Let's face it: starting a small business these days is daunting. Where do you even start? How do you build on a business idea? Although the pandemic resulted in many personal businesses being downsized or closed, small businesses can continue to grow in the online world we now live in. Our Spring 2021 cover story features tips from a wide variety of business professionals and owners across a variety of industries. They will help you build a business from the inside out by providing tips on advertising, SEO, stronger business relationships, outsourcing, and much more. These tips will help you feel more confident and motivated to start and / or grow your small business in 2021.

Entrepreneurs thrive with mentoring

Companies do not operate or are not successful in isolation. It takes a community of people playing different roles – customers, teachers, supporters, connectors, etc. – to really catapult a company to the next level. One way for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in 2021 is to seek mentorship. With the invaluable guidance of a mentor, you can avoid common pitfalls, learn from their mistakes, and find a faster path to success. Your mentor can also make other useful connections with potential customers, business partners, suppliers, service providers, and so on. But the best benefit of all? Your mentor or coach understands what you are going through. They can feel sorry for you in ways that your non-entrepreneur friends cannot. Sometimes you just have to spend time with someone else who “understands”. When you have a mentor, you benefit from their experience, knowledge, network and camaraderie.

– Laura Gariepy, owner of Every Day by the Lake, LLC, https://www.beforeyougofreelance.com/

Manage cash flow

Maintaining sales and managing cash flow are critical to small businesses. There are many great financial technology or fintech tools out there today that entrepreneurs can use to save time, money, and energy. A trip to the bank is now more of a problem than ever as standing in line is not only an inconvenience but also a health problem. Fintech is quite a large industry with various products designed for specific financial needs related to payments, lending, and accounting.

For example, let's say you host your website on Shopify or Wix. You can start selling online by simply embedding a payment processor. There are also products such as Remitr, with which you can send and receive payments with suppliers, suppliers or contracts domestically and in more than 150 countries cheaper and faster than with your bank. If you want to take your business overseas, you can use a virtual bank account to work in US Dollars, Euros and British Pounds without having to set up and manage multiple international accounts.

– Sandeep Todi, Chief Business Officer and Co-Founder of Remitr, https://remitr.com/

Start a blog to improve SEO and drive traffic

Figuring out the right digital marketing strategy can be difficult for many small business owners, and it's not hard to see why. There are countless digital channels to choose from between search engines, your own website and the various social networks. You then have to decide if you want to follow them with organic content, paid ads, or a mix of both.

One that I think a lot of small businesses could benefit from is content marketing. Specifically, starting a blog to create content that can focus on relevant keywords and drive that targeted traffic back to your website.

Many companies focus on getting traffic from paid ads rather than organic traffic, but this strategy is short-sighted. Whether you buy the ads yourself or pay for an agency, it can be difficult to properly calibrate them to get a good return on your investment and many people end up losing money on their ad campaigns. Creating strong content that is specifically geared towards targeted keywords is also an investment, but much greener: an upfront investment in content can keep driving traffic for months or even years.

For small businesses looking to set themselves up for long-term success, I highly recommend adding a blog to your business.

– Dave Bowden, founder of Irreverent Gent, https://www.irreverentgent.com/

Resegment your TAM

The pandemic may have forced you to look for new sources of income. However, you want to avoid arbitrarily approaching this need. A systematic process of identifying new sales opportunities begins with understanding your entire Addressable Market (TAM). The right tool for this is market segmentation, which identifies the most important segments of a market. In each segment, after a similar sales cycle, customers buy more or less similar products and share word of mouth. Companies often stumble when their market segmentation is not mutually exclusive and generally exhaustive (MECE). This means that they don't see all of the potential segments and therefore miss opportunities. Instead of concentrating the scarce resources on a well-defined segment, they move between the various sales cycles, value propositions and the unit economy that are inherent in disorganized market segmentation. This process takes time, which is why entrepreneurs often neglect it. But as we say at MIT, it takes months but saves years.

– Erdin Beshimov, founder of MIT Bootcamps, https://openlearning.mit.edu/about/our-team/erdin-beshimov

Expect and accept chaos

Running a start-up brand in the exploding NA beer segment last year has been incredibly challenging. However, with these challenges there is an enormous gratitude for our team, our partners, customers and of course the support of friends and family. When COVID-19 hit we could have thrown in the towel and avoided the added risk. Instead, we doubled in size, switched gear to off-prem and online sales, and continued to gain momentum.

