Starting and owning a small business can be demanding. At LightArrow, we have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that entrepreneurs, founders and startups face. Today, we’re sharing some of the top 8 problems that small businesses face and tips for overcoming these challenges.
1. Grow On a Shoestring Budget
No matter what type of business you’re in, marketing is essential to grow your business. Plus, having a website and a social media presence is crucial for small business success. A website is the core of your marketing efforts and social media builds credibility, generates leads and improves your website’s rankings.
Many startups and small businesses are on a shoestring budget, but this shouldn’t stop them from effectively marketing their products and services through a website. Building a website without a web developer on staff may seem daunting to non-technical entrepreneurs, but it can be easier than you think.
To get started with a website, research content management systems such as WordPress to find one that’s appropriate for your skill level. Take advantage of resources such as Lynda.com to learn how to properly set up a website. Research effective information architecture techniques to ensure you’re delivering material in a way that’s easy to consume.
Once your website is built, add new content to it regularly through a blog or forum that’s suitable for your audience. Drive traffic to your website through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora and LinkedIn.
Investing time and energy into social media is crucial, but many new business owners believe that it isn’t necessary for success. However, social media is vital for building brand and awareness. And in fact, according to Hubspot, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.
2. Improve Your Working Capital
In order for a business to thrive, it needs working capital and proper money management is among one of the top qualities of successful businesses. It’s important to calculate your working capital needs by finding the difference between current assets and liabilities.
In some cases, you might find your sales are not what you expected and working capital might be an issue in order to keep your business running. Or, your business is able to use cash on hand to fund operations, but it needs more cash to invest in advertising, product development, software, inventory or other resources in order to grow. If working capital is an issue, consider using an online provider of business loans, such as Kabbage to grow your business. They offer loans ranging from $2,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.
3. Build Good Customer Relationships
80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. -Gartner
Never underestimate the power of your satisfied customers. Happy customers are your best salespeople. And, just like in any type of relationship, communication is the key to success. Timely follow-ups after purchases to check customer satisfaction, to offer free content for customer empowerment and to provide rewards through programs can increase customer satisfaction.
However, managing these types of follow-ups can be difficult so many small businesses use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If you’re a freelancer, real estate agent, single entrepreneur, or if you run a microbusiness, you can utilize LifeTopix to manage your follow-ups with customers. You can learn more at: Successful CRM Recipes for the Small Business Owner.
If you require an automated and cost-effective way to communicate with existing customers, you can utilize an email marketing platform suitable for small businesses, such as MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact.
With email marketing software, you can create personalized welcome programs for new customers and nurture programs for potential customers. If you use Ecommerce, you can automate customer retention programs by integrating your email marketing with your Ecommerce platform.
4. Use Time Management Techniques
When you become an entrepreneur or run a small business, you say goodbye to the 40-hour work week. You’re on call 24×7 and good time management is vital for success and it also prevents burnout. Goal setting, planning, prioritization, delegation and focus are time management tactics that are vital for a successful small business.
When setting goals, they should be S.M.A.R.T. For example, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Once you’ve decided on your goals, record them and put an action plan into place.
An action plan or follow-through strategy should include projects, tasks and the necessary resources. Define the work that’s required to reach your goals. Break the work down into tasks and assign those tasks to the resources who are available.
Effective entrepreneurs and small business owners have mastered delegation. They understand that some projects and tasks don’t require their supervision. They’ve learned that they can delegate these tasks to others in order to focus on strategic goals, relationship building and priorities.
Finally, focus is very important for entrepreneurs. Customer requests, advice from investors and advisors, employee demands and changing markets are just a few of the distractions that leaders balance every day. It’s important to stay on a clearly defined path and to avoid running off of course. Take advice from lean startups and get laser-focused your priorities and eliminate what’s not essential.
5. Hire the Right People
Hiring the right people for your small business or startup can be challenging. It takes a unique personality and set of skills to thrive in a lean, small business environment.
Consider that the people you hire will be working close together so they need to fit your company culture like a glove. They need to be willing to push up their sleeves and do the work themselves. It’s best to hire people who know how to do the job, not just how to manage the right people. Generally, they should have a wide variety of skills, rather than to be focused on a specific, niche area.
