Looking to take your business to the next level? Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, these 60 tips will help you make the most of your resources and achieve your business goals.
So, you want to take your business up a notch, but don’t know where to start? Feel like you’ve got your bases covered but aren’t exactly sure what’s next? Well, let’s just say that if you have grit and determination and feel like you can accomplish any goal you set for yourself, you’re already halfway there. As for the other half, we’ve got you covered!
Consider this your guide to understanding every aspect of running a small business. From the growing pains to making moves to grow your enterprise, we’ll run you through 60 tips to level up your business. Let’s go!
1. Keep a Close Eye on Stock Levels – Keeping track of how much stock you have on hand is essential to a smooth-running business. Regular stock take and accurate records will ensure that you reorder from suppliers in a timely manner and avoid stockouts.
After all, you don’t want to disappoint your customers by not being able to provide them with the products they need. You’ve just started earning their business – you don’t want to break their trust. Plus, having a good understanding of what’s selling and what isn’t can help you make smarter purchasing decisions and optimise your profits.
2. Product Not Moving? Get Rid of It! – If you’re stuck with products that just aren’t popular with your customers, you need to work on a plan to get rid of it and make way for products that’ll perform better. Consider offering discounts or promotions to entice customers to make a purchase.
You could also try to increase visibility by advertising on social media or collaborating with influencers. It’s also a good idea to explore the idea of selling stock through alternative channels such as online marketplaces or consignment stores.
Once you’ve exhausted all avenues, you need to be ruthless about what you will and won’t sell.
3. Know Your Audience – It’s incredibly important to know your audience well. What do they need? What piques their interests? What can you do to show that you resonate with them? Having a good understanding of this will help you tailor your products or services to meet customers’ specific needs and preferences.
This leads to:
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Increased loyalty
- Improved business success.
Additionally, understanding your audience allows you to target your marketing efforts effectively and efficiently, making your brand visible.
4. Be Different from Your Competitors – One of the best things you can do to stand out from the crowd and attract customers is to differentiate your business from others in your industry.
By offering unique products, services, or experiences, you can create a competitive advantage and establish a strong brand identity that resonates with your target audience. This can lead to increased customer and brand loyalty, higher sales, and greater profitability over the long term.
5. Use Social Media and Use it Often – Being active on social media allows you to connect with your target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive more traffic to your website (if you own an ecommerce business, that is).
Social media is becoming the go-to customer service platform for many businesses. This shift in how these platforms are used does a great job of helping businesses engage with customers and receive valuable feedback, which can be used to improve their products or services.
Let people get to know you, speak with your audience and create a community around your brand.
6. Give Your Brand Visibility – Brand visibility is the key to increasing brand awareness and recognition among your target audience. You can do this by leveraging various marketing and advertising efforts such as social media, email marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), and paid advertising. The more visible your brand is, the better the chance of you attracting more customers, increasing sales, and ultimately growing your business.
7. Make Sure You Have a Google Business Profile – We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you want people to find your business, you’ve got to tell Google about it first. Having a Google Business Profile makes it easier for potential customers to find your business information, such as your location, hours, and reviews.
It also provides a platform for you to engage with customers by responding to reviews and posting updates about their products and services. Lastly, it’s a fantastic place to help build credibility and trust with customers.
8. Develop Processes – Having well-thought-out processes in place will make sure that your business is consistent and efficient. Not only will they improve the quality of the products or services offered, but you’ll also get to enjoy a higher customer satisfaction rate. You’ll also be able to streamline workflows, reduce errors, and increase productivity, which can lead to greater profitability (cha-ching!).
9. Keep Your Books Up to Date – Keeping your books up to date is crucial for a business owner as it provides an accurate picture of your company’s financial health. It helps you make informed decisions, stay on top of your cash flow, and ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations. Remember, keeping accurate records is necessary for obtaining financing, managing your expenses, and preparing financial statements.
