laid off. This allows the company to provide a much higher level of care and value to existing and probably even new clientele,” he says. “The small organization that can tap this labor market with mutually agreeable terms will soon become a ‘go to’ employer for ever increasing talent. Combine this strategy with direct marketing about how these new hires are helping clients and how the company is working with the new professionals and a company can have an expanding business in a down economy.”

Gary Shelton, a small business development expert, says that business plans should be updated annually. This forces the small business owner to take a serious look at where they are and where they are headed. “Changes in the economy strongly encourage small business owners to seek change within their own companies,” says Shelton. “Current trends show that small businesses are re-inventing themselves to be more user friendly. Areas of interest that have gained strength are federal certifications.”

Shelton says that small business owners are looking for ways to expand into the federal marketplace. “This is an opportunity for success. It is a known fact that the federal government is required to do a percentage of work with small businesses annually. In most cases the government does not reach its goal. If a small business will take the time to register with the commercial contractor’s registration (www.ccr.gov) and research federal business opportunities (www.fbo.gov), it may be more than likely they will find a fit for the business.”

MJ Plebon, a marketing consultant, says that small businesses realize that their customers are changing habits and as a result, small business must tweak their marketing strategies. “Customers are no longer using the yellow pages or local newspapers. They are going online to search for local products and services and demanding this information on-the-go with smart phones,” he says.

Many small businesses have invested in a website; however, a smart business owner realizes that a website is not enough, and a company now needs to market its message online in different formats, such as in blogs, articles, videos, classified ads, Facebook fan pages, directory listings, and LinkedIn company pages, suggests Plebon. “Business owners are realizing that the Internet is different from the more traditional forms of marketing such as newspapers, Yellow Pages, radio, or TV. It needs a laser target for the message to reach a well defined customer profile that has a specific problem that the business owner can solve,” says Plebon. “Mass advertising doesn’t work with online marketing.”

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