Startup and small business hires need to know what to do and when to do it without being asked. Hire senior employees and team them up with junior personnel.
Most recruiting firms are cost prohibitive for small businesses. Stay lean by taking advantage of your own informal and formal networks, LinkedIn and local job boards to find employees. Attract new employees by offering incentives that larger companies cannot, such as flexible work schedules, work from home days and stock options.
6. Improve Your Online Reputation
Online ratings can make or break a business. How often do you check Yelp before you visit a restaurant, salon, yoga studio or other business? Do you check the rating of an app or other product before you download or purchase it? Consumers regularly use online reviews to check the quality of a business or product before purchasing it.
The best way to avoid negative ratings and reviews is to have open communication with customers and solve their problems before they write negative comments. You should always provide a way for them to easily get in touch with you and subsequently deliver exemplary customer service.
No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, there will always be someone who won’t like it. It’s just the nature of doing business. When a negative review surfaces, it’s important to do everything possible to win that customer over.
Monitoring and responding to reviews is essential to keep ratings up. For example, I left a 4 star review on Yelp for an establishment that provides food and mentioned that the quality of the food had decreased. The manager contacted me directly and asked me specifically about the issue, provided coupons for free food and his note was friendly and kind. After this, I raised my review to 5 stars.
Check review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Reviews, and Yahoo Local reviews regularly. Respond to every review for sites that allow it, including both negative and positive reviews. In addition, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you of any online activity about your business.
7. Compete with Larger Companies
Many small businesses are competing against the big guys, who have enormous marketing budgets, connections with top public relations firms and can hire the best talent. Nonetheless, you can still succeed if you maintain focus. Focus on a specialty that the bigger companies are spread too thin to cover. Devote your time and resources to that niche and grow when the timing is right.
As a small company, focus on your pricing models. It’s possible that you can provide better products and services at a lower price than the larger companies if your company is running lean.
Above all, big companies tend to lose touch with their customers. Be a customer-centric company. Go above and beyond to ensure your customers are satisfied. Like I said before, your customers are your best salespeople; therefore, this strategy will pay off.
8. Optimize the Supply Chain
Recently, I discovered the small clothing company, American Giant who became an overnight success when Slate ran the article, “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.”
What’s exciting about American Giant is they have redefined the supply chain by selling their products directly from the warehouse to the consumer, thus, investing in the quality of their clothing and passing the savings to their customers. Essentially, they’re shadowing the same model that software manufacturers have followed for years, which is direct-to-customer. They’ve removed unnecessary steps in the supply chain, which eliminates overhead costs associated with most clothing manufacturers.
The lesson learned? Don’t be afraid of creatively solving problems related to your supply chain. For small businesses to thrive, it’s vital to deliver quality products or services to your customers in a timely way. By identifying, reducing or eliminating non-value added activities in the supply chain; you can optimize profits and gain a competitive advantage.
What are the biggest challenges facing your small company? How have you overcome these problems? Please share your story or ideas in the comments below.
Have you ever wanted to create iPhone contact groups or iPad contact groups on your iPhone or iPad to make it easier to locate and contact groups of people for which you regularly have discussions? Currently, the stock Contacts app for iOS doesn’t let you create and manage iPhone contact groups on the fly. A third-party app such as LifeTopix is required. Watch the video below to learn how to create iPhone contact groups with the LifeTopix app.
Creating iPhone Contact Groups Video
Note: You can create contact groups for iPhone without purchasing the Pro Contacts Pack in-app purchase in LifeTopix; however, some features shown in the video may not be available.
Welcome to the iPhone Contacts Group Tutorial.
This video discusses one of the many CRM features you can take advantage of with your LifeTopix app from LightArrow.
Today I’ll discuss how to create iPhone contact groups with LifeTopix. Currently, the stock Contacts app for iOS doesn’t let you create and edit iPhone contact groups on the fly. A third-party app such as LifeTopix is required.
You can create contact groups for iPhone without purchasing the Pro Contacts Pack in-app purchase in LifeTopix; however, some features shown in the video may not be available.