Life as a start-up CEO in a rapidly growing industry is 50/50 organization and entropy. While planning is critical, I always need to be ready with the fire extinguisher. It works for me to take time each day to focus solely on unexpected problems and ideas. I maintain a robust calendar with feeds from Google, Zoom, and family plans in one place that I review every night for the next day. I mostly focus on the week ahead – things move quickly in our world, so anything that lasts more than a week can change. Biggest planning challenge? Time zones. Working with partners across the country, I've learned how difficult it is to always confirm the time zone by missing calls or calling too early.

– Jeff Hollander, CEO and Co-Founder of Hairless Dog Brewing Company, https://www.drinkhairlessdog.com/

Man and woman work togetherPhoto by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Three tips for stronger connections

Tip 1: hire people you can trust. As your business grows, figuring out who is actually doing the work to make the company more successful is a challenge. This is especially true if you have a smaller business where every employee should make meaningful contributions every day. At FlexIt, we pay great attention to who we bring on the team. We recommend making sure there is a cultural fit and using mutual connections and relationships to create a close bond between team members. We also recommend creating a referral program to motivate the team to bring great candidates to the table.

Tip 2: Make hiring a collaborative process. We have a few key team members – beyond the leadership team – who meet potential employees. We do this to ensure that there is a certain level of respect between all team members. This leads to a more coherent work environment, especially when projects overlap, as is often the case with startups.

Tip 3: hold face-to-face conversations. With the rise of technology, there has been a decline in personalized interactions. Everyone is bombarded with hundreds of marketing emails, texts, and push notifications, but these aren't just for that person and all of that gets lost in the shuffle. It's important to have a knowledgeable sales team that can communicate with customers, hear their needs, and give them something they use, love, and are a fan of.

– Austin Cohen, Founder and CEO of FlexIt, https://flexit.fit/virtualpt/

Invest in SMS communication

One of the fastest growing types of applications being adopted by small businesses is tools that combine website chat with two-way text messaging. These digital marketing applications allow customers visiting SMB websites to interact directly with the company through a web chat widget. The business owner or manager receives a notification of the customer request and can respond via SMS through the application. From then on, the customer can conveniently send the company an SMS.

The most popular software companies offering these solutions are BirdEye and Podium. Both have over 50,000 customers in all industries. Prices for these tools start at around $ 300 per month. There are also industry-specific solutions that offer this web chat and SMS functionality. One example of this is Weave in the dental industry.

From a ROI perspective, these tools generate value from existing website traffic. Hence, they maximize the return on existing or reduced marketing spend. Since the volume of messaging is unlimited, companies that invest more in the tools get the greatest return.

– Bruce Hogan, CEO of SoftwarePundit, https://www.softwarepundit.com/

Changes in the real estate industry

The real estate business has changed immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The way we advertise and sell houses has been digitized. Our group, the High Realty Group, has restructured expenses through this pandemic and reorganized tasks so that we can keep our regular employees and hire new ones. We are ready to invest in technology and look to the future of our industry.

We take care of the development of our website internally and focus on SEO and social media algorithms. We are successfully navigating the restrictions on serving ads on social media. Our strategy allows us to exceed the community radius of La Jolla, a 0.638 square mile area, compared to the 15 mile limit imposed by Facebook's apartment ad regulations. Facebook also does not allow you to target advertisements based on age or income class. By using ad copies, images and targeted keywords, we can influence ad placement on the right demographics. We structured our digital model so that landing pages follow Facebook best practices to improve lead generation for our customers and ad placement.

We believe that marketing of homes with 3D renderings and aggressive social media marketing will continue to evolve into the digital realm. However, we hope to add previous marketing efforts such as open house and property showcase events. In the future we will keep a hybrid of strategies.

– Alejandro High, President of the High Realty Group, https://www.HighRealtyGroup.com/

SEO to gain relevance

SEO is vital for SaaS businesses that want to appear online and be relevant. I started The Word Counter in January 2020 because I saw an opportunity to capitalize on it. The existing word counting websites that take Google's first page are of poor quality and don't have much content. My goal is to appear as the # 1 search result when people search for a word counter so that we can track the vast majority of those clicks. Since January 2020 when we started we've grown from 0 to 30,000 visitors per month. Additionally, we are using this website as a project to demonstrate our results as a digital marketing agency (I also own GR0). I monetize the website using Google AdSense and a grammar affiliate program.

