Whether you are just starting out in business or you have been an established local business for many years, there are always new things to learn to keep your business succeeding. Conducing a range of business activities will help you to keep track of what is happening in the market place and will inform you as to the best next move.
Research the Market
Critical to the success of any business is having an in-depth understanding of the market in which you operate. As a local business, you will probably be more concerned with what’s happening in your immediate location. If you’re a restaurant you should know what other restaurants are operating in the area, their prices, the type of food they serve, how many customers they have, and what their reputation is like.
You should also know about the demographics and makeup of the local area. Opening an expensive restaurant in a town occupied by working-class families is unlikely to be that successful. Similarly, a family-friendly restaurant in an upmarket part of town where professionals without children live is equally as bad.
In addition to expert local knowledge, you will also need to consider wider factors that might affect your potential customers. Will inflation mean that your customers have less disposable income in their paycheck? Are increases/decreases in employment impacting your area? Are you selling products where a tariff could be applied that will make it more difficult to sell? These micro and macro factors should all be covered in your business plan.
Create a Business and Marketing Plan
Once you have completed your research and have identified that there is a demand for your product or service, you will need to create a comprehensive and actionable business and marketing plan. This will help you to be organized and use your time wisely doing only the tasks that will help your business to succeed. Without a plan, it’s easy to get sidetracked and start doing things that make no difference to your business or even worse, do things without knowing if they are impacting the business or not.
A marketing plan can be incorporated into the business plan as a lot of the information in your business plan will be marketing related. It doesn’t need to be pages and pages but a good overview of what you will be doing. A good business plan will begin with an overview of the business, including what the business does, where its located, who owns the business and who will be working in the business.
Following an overview or executive summary, the plan can be broken down into manageable parts, including:
- An analysis of the market including micro and macro factors that are or could affect your business.
- The objectives you want to achieve with your business, such as making $50,000 in the first year.
- A strategy detailing how you will achieve the objectives, e.g., open five new stores in New York or sell a new product you’ve invented to 10 retail stores.
- The marketing tactics you will use to promote your business.
- A financial forecast of the income and expenditure you are expecting over the coming year.
- A set of targets you can review every few months to check is you are on track to reach your objective. For example, if you’re objective is to make $50,000 in the first year, you might want to set targets to make $12,5000 every three months.
Build an Online Presence
A large part of creating a successful business is having a strong online presence. This is especially true for local business as people now reach for their phone when they want to make a purchase or find out information. If you are not online, you are missing out on a whole group of customers that could be spending their money with you.
Ideally, you will create a website or have one created for you by a web designer. You will then need to conduct Local SEO activities to ensure you show up in the search results when people search for your product or service online. This includes finding relevant keywords to add on your website, usually with your town or city at the end. For example, ‘wedding cake maker in Brooklyn.’
In addition to a website, you should also look for other ways to promote yourself online, which might include:
- Creating social media profiles
- Running a blog
- Getting listed in online directories
- Paid advertising such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads
- Link building with other relevant websites
Network with Other Local Business Owners
Networking events or local meet-ups with other business owners can be a really valuable way to find out new information, gets tips and advice, and maybe even find new suppliers. You may find something you that you didn’t include in your original business plan that will impact your business such as local legislation or a new business coming to town. If you have a solid business plan, you will be able to revisit it to determine what impact it may have and what you can do to limit the damage or take advantage and turn it into an opportunity.
The other great thing about local business meet-ups, especially if you work in the service industry is, they are a great place to get new leads. If you’re a graphic designer, you might be able to strike up a conversation with a web designer and set up some kind of lead referral program. One of their web design clients may need some graphic design work so they can refer them to you and right there, you’ve got yourself a free lead and potentially a new customer.
If you are new to networking, it might be best to find free meet-ups to get networking tips, build your confidence, and get a feel for the type of people that attend. After that, you could look for paid events where there are more likely to be high profile decision-makers who are the people you ideally want to target.