In this video, I’ll show you how to
- create a new contact group
- manage contacts in the contact group
- and make contact with people in your contact groups
First, let’s create a new contact group.
- Start by tapping the People + Services topic in LifeTopix.
- Then tap the Groups tile.
- Tap the Plus Sign to create a new group.
- Name the group. I’ll call it Business Contacts as shown here.
- Then tap Create and Add More Data then tap Members. This loads both your iOS contacts and any contacts that you’ve created in the LifeTopix app and allows you to add members.
- As shown here, tap all the contacts you wish to add to the group, then tap Save. You now have a new contact group. You can go back to see your newly created group.
Next, I’ll show you how to manage details about those contacts.
- Start by tapping the People + Services topic in LifeTopix.
- Then tap the Groups tile.
- Choose the group you wish to manage details for. Then choose the contact by tapping it and tapping Open.
- To change an item, such as Status, tap it and then choose or type the appropriate selection or information.
- As you can see, there are several details that you can save for your contacts including status, comments, contact logs, phone numbers, location, social media profile information, and more.
Next, I’ll show you how to contact groups of people, businesses, or individuals in groups directly through the LifeTopix app. No need to use the stock contacts app.
First, let’s contact an entire group of contacts at once.
- Start by tapping the People + Services topic in LifeTopix.
- Then tap the Groups tile.
- Tap the group you wish to contact.
- Tap email to contact the entire group.
- Or, tap text to contact the entire group.
If you want to contact individuals or a business, follow the next steps.
- Tap the group that includes the person or business you wish to contact and then tap Open. You can contact that person by tapping one of the icons listed here or you can tap Open for more options.
- Tap Call to make a call.
- Tap Email to contact them by email.
- Tap Text to contact them by text.
- Or tap one of the social media icons to contact them through a social media profile.
I hope you enjoyed today’s video.
I encourage you to watch our video about contact management custom log forms. It is important to note that groups can be used in custom log forms.
For more tips and tricks, visit our website at http://lightarrow.com
Thanks for watching.
LightArrow apps, which include LifeTopix, Pro.Calendar, Pro.Inbox and My.Agenda, have built-in and optional features, which allow you to better manage relationships with customers and contacts. These CRM features are primarily contained within the People + Services topic. The Pro Contacts pack adds CRM contact management features, including custom forms for contacts, a configurable contact grid view, and CSV import/export. It also allows data items such as tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, files, bookmarks, and expenses to be associated with contacts.
Introduction to Custom Forms
The ability to create custom forms is one example of the many features for managing your customer relationships. Custom Forms allow you to capture information about your customer that’s important to you. You can record any type of data you wish. For example, for business, you can create forms for orders, customer satisfaction, bookings, account data, employment data and more. In your personal life, you can keep details about your contacts, such as special dates to remember, gifts you received, or other personal information.
Custom forms can be applicable to groups and statuses. For example, you might only want to collect information about special dates to remember for friends and family, while order information is only applicable to clients. In addition, you can limit the forms to be applicable to contacts for which you’ve applied individual statuses. For example, you might apply a status such as Lost Client, and only Customer Survey and Lost Client forms apply.
You can easily define the forms and fields for collecting data. They’re very simple to set up as demonstrated in the following video.
Watch the Video
Staying productive and focused when running a small business or microbusiness is difficult. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, solopreneur, small business owner or freelancer, the challenges are the same. It’s imperative to stay on top of your game and laser focused on your goals to attain the success you set out to achieve.
As you know, these days it’s important to understand new technologies and new media in order to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. And now, more than ever before, mobile technologies have changed the ways we get things done every day.
This week, we’ve compiled a list of five technologies and systems that you must have in your repertoire in order to achieve success in our modern world of small business. Enjoy!
1. Nurture Small Business Sales Leads and Build Customer Relationships
A CRM application is a great tool for simplifying the management of your small business contacts. It integrates a variety of different information about your leads, prospects and customers all into one place. An ideal CRM also includes project and task management, allowing you to assign sales and marketing tasks that impact your sales revenue. Typically, a cloud-based CRM will cost anywhere from US $12 monthly/person to US $125 monthly/person, not including professional services and ongoing support.