Starting in 2021, a good SEO strategy will be based on high quality content and in-depth keyword research. If you do the legwork and use keyword research tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, you can identify hidden opportunities and then take advantage of those opportunities by creating high quality, keyword-informed content. We often use original research and data in our content. The data is fact based and is usually presented in visual charts that tell a story. This makes it easier to submit the results and differs from normal text. Uniqueness is the key and must offer significant added value.

– Gerald Lombardo, co-founder of The Word Counter, https://thewordcounter.com/

Crush It on Instagram by working with influencers

We have over half a million followers on our iHeartRaves Instagram page and over 270,000 followers on our INTO THE AM Instagram page and we love to use influencers as part of our digital marketing strategy. Our target group are fashion-conscious people who attend music festivals and enjoy electronic dance music. We do influencer marketing in different ways. We find popular accounts that meet our selection criteria and start a conversation to see if it fits well or not. We often send one of our products to an influencer for free in exchange for an honest review that is posted on their blog or social media. This leads to a lot of sales and new followers.

For us, in addition to the cultural fit, the most important element of an influencer package is the overall reach of the blog or social media accounts. We measure our return on investment based on the number of new followers, the number of impressions, the number of referral data and of course the number of sales generated by the campaign. The beauty of using social media and influencer marketing to generate sales is that they can be used in just about any industry, whether you're selling a physical product or service.

– Brian Lim, Founder and CEO of INTO THE AM and iHeartRaves, https://www.intotheam.com/ and https://www.iheartraves.com/

Adaptability in 2021 and beyond

Adaptability is incredibly important for small businesses. It's not about being ready for expected changes, it's about being ready to run the company with whatever happens unexpectedly, which could save a small business in the face of uncertainty in the market in 2020 and its continuation in 2021.

As a young entrepreneur who started my own business at the age of 22, I also thought I could do everything on my own. I started a private tutoring company called Fortune Tutoring Group, which is now part of our current LA Tutors 123 brand, and ran the company alone for over five years. One person, AKA me, oversaw marketing, spoke to leads, supported current clients, hired tutors, HR, etc. The lesson from my mistake is that knowledgeable and experienced advisors and staff cannot just give you the much-needed objective perspective. but also helps to make the business grow much faster. I now have a team of professionals and I regret not bringing other talent on board earlier.

– Arash Fayz, Co-Founder and Executive Director of LA Tutors 123, https://www.latutors123.com/

Outsourcing for various operations

Most entrepreneurs believe that you need to control every facet of your business yourself for many reasons, be it to save costs or to stand out as self-made. The reality is that growing businesses need to consider outsourcing to different operations and departments. If you try to take over every aspect of the business, you are unlikely to be performing at your optimal level. A company preparing to scale up must expand its bandwidth to secure the future and longevity of the brand. If you plan for your business to be a far-reaching stronghold, consider outsourcing key departments like finance, marketing, and IT. By following this step, you will ensure your scalability.

– Kevin Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of GR0, https://gr0.com/

Typing on a laptopPhoto by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Share video content

My best advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start their own business in 2021 is to focus on digital marketing, especially video content. One of the most significant and enduring effects of the pandemic will be the way people interact with each other and consume content. Since the March 2020 pandemic, digital content consumption has increased by over 48%, with the majority of it being on mobile devices. And since people are going out less, traditional advertising materials like billboards and window signs no longer carry the juice they used to have. If your ad campaigns need a whole new start, I would recommend starting a YouTube channel in 2021.

No matter what business you're in – construction, cosmetics, or even cannabis – you as the business owner have specialized knowledge. When you start a YouTube channel and post videos with tips and how-tos related to your niche, you will get instant traffic. In addition, Google takes social signals such as YouTube into account in its search rankings. This also helps with the search engine optimization of your website. Video content consumption on YouTube has increased 62% in the last 9 months, and you want to be part of that wave. Your videos don't have to be fancy or amazing production value. Just be authentic and provide advice that people find helpful regarding your niche. This is a great way to get your digital marketing going and grow your business in 2021.

