As we continue to push into 2014, many may wonder if the year will bring with it continued economic growth. The good news: small business owners seem to think the answer is YES.
During a blind survey of more than 600 small business owners in the U.S. commissioned by Cox Business, the majority (67 percent) of respondents reported they are optimistic about their business’ chance for success this year.
Why do the opinions of small businesses matter? According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), America’s 28 million small businesses create an impressive two-thirds of the country’s jobs. With stats like that, their opinions undoubtedly hold some weight.
For continued small business success in 2014, here are some tips for small business owners to consider:
Embrace technology. Nearly two out of three small business leaders are confident their use of technology improves business performance. That means nearly a third are likely not comfortable with technology’s role in helping small businesses. If you are in that third, reach out and learn more about technology. You can do so by educating yourself on technology. How? By reading up on it on websites like www.smallbiztechnology.com, www.inc.com and www.entrepreneur.com. Also you can reach out to your technology providers, like Cox Business, to learn more about the technology they provide.
Implement a marketing plan. It’s no secret that small business owners wear many hats as they strive to compete with often much larger companies. In the overall business mix marketing is a necessary component to driving sales and creating loyal customers. However, this doesn’t mean haphazardly throwing up an ad every now and then. For success, small businesses should craft and implement a well thought out marketing plan to guide their actions. Today slightly more than 60 percent of small businesses say they have a marketing plan. If you’re not part of that group, it’s time to get moving. If you don’t know where to start check out the “marketing” section on the blog www.coxblue.com.
Engage customers. Let loyal customers know you value their business by reaching out early and often. The vast majority of small business owners (82 percent) say email ranks as the most effective tool for customer engagement, but don’t overlook the power of phone calls and in-person events as a way to receive customer feedback and engagement. Take it a step further by utilizing social media to show off your business’ personality. If you need ideas on how to create loyal customers visit small business expert, Jim Blasingame’s, blog at www.smallbusinessadvocate.com.
Find an idol and get inspired. Just as every artist needs a muse, every business needs a leader. There is a reason certain companies rise above the rest – excellent leadership and a well-executed business model. A plurality of small business owners (37 percent) say their top go-to busy advisor would be Bill Gates followed by Richard Branson (32 percent) of Virgin Group. After all, just because you aren’t a Fortune 500 company, doesn’t mean you can’t think like one. Don’t have a business idol? Start by researching your favorite brands until you find the man, or woman, behind the curtain. Also, a quick visit to www.forbes.com and www.hbr.org will keep you up-to-date on the best and brightest in the business world.
By utilizing these tips, small businesses can truly make 2014 their year. For more information about the Cox Business Barometer and to view more results, visit http://www.coxblue.com/sbwsurvey2014/.
Barbara Sykes is the marketing director for Cox Business for Virginia. She can be reached at Barbara.Sykes@cox.com.