LightArrow apps include many customer relationship management features that web-based CRM systems have, without the monthly subscription fees. Our apps organize a variety of customers’ data that originated from multiple places into one mobile app.
For example, our apps allow you to organize leads, track, and manage leads. You can also interact with contacts through email or social media handles, directly from their contact record in your LightArrow App. In addition, LightArrow apps include powerful project and task management features, which allow you to assign tasks to yourself or others to nurture prospects and move them down the sales funnel.
In the following diagram you see LifeTopix’s spreadsheet-like view for managing contacts. Within this view, you can access and manage all the information about your leads, prospects or clients. Specifically, you can manage all the tasks that are required to advance to a successful sale. Once the lead becomes a customer, you can manage and organize any information for this client through the 12 life topics, included with the LifeTopix app; of course, keeping track of customer details is vital for customer retention.
2. Manage Small Business Assets and Finances Wisely
Accurately managing the assets that your company owns and leases is key for the success of your small business. It’s important to track IT assets, furniture, vehicles and other items. Asset Management software can come in many shapes and forms. You can choose simple mobile asset management or an expensive enterprise asset management system. It’s also important to manage your financial assets and finances. There are several options for managing finances from simple software to more complex accounting software. Some of the features that financial software solutions offer are expense and payment tracking, receipt scanning, invoicing, etc. Foremost, remember to use the software solutions that fit the needs of your small business.
These days, using a mobile solution for asset management is an important factor because it allows you to manage and update assets easily while on the go. LightArrow mobile solutions are a great choice for the small business, entrepreneur or solopreneur. Imagine your business includes a fleet of automobiles. LifeTopix is an ideal app for managing the details for each automobile asset. You can keep track of purchase dates, cost, current value, manufacturer, model serial numbers, SKUs, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), locations (map included), and categories. In addition, you can associate tasks, appointments, reminders, notes, checklists, online/local files, bookmarks, expenses, services, audio, photos or videos with each vehicle (or other asset). An example of how you might use LightArrow apps for asset management is shown below:
If you’re a business owner who’s often on the go, LightArrow apps also offer solutions for managing finances while mobile. LightArrow mobile apps include tracking of financial information including expenses, payments, accounts, banking information, service payment templates, charitable donations, financial asset management and financial notes. With LightArrow apps, you can associate financial information with other items you manage in your app, such as assets. For example, in the graphic below, you will see that an expense is associated with an asset, which is a vehicle. Another popular feature for small business owners is the ability to set up Payment Templates with recurring payments; an example is also shown below.
3. Make Social Media a Habit in Small Business
In today’s changing world, social media is vital for small business success. In fact, according to a study conducted by LinkedIn, 3 in 5 SMBs have acquired new customers via social media. There are a variety of ways to manage and monitor social media. You can use the free tools from the social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the way to using a full-fledged social media management tool.
Social media management tools provide features such as keyword monitoring and listening, all-in-one views of social media accounts, scheduling, ways to engage with others, and in some cases, further analysis and recommendations. If you want all of this functionality and more from a hosted social media management system, it will cost you a monthly subscription fee that is typically charged by the number of users.
Social media is a commitment that will reap rewards over time. Before jumping into using an expensive social media management tool, I recommend that small businesses use free and inexpensive apps and web applications to manage their social media profiles and engagement.
At LightArrow, our apps include a social media dashboard and listening via keywords through Feed Accounts. You can set up feed accounts for Facebook and Twitter; and also for Email and Evernote®. You can listen for product or company mentions, and you can stay on top of your industry by creating streams with the keywords in which you’re interested.
What makes our apps unique over the typical Social Media Management tool is you can convert the tweets and posts that you find into actionable items such as tasks, notes, events, appointments and more. For example, you might see an industry article that you believe is important to read in a Twitter feed. You can convert this item to a note and add a date tag to schedule it on your calendar. These items can be pushed to your iOS calendar, which in turn propagates to all the calendars that you’ve associated with your iOS calendar, which takes small business productivity to a new level. It’s important to note that this feature also applies to email and Evernote feeds, which allows you to accomplish “Inbox Zero” easily.