– John Ross, CEO of Test Prep Insight, https://testprepinsight.com/

Expansion tips, sales strategies and marketing insights

1. Entrepreneurs only have 16 hours on the working day to work through the endless list of tasks. Stick to what you can and shift the tasks that you are not good at to those who are more capable. There are great platforms like Upwork that allow you to source global talent right from home! You can initiate, execute, and complete projects in less than 24 hours, often for a good price. Segmenting and breaking down high priority areas this way also means you only pay for expertise when you need it.

2. I've been in sales for 10 years and this is an area I know well. If you're in the B2B space, build a hit list and strong reach with proper tracking. For example, if you are emailing decision makers with you, be sure to follow up at least four times before taking this opportunity. Perhaps you will receive an introductory visit to learn as much as you can about their business and how you can help them achieve their business goals.

B2C is a little different in that you can't exactly knock on people's doors. However, this doesn't mean you can't be personal. Finding 100 customers who love your product is much more powerful than finding 100 customers who like your product or service. Do all you can to make them love you – talk to them over the phone, get feedback, and quickly alleviate issues. These first time customers effectively act as your sales team and promote you to others for free!

3. Marketing is very easy. If you spend more on advertising than you get in sales, it won't work. You should have the digital capacity to keep track of exactly where your customers are from and how much it costs to bring them into your business.

Although companies buy from other companies, people buy from people. Get super active on social media and LinkedIn, selling your vision, selling your sales and your beliefs.

– Amit Gami, founder of the Card Payment Guru, https://www.cardpaymentguru.co.uk/

Use PR to get the word out about your company

PR professionals play an important role in branding by shaping a company's image. The way companies interact with the public and their target audience becomes the story of their brand. During a pandemic, brand awareness is vital and a unique challenge. With this in mind, many companies hired PR firms in 2020 to help build their brand, spread their message, and generate positive publicity, and continued to invest in public relations in 2021. By leveraging the expertise of PR professionals, they can create messages that will resonate with their target audience and media coverage that will expand their reach and increase brand authority.

– Michael Vaughan, Account Executive at HeraldPR, https://heraldpr.com/

Use storytelling to grow in 2021

Storytelling is the least used method of selling the brand. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end and so we as humans relate to the things we encounter in our environment. It has been proven time and again that the most effective way to connect with your audience is to evoke an emotional response. Tell the story behind the brand; The “who, what, where, when and why” is the most effective means of evoking emotions. Also tell the story behind the founders; who they are, what their previous experiences were, where they came from and why they decided to start their current business. This is the foundation for the most successful companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, Amazon, McDonalds, Google, Facebook, Alibaba and many others.

– Rio Rocket, founder and presenter of Design Your Decade, https://www.designyourdecade.io/ and https://apple.co/3lLeKR8

Expand customer base

Entrepreneurs can grow their business in 2021 by conducting an assessment of their existing products / services and eliminating those that need the most resources (especially time) and generate the least amount of income. The remaining top performing revenue streams can be made more scalable by considering creative ways to automate the systems / provisioning, making live launch products ever greener, and incorporating recurring income opportunities or payment plans for greater cash flow stability.

By converting our signature course (Cubicle to CEO) into an evergreen, annual membership with a 12 month payment plan, we were able to scale from $ 500 to $ 20,000 recurring months for this product alone, freeing up time and money to grow our total business revenue by 211 %.

We have also massively expanded our customer base and profitably gained more than 6,000 new customers in less than a year by creating a self-liquidating offer funnel and running ads instead of a giveaway funnel. Basically, we created an accessible, inexpensive program (Hashtag Hacks, only $ 27) to at least break even on our ad spend and create a list of buyers instead of a list of just giveaway seekers. Purchasing a program also makes our customers more likely to take action and consume the content, which will produce better results for their business and build confidence to invest in our programs and services later.

– Ellen Yin, Founder and Podcast Host of Cubicle to CEO, https://www.ellenyin.com/

Final thoughts

It is still more than possible to start and grow a small business in the pandemic. In the age of remote work, more and more entrepreneurs are making the leap to turn a business idea into reality. Take these tips from industry professionals and help you get your business going today. For more information on starting and growing a successful home business in 2021 and beyond, please visit https://homebusinessmag.com/ and https://homebusinessexpo.com/.

The post Thrive in 2021 – Tips for Success from Business People in Different Industries first appeared in Home Business Magazine.

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