4 Strategies to Strengthen Your Small Business

Even at the best of times, the future is unpredictable. As anyone who has run a business for any length of time understands, there will often be challenges, many of which are unexpected — such as a global pandemic — coming straight out of left field. Here are four strategies your small company can use to build strength and resilience for unexpected challenges.

1. Prioritize Marketing

When business is booming, it's easy to let marketing slide. After all, customers are coming in regularly. But it's important to build brand recognition and awareness. And when the economy or a particular industry hits a slowdown, some businesses see marketing as an area where expenses and resources can easily be cut — at least until profits improve. But it's during those tough times that you need solid marketing.

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Consider the public perception that's likely when marketing slows down. It's a case of "out of sight, out of mind." Many members of the public assume that if a business has fallen silent, it has closed its doors. Instead of cutting back on marketing — which could be a nail in your business's coffin, it might help to rethink and restructure how you're marketing.

Here are some marketing best practices:

2. Stay on Top of Technology

Some businesses are tech-oriented, while others aren't. However, every business must take advantage of some technologies (think computers). Automated payroll systems and cashless or peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as Zelle, PayPal, Venmo and Cash App, can create efficiencies that ease your business through rough patches. For example, automated payroll can eliminate errors and free you up to concentrate on initiating new business and maintaining existing customers. Adding P2P payments may open a new customer base among those who don't carry cash.

Also, consider modernizing your customer relationship management (CRM) system. New CRMs can communicate with your customers on whatever platform they may be using.

Don't forget or delay establishing a strong cybersecurity program. Depending on the complexity of your online business operations, you may be able to strengthen your cybersecurity affordably, but you should be willing to pay whatever it costs to protect your digital assets. Just one ransomware attack could cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

3. Continuing Education

Do you know what is new in your industry? Are you aware of what your competitors are doing? There's always plenty of new things to learn about your specific industry or business in general.

To get started, check out free education resources, such as SCORE and Bank of America's Small Business Resources sites. If you find valuable information there that your employees might also benefit from, consider giving them time during the workday to take some courses. If you prefer more formal educational programs, organizations such as LinkedIn and the Small Business Administration have online learning programs. And Bank of America offers a free online program for women to earn a business certificate from Cornell.

4. Network

It can be easy to become isolated when you're solely focused on your own company. Being too internally focused keeps you from interacting with other people running similar businesses or even other business owners in your community. So, if you don't already, reach out!

Consider organizations such as your local Small Business Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurs' Organization, Business Networking International, Rotary or Kiwanis. You might also check out organizations such as the National Association of Women Business Owners or Luminary.

Continuous Improvement

The four tips above can help you reach your yearly business goals, regardless of economic conditions. The important thing is to keep growing, learning and improving — even if it's just in small ways. Otherwise, your company might stagnate and, eventually, disappear. Take steps now to actively position your company for success.

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