For those of you working on growing small business, whether that’s a kids clothing shop like mine, a blog, or something totally different, we can all agree on one thing: growing small business is HARD. It’s a lot harder than you think it will be. And at the end of the day, what’s the point if you aren’t making any money?
One of my favorite quotes (and I wish I could remember where I read it) is, “I’d rather be profitable than popular.” I love it, because it’s so relevant to today’s world, which sometimes seems like one big popularity contest. Who can get the most likes on a picture? Who has the most followers? But at the end of the day, none of that really matters if it’s not translating into more sales, more paid gigs, more moolah in the bank. So I want to chat with you today about my 10 tips for growing small business in 2017, and share with you a bit about what I did in 2016 to make it my best sales year ever.
These are all low or no-cost ways that you can start being more proactive, more conscientious, and more strategic with your efforts. You have a lot of decisions to make on a daily basis, and choosing the right strategies for you can often be difficult when we’re being bombarded by new, shiny things. But I think a lot of it has to do with mindset, with being comfortable where you are and keeping blinders on while you focus on what you’re doing and not what everyone else is doing.
You may not be exactly where you want to be, and it may feel frustrating that someone else is where you think you should be. But you won’t get there chasing their coattails. Hard work and dedication to the long race ahead is the only thing I’ve found that works over time. So in the long, loooong marathon that was 2016, here are some of the things I did:
10 Tips for Growing Small Business & Making It More Profitable: How I Did It
1. I got off the internet. I talked to people in person. I went to more meet-ups, more breakfasts, scheduled more coffee dates, more lunches, and got out from behind my screen and my phone more. You know I value social media, but there truly is no substitute for in-person communication, especially when you’re trying to network. I recommend you read Never Eat Alone. It’s a classic, and continues to be relevant, more than a decade after its publication.
2. I branched out. I did more in-person events, more trunk shows, and more styled shoots. I launched my own pop-up shop, mamas + makers. I found more creative solutions to problems that were outside the box for me.
3. I helped others more. When people asked me to share my contacts, I did. When people asked for business advice, I gave it for free. When people asked me to connect them with someone in my network, I did it. I think it’s easy to be stingy with this kind of information, as if it’s some kind of proprietary secret. While there are some things that are proprietary to me, none of the aforementioned things are. And I truly believe that you get what you give; if you want people to share this type of information freely with you, it starts by doing the same in return.
4. I read a lot. I read business books, blogs, marketing PDFs, and yes, novels that have nothing to do with business. Reading other people’s perspectives helps me grow as a person and a business owner. My general rule is that I get at least one bit of good advice out of everything I read, something I can implement. So I keep reading.
5. I grew my email list. I know social media is important, but here’s what most people don’t think about when they start their businesses on Facebook or Instagram: you do not own it. You don’t own your social media lists, and sadly, with every change of algorithm, small businesses are the ones that lose big time. This past year, I focused on growing me email list, something I DO own. And it’s now my #1 converting marketing asset. It’s an amazing thing, to be able to send out an email and see immediate sales from it.
6. I made mistakes. Despite my best efforts, I made mistakes in 2016. A lot of them. But the one thing I’ve learned after 4 years in business is that as long as you don’t bet the farm on any one thing, you can bounce back from a big or costly mistake.
7. I was more assertive. It can be difficult to ask for what you want. It’s even more difficult to demand to get what you deserve. And when you run a business, you are basically the parent of that business as if it were another child. Would you fight with everything you have for your child? Same goes for my business. This year was the year I decided to step it up, lean in, and kick some butt when I was being walked over or taken advantage of. It doesn’t always fix the situation, but I was proud for standing up for myself and stepping outside my comfort zone.
8. I learned how to use my camera. Two years ago, I bought a DSLR camera, and this past year, I really started learning to use it. Photography is such a huge part of my small business, and as much as I love hiring my favorite photographers for every project, I just can’t afford to do it. So invested a LOT of time in learning to use my camera, and the result is that I can take halfway decent pictures that represent my brand well. The payoff was huge, in terms of marketing potential and customer acquisition.
9. I blogged. A lot. I’ve been taking a bit of a blogging break due to this crazy holiday season, but it was such an amazing ride for The Cuteness this year. I did countless photoshoots, teamed up with some amazing brands like Life Cereal and Terez, and made some incredible connections through it. It was worth every second I spent on it, and that was a LOT of seconds.
10. I think cuteheads has found its “why” and “what.” You hear it all the time, if you’re a small business owner. WHAT sets you apart from other businesses? WHY are you doing what you’re doing? Not being able to answer these questions actually puts you at a huge disadvantage; if you can’t answer them, how will a customer be able to? How will you be able to craft effective messaging that attracts the right customer? This is all a part of branding, which may seem like a buzzword, but there’s a reason people get paid a lot of money to do it: it’s REALLY important. This year, I made it a priority to hone and craft my message based on the WHAT and the WHY, and it paid off.
What are YOU doing in 2017 to make your business better and more profitable?