10. Separate Your Personal and Business Finances – Separating business and personal expenses is important for several reasons. It can help you accurately track your business expenses and income, make tax preparation easier, and protect your personal assets in case of legal issues or bankruptcy. Keeping your finances separate can also help you establish credibility with lenders and investors.
11. Set SMART Goals – But first, what does SMART mean?
Setting SMART goals can help a business owner to establish clear and specific objectives that are achievable and measurable. This can provide direction, motivation, and focus for the business, making it easier to track progress and adjust as needed to achieve success.
12. Keep Expenses to a Minimum – Want to maintain profitability and financial security? Keeping expenses to a minimum is how you can get there!
If you can manage your expenses effectively, you’ll be able to allocate resources towards growth and investment, improve cash flow, and weather any financial downturns or unexpected expenses that may arise.
13. Diversify Your Payment Channels – If you want to reach to a wide audience and make sure you tick everyone’s boxes, you’ll need to offer different payment methods. The main forms of payment that South Africans look for are cash, card, EFT and online payments.
Catering to various payment preferences will:
- Reduce the risk of revenue loss due to any limitations in a single payment channel
- Help you stay competitive in the market
- Improve the customer experience and loyalty
14. Offer Both In-Person and Remote Payment Methods – If you want to reach a wider audience, adding remote payment methods in addition to in-person options is key. This can include sending payment links or hosting your business online and using a payment gateway.
15. Connect With Your Customers – Loyal customers tend to be repeat customers and can provide valuable word-of-mouth marketing. By fostering connections with customers and building strong relationships, small business owners can also gain insights into their needs and preferences, allowing them to tailor their offerings and improve customer experiences. Additionally, strong customer relationships can help small businesses weather economic downturns and competition.
16. Explore Customer Loyalty Programmes – Having a loyal customer base is about more than just sales at the end of the day. It helps you establish your business in the community and naturally, you’ll gain traction.
A customer loyalty programme is based on the concept of recognition and reward. By offering a loyalty programme, you’re sending a message to customers that you recognise their support, and you’d like to give them something valuable in return to show your appreciation.
17. Take Customer Service to the Next Level – The quality of customer service you offer can be a key differentiator in a competitive market. Providing exceptional customer service can lead to customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth, which can ultimately result in increased sales and revenue. Additionally, satisfied customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and feedback, which can attract new customers to the business.
18. Keep Abreast of What’s Happening in Your Community and Industry – As a small business owner, it’s incredibly important for you to network with other entrepreneurs in the industry and keep up to date with news and events. This will give you valuable insights into customer preferences, industry trends, and potential business opportunities. Staying informed can also help them anticipate and prepare for any changes or challenges that may affect your business operations.
19. Be Open to Feedback from Customers – One of the best qualities that a business owner can have is the ability to listen to others. Make sure you listen to your customers and take their thoughts and opinions into consideration. This will help you:
- Identify areas for improvement
- Make adjustments that can help meet the needs of their customer
- Improve customer experiences
- Drive business growth
20. Build Long-Term Relationships with Suppliers – Building strong relationships with your customers is good but don’t forget about your suppliers while you’re at it! If you’re a long-term, loyal customer and have a good relationship with suppliers, you can open yourself up to favourable pricing, better quality products or services, and faster delivery times.
21. Keep a Schedule and Prioritise Tasks – There’s no such thing as a well-run business without some level of organisation! Make sure you keep a schedule and prioritise tasks to effectively manage your time and increase productivity. Use project management tools such as Asana to organise projects and your track progress. This can lead to better decision-making, higher quality work, and increased profitability for your business.
22. Be Innovative – Look for New Ways to Bring in Income – If you want to be a successful business owner, you need to be agile and constantly explore new opportunities to bring in income. The business world is constantly changing, and competition is fierce. To stay competitive and relevant, small businesses must be innovative and create new revenue streams.
