Did you know that Pepsico’s “Pepsi brings you back to life” slogan translates to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” in Chinese? Not exactly the marketing idea the company wanted to convey. Pepsico is big enough to absorb the hit, but marketing is full of pitfalls which can do real damage, particularly when you are trying to grow a small business. If your small business is plugging along, but it’s not quite where you want to be, you’ve probably thought about what you can do to take the next step. Here are some tips you can use to avoid the pitfalls and grow your business, one step at a time.
Take Advantage of the Free Stuff
Chances are, your business is already listed in Google, Yahoo, Yelp and Bing. Take control of your listings by claiming your business, updating the information and correcting inaccuracies. Make it easy for potential customers to find you. If you haven’t already done so, take advantage of social media by creating a Facebook page and Twitter account. With all of this spontaneous communication comes risk, however. Think before you post. You don’t want to deal with the aftermath of an ill-advised tweet. Don’t fall down the slippery slope like Delta Air Lines did after the 2014 World Cup, which pitted Team U.S.A. against Ghana. After mistakenly implying that Ghana had giraffes, the airline tried to apologize by tweeting it was sorry for its “precious” tweet. We think they meant “previous.”
Take Advantage of the Low-Cost Stuff
With all the online opportunities, small-business owners sometimes forget about the fundamentals. You probably passed around a lot of business cards when you first started out, but maybe that kind of advertising fell by the wayside. You need to go back to what made your startup work. Have new business cards and flyers printed up and pass them around. Place advertisements in local newspaper and magazines. Get your business name out there. Make a name for yourself in the community by sponsoring community events. The basics served you well in the beginning, they can serve you well now.
Have you thought about opening another location? If you current small business is profitable and under control, a new location could be the right step. Here are some other ways to grow your business:
- Offer your business as a franchise. If you want to rapidly expand your business and your business model is easy to duplicate, a franchise is one of the quickest ways. It’s also desirable because day-to-day management is left to the franchisee. Few businesses work as a franchise, however, so do your research first.
- Diversify your products or services. Diversification is a great way to expand because it adds revenue streams that can fill seasonal slumps. Ideas for diversification include adding complementary services or products, teaching classes in your field and targeting new markets.
- Form business alliances. No one small business can serve the needs of all, but if you partner with a business that complements or supports your products or services, you can experience rapid expansion.
- Expand. Moving beyond your local market opens the door for more sales.
You Will Make Mistakes
The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven people on board. On July 4, 2014, American Apparel used a photo of the Challenger explosion on its Tumblr page to commemorate America’s Independence Day. Apparently the young social media manager, who was born years after the tragedy, thought it was a picture of fireworks.
The moral? You will make social media mistakes, even the big guys do it. How you respond makes all the difference. First rule, of course, is to check and double-check before you post anything. If possible, have someone else read your intended post to point out potential trouble beforehand. If something gets by and you find yourself dealing with a barrage of complaints, immediately remove the offending post. An hour is an eternity on the Internet, so remove it as soon as you know there is a problem. Don’t defend yourself, simply apologize. If it only happens occasionally and you build a history of professionalism, you can overcome a gaffe before it does too much damage.