4. Unify Small Business Calendars, Reminders, Tasks and Checklists
Keeping a master schedule is important for your small business. It’s difficult to choose the right calendar app for your business schedule because there are so many choices available. All of these calendars and to-do list apps have their own unique bells and whistles. The apps you choose depend on your personal preference and business needs.
At LightArrow, we focus on productivity. That’s why we combined tasks, reminders, to-dos and eight calendar styles into one app view – with fast switching and beautiful styling. We’ve made our calendar views easy to read and they’re very simple to set up. As soon as you grant access to your iOS calendars that you use on your iPhone or iPad, your LightArrow app shows the events from those calendars. And as a bonus, your LightArrow calendar also includes your iOS reminders.
In the graphic above, you will notice Overdue, Undated and Checklist sections shown in the Agenda view. These sections include everything from overdue tasks, undated tasks; open shopping items; iOS reminders; and checklists/to-do lists. Combining these items prevents you from hopping from app to app. You will also notice the comprehensive Month view, which enables you to see all your calendar items easily.
5. Manage Small Business Projects Like a Pro
Managing your projects without the right tools is like fixing a clogged drain with a Q-tip. The more and more you push; you’re never going to get anywhere. There are a lot of options for managing projects and tasks. Some cloud applications are free for a limited number of users and others require subscription fees.
LightArrow apps are excellent for individual and small team project and task management. The advantage of using LightArrow apps for project and task management is because the projects are integrated with the features discussed in this post, as well as other items, such as appointments, reminders, expenses, services, online notes and files and more. This prevents you from hopping from app to app to find the information that you need. Small business owners appreciate the ease of creating tasks and easily emailing them to a project participant, which allows delegation or task sharing. The recipient can easily open the email message; tap on the message and save the project and tasks in their instance of LifeTopix, as shown in the following example:
In addition, if you use Asana for project management (which is free for up to 15 users), LightArrow Apps include task integration with this popular tool.
Please let us know in the comments how you’re using your LightArrow app in your small business or if you have any questions or comments.
How do you define Sales Productivity? If you ask 10 people, you will probably get 10 different answers. In the simplest terms, Sales Productivity is improving sales efficiency in order to utilize the least number of hours to achieve the best possible results. How you measure those sales results varies from organization to organization.
To improve sales productivity, salespersons and sales managers focus on optimizing sales operations to reach the best possible outcome. Salespersons can improve their sales productivity by implementing better sales processes; generating meaningful, timely conversations with prospects and clients; and using better tools to improve their sales efficiency.
How Can LifeTopix Help?
In 2010, we at LightArrow set out to develop the most comprehensive personal organization app available in the market today. As this app, LifeTopix, evolved over the last few years, we’ve participated in thousands of conversations with our customers about how they’re using the app. We’re finding that more and more salespersons and micro/small business owners are using LifeTopix to manage not only their personal lives, but also their business operations and clients. To meet this demand, we added features requested by our user community with the goal of enhancing sales operations. Some of these features are enabled through the in-app purchases available in LifeTopix, Pro Contacts and Pro Inbox. Furthermore, in the coming weeks, we’ll release the stand-alone apps, Pro.Inbox and Pro.Contacts, for those who want to primarily concentrate on managing information streams from social, web, and email or contacts. Keep reading to learn more about these exciting new, features and how you can take advantage of them today.
1. Does Your CRM Meet the Demands of the Post PC Era?
As personal computers decline and mobile devices increase, otherwise known as the Post-PC Era, more and more salespersons will use their mobile devices while on the go, in lieu of laptops. In fact, salespersons are one of the fastest-growing segments of those who are adopting tablets as their device of choice when on the move.
As mobile software evolves, it’s becoming more and more sophisticated to meet the demands of those who wish to do business while mobile, without a laptop. We’ve been designing LifeTopix for the post-pc era from the get-go. LifeTopix is not an app that does one thing, such as making a to-do list or remembering to pick up milk. Its features run the gamut. It provides everything from a sophisticated calendar – to project management – to social media management – and more. It fully runs on your device, which is particularly important for the salesperson that doesn’t have Wi-Fi available at all times while on the road.