23. Build and Maintain a Positive Reputation – Your reputation, both personal and professional, can determine whether your business is a hit or a miss. A positive reputation will help take your business to new heights because it’ll be that much easier for you to attract customers – and keep them!
On the other hand, a negative reputation will take you years to undo and even then, getting feet through the door and into your store will still be challenging.
24. Network with Other Business Owners in Your Community – Running a business should never be done in isolation. Network with fellow business owners and lend a helping hand whenever you can. This can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and referrals. By building relationships with other entrepreneurs, you can also access new resources and receive support from your peers.
25. Give Back to Your Community – Helping the community not only benefits the local area and people, but it also enhances your business reputation. By supporting community events, charities, and local organisations, small business owners can build stronger relationships with customers and create a positive impact on the society. It can also lead to increased customer loyalty and retention, ultimately boosting business growth.
26. Collaborate with Other Businesses – In the social media era that we’re in, partnerships and collaborative efforts are becoming increasingly popular. By combining efforts, you can expand your customer base, increase brand awareness, share resources and knowledge, and create new opportunities for growth. Collaborating with other businesses can also help you overcome challenges and obstacles that they may not be able to tackle alone.
27. Offer Promotions and Discounts to Build Customer Loyalty – There’s nothing that gets consumers ticking like a good sale. If you need to focus on building customer loyalty, add promotions and discounts to your list of actionable items! It encourages repeat business, attracts new customers, and enhances brand recognition. You’d also be able to establish a positive reputation among customers and stand out from competitors, ultimately leading to increased sales and growth for your business.
28. Up-skill Regularly – Prioritise regular upskilling to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace. By acquiring new skills and knowledge, you can improve your products or services, streamline operations, and stay up to date with industry trends. Regular upskilling also helps entrepreneurs adapt to new technologies, changing consumer preferences, and other challenges that arise in a dynamic business environment.
29. Update Your Website Regularly – If you run an eCommerce business, it’s super important to make sure your website is updated regularly. This ensures that your content is always kept fresh and relevant, your search engine rankings are maintained, and that you provide an easy user experience to your visitors. Regular updates also show that the business is active and engaged, which can help build trust and credibility with potential customers.
30. Make Sure You Use a Secure Payment Gateway – A big consideration that can spell the difference between a successful purchase and an abandoned cart is the quality of the payment gateway you use. Customers will need to enter their banking details and make payment to check out. So, naturally, they’re only going to take that final step if they feel like your payment gateway is secure and that their confidential details aren’t going to be stored and misused.
31. Maintain a Steady Cash Flow – Having a steady cash flow ensures that you’re able to cover your day-to-day expenses, make necessary investments in your business, and prepare for unexpected emergencies. Without a steady cash flow, it’s easy to fall into difficulties staying afloat.
32. Don’t Forget to Pay Your Tax! – The last thing you need as a business owner is to get into trouble with the tax man. Make sure your tax affairs are in order and that you pay on time. Tax isn’t an easy thing to navigate. If you think you might need a hand, simply outsource the calculations so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
33. Automate What You Can – Repetitive and time-consuming tasks holding you down? Automate them so that you can increase efficiency, reduce errors, and free up time to focus on more important tasks such as growing your business. For example, you can set up debit orders for regular payments and schedule social media posts ahead of time.
34. Leverage Free AI Tools – AI isn’t really the big beast that it’s made out to be. These tools can help make your life all the easier by helping to automate routine tasks, gain insights from data, and improve decision-making. They can also help save time and money, increase efficiency, and enhance the overall competitiveness of your business.
Some of the most popular tools on the market at the moment include:
35. Use Mobile Marketing – Want to reach a larger audience and connect with customers on-the-go? Mobile marketing is the answer! With the widespread use of mobile devices, mobile marketing provides a cost-effective way to promote products and services and drive sales. It also allows you to target your ideal customers more effectively and personalise your messaging to increase engagement and brand loyalty.
36. Prepare for Loadshedding – Now that loadshedding is a regular part of our lives, it’s important that you stay one step ahead so that you’re not too inconvenienced by it. Loadshedding can lead to significant disruptions in operations, loss of revenue, and damage to equipment. Being prepared with backup power sources, contingency plans, and communication strategies can help mitigate the impact of loadshedding on your business.
37. Practice Good Communication – Good communication is key if you want everyone in your business to stay on the same page and to avoid unnecessary conflict. Not only does it foster a positive work culture, but it also helps build strong relationships with customers and employees and improves overall efficiency and productivity.
38. Use Email Marketing to Keep Customers Engaged and Informed – Despite being one of the oldest forms of marketing around, so many businesses swear by it. It’s a cost-effective way to reach a large audience and build brand loyalty. Email marketing allows you to provide personalised and targeted content to your customers, which can lead to increased sales.
39. Create Valuable Content That Showcases Your Expertise – Want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry? Creating valuable content for social media, your website or adverts will showcase your expertise and knowledge to the masses! By providing valuable information to your audience, you’ll build trust with potential customers and create a loyal following. Creating relevant content can help increase brand awareness and drive more traffic to your website.
40. Invest in Quality Equipment and Technology – Investing in quality equipment and technology can improve productivity, increase efficiency, and reduce operational costs in the long run. Modern equipment and technology can enhance the customer experience, leading to greater customer loyalty and retention.
41. Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan – It’s important to plan for unfortunate events like riots and natural disasters. This will help ensure business continuity, reduce financial losses, and maintain customer confidence in your business. Having a plan in place can also help businesses recover more quickly and efficiently from unexpected events.
42. Tailor Your Products or Services to Meet Customers’ Needs – By understanding the unique needs and preferences of your target audience, you can create products and services that better meet their needs and stand out from the competition.
This can lead to:
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Repeat business
- Positive word-of-mouth recommendations
43. Stay Adaptable and Be Willing to Pivot Your Strategy – Market conditions, customer needs, and industry trends are constantly changing. By remaining flexible and open to new ideas, you can stay ahead of the curve, identify new opportunities, and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving business landscape. Being willing to pivot can also help small business owners mitigate risks and overcome obstacles, leading to long-term success and growth.
44. Prioritise Work-life Balance to Avoid Burnout – Prioritising work-life balance is important for small business owners to avoid burnout and maintain their overall well-being. Running a business can be stressful and time-consuming but neglecting personal time and relationships can lead to exhaustion, decreased productivity, and even physical and mental health issues. A healthy balance between work and personal life will keep you motivated, focused, and successful in the long run.
45. Create a Strong Online Presence – Having a strong social media presence doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a strong online presence. A strong online presence speaks to how you perform on the internet, as a whole.
In today’s digital age, consumers rely heavily on online platforms to research and make purchasing decisions, so having a strong online presence can give small businesses a competitive edge and help them reach a wider audience. Digital marketing can be more cost-effective and efficient than traditional marketing methods, making it a smart investment for small businesses with limited budgets.
46. Maintain a Competitive Pricing Strategy – Offering prices that are too high can drive customers away, while prices that are too low can lead to lower profits and unsustainable business operations. Striking the right balance between pricing and value helps small businesses to stay competitive, attract customers, and generate sustainable profits over the long term.
47. Set Up a Referral Programme – Setting up a referral programme can be a highly effective way for small business owners to grow their customer base and increase sales. By encouraging existing customers to refer new business, you can tap into a powerful network of brand advocates who are likely to be more trustworthy and influential than traditional advertising channels.
48. Use Technology to Increase Efficiency and Reach New Customers – Using technology is a great way to increase efficiency and reach new customers. It allows you to streamline processes, automate tasks, reduce costs, and improve your bottom line.
Additionally, technology can help small businesses to reach underserved areas and customers who may not have access to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, opening up new markets and opportunities for growth.