2. How Can You Manage Your Leads, Prospects & Customers More Efficiently?
In the latest version of LifeTopix, you’ll find new Contact Management features, which allow you to more efficiently manage your leads, prospects and clients. Most importantly, we’ve added custom log forms and custom log items, which allow you to add user-defined information about your contacts and subsequently group by these contacts by log items.
For example, Mary works for a small wine producer in California and her job is to find wine distributors and retailers to sell the wine from her winery. She manages her leads, prospects, and clients in LifeTopix. To help her better manage her contacts, Mary created a custom log form, which she titled: Sales information. She’s added several log items, which include, “Lead Score” as well as other relevant information. This way, Mary can group all of the sales leads by Lead Score, which allows her to better prioritize her sales calls.
In the following image, you’re viewing LifeTopix’s Grid view for Contacts, which is available in the People + Services topic with the Pro Contacts in-app purchase. It’s a spreadsheet-like format, which allows you to easily manage many contacts from one view. You can see how Mary has created the “Lead Score” log item and sorted her contacts by Lead Score.
What’s great about this view in LifeTopix is that Mary can easily locate all the information for her prospects and customers in one place. She can also set reminders and appointments, schedule associated tasks, add notes, call or email the client directly, record expenses, and view any other custom information — all from this useful view in LifeTopix.
3. What’s a Better Way to Generate Meaningful, Timely Conversations?
One of the best ways to increase your sales productivity is to generate timely, meaningful conversations. A good strategy for making a conversation meaningful and positive is to know something about your customer and his or her company and industry. You should always have a holistic view of your leads, prospects, and clients. As you build and nurture your relationships with prospects and customers, it’s important to stay up to date. Social engagement can give you insight into your prospects and customers, allowing you to tailor your interactions appropriately.
To help you to stay on top of customers, industries, and topics that your customers are interested in, we’ve added the Pro Inbox features of LifeTopix. LifeTopix allows you to create information streams from email, Twitter, Facebook and the web with rules. For example, Mary the wine producer’s salesperson, can collect information from social, web, and email about her clients and the wine industry and read this information from one view. This saves countless hours of switching from various social media and email applications to gather the information she needs about her clients and the wine industry.
For example, if Mary uses Twitter, she can filter data from those she follows, Twitter users, public lists, or all of Twitter. She can add keywords or hashtags to find specific information about wine distributors and retailers. She can collect, share and convert her data nuggets to actionable items such as tasks, projects, products, appointments, hosting events, attending events, notes, trips, visitors and inbox items. She can also stay on task with comprehensive calendar views, which show converted tasks, appointments and more. The following image shows an example of how Mary would configure a Twitter stream from public twitter accounts to gather information about the wine industry.
4. How Do You Strike When the Iron is Hot?
Not only can Mary collect important information, she can also strike when the iron is hot because with LifeTopix, she can easily make email, web data and social streams actionable. For example, if Mary notices that a client is requesting information via Twitter or if there is an important change in the wine industry that affects her prospects or clients, she can easily turn this information into action by converting it to an event, appointment, task, reminder or other LifeTopix object in a few simple clicks – from one app, as shown in the following graphic.
5. How Do You Save Time Traveling from Call to Call?
Planning your activity with Location Services can help you increase your sales productivity when traveling. All your precious time spent commuting from place-to-place or spending time in the air takes away from your selling time. For example, Mary is planning a trip to Austin, TX to meet with an important client who distributes wine for the Texas region. While she’s there, she plans to meet with other potential distributors. With LifeTopix, it’s easy to see the distributors that are listed as contacts and are located in the vicinity of the client she’s visiting, which enables her to efficiently set up sales visits with those prospects, as shown in the following image.
We’ve only described a portion of the LifeTopix features that can help you improve your sales productivity. As you begin to use the LifeTopix app, you’ll find ways to become more efficient and productive in many aspects of your work and life. Please comment and tell us about your experience with LifeTopix or any feature requests that you may have. Cheers!