49. Offer Seasonal Promotions to Drive Sales During Slow Periods – Slow periods getting you down? Create a sense of urgency and encourage customers to take advantage of limited-time offers by launching seasonal promotions. These offers can also attract new customers and help build customer loyalty.
50. Keep Track of Your Analytics – Use analytics tools to monitor your website traffic, conversion rates, and other key metrics. This information can help you identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
Some of the best free analytics tools include:
51. Monitor Website Speed
Slow website loading times can lead to frustrated customers and lost sales. Make sure your website is optimised for speed and performance to provide a seamless shopping experience.
52. Offer Free Shipping – Free shipping can be a powerful incentive for customers to complete their purchase. Consider offering free shipping on orders over a certain amount or during promotional periods. It goes without saying that this should only be considered if it’s not going to affect your bottom line.
53. Monitor and Respond to Customer Reviews – Customer reviews are extremely powerful and can help make or break your brand. Make sure that you monitor customer reviews on your website and third-party review platforms regularly and respond promptly and professionally to any negative feedback. Poor feedback is a hard pill to swallow but you should also see it as a chance to clear the air and make things right with unhappy customers.
54. Stay Compliant with Regulation – Keep up to date with regulations that affect your ecommerce business, such as data privacy laws and tax regulations, to avoid legal issues and maintain customer trust.
Remember, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) regulates the use of our personal information. Basically, this Act seeks to prevent fraud, identity theft and other forms of infringement on one’s privacy. You could land yourself in hot water with local authorities if you don’t comply with the POPI Act, so it’s best to be on the safe side.
55. Offer Live Chat Support – Providing live chat support can help customers get answers to their questions quickly and easily, leading to higher customer satisfaction rates. Live chat can also help businesses save on customer support costs by reducing the need for phone support or email support.
56. Embrace Social Proof – Social proof helps to build trust and credibility with potential customers. It can take many forms: customer reviews, testimonials, and social media likes and shares. By showcasing positive feedback and experiences from existing customers, you can increase your chances of attracting and converting new customers.
57. Be Easy Going with Your Returns Policy – Small businesses should have an easy-going returns policy to increase customer satisfaction, improve their reputation, and gain a competitive advantage. An accommodating returns policy can also increase sales and reduce costs in the long run. It’s these little things that influence how consumers view your business, but if you get it right, sky’s the limit!
58. Seek Help and Advice from Mentors, Advisors, and Industry Experts – Experienced business owners, mentors, advisors and industry experts have a wealth of knowledge to offer. Their guidance on business strategy, marketing, operations and finances can help you make informed decisions and avoid costly mistakes. Additionally, mentors and advisors can provide valuable networking opportunities and help entrepreneurs expand their professional connections.
59. Pay Off Your Debts and Maintain a Good Credit Score – Your credit score can affect your chances of securing funding for your business. Lenders and investors often use credit scores to evaluate the risk of lending money, and a good credit score can increase the chances of being approved for loans or receiving favourable terms. A good credit score can help small business owners establish credibility and trustworthiness with suppliers, vendors, and customers.
60. Stay Humble and Learn from Your Mistakes – Last but not least, stay humble. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running a business. Try your best and if it doesn’t work out, try something else. Remain open to constructive criticism and feedback and learn from your mistakes.
iKhokha is a South African technology company redefining the way SMEs do business through mobile innovation. iKhokha believes that everyone should have access to the digital economy. Their mission is to promote financial inclusion by developing and delivering business tools that anyone can use to thrive in business.
A startup founded in 2012 by Matt Putman, Ramsay Daly and Clive Putman, iKhokha is today one of the fastest-growing fintech companies in Africa. Despite its growth, the company has insisted on keeping the vibrant culture and mindset of an innovator and maverick, growing its talent pool with like-minded individuals to keep pushing boundaries and uplifting the powerhouse of the economy: small businesses.