It’s often said that small business is the engine that drives the American economy. That may be true, but every engine needs routine inspection and maintenance from a competent mechanic from time to time.
That’s the only way to ensure the your entrepreneurial machinery is well-oiled and ready for the road ahead, free from any of the subtle warning signs that it takes a specially trained eye to diagnose. By analyzing market conditions, developing strong fundamentals, and anticipating future needs before they develop into serious problems, small business marketing consultants help growing businesses gain a sure footing, sidestepping all the pitfalls.
And in our current economic climate, there is no shortage of pitfalls for small business owners. Sluggish demand, high unemployment, and a very tight lending environment make it hard for start-ups to plan for growth.
That’s why the need for small business marketing consultants is growing at its fastest rate in history. Tough decisions about debt and hiring can paralyze small business owners and bring a thriving start-up company with a bright future to a grinding halt.
More than ever, business owners need a trusted third-party they can turn to for advice, perspective, and analysis. Small business marketing consultants offer exactly that.
The Five Most Common Pitfalls for Start-ups
The more experience a consultant has, the easier it is for them to spot a problem in the developing stages. Much like cars, to return to our auto-mechanic theme, most small businesses encounter very similar problems at similar times. There’s a different set of necessary check-ups that are needed at each interval in the life of a business.
In addition, businesses of the same type often encounter the same pitfalls, just the way cars of the same make or model often possess the same design weaknesses.
One of the most valuable services that a small business coach brings to the table is the experience and wisdom to diagnose these pitfalls before they do serious harm. Here are the 6 most common pitfalls:
Failure to Create a Detailed Plan
This one’s easy. Most entrepreneurs are used to storing complex and fluid plans in their head, only writing things down when it’s absolutely necessary. That often translates to a weak business plan, never taken seriously, “Because it’s going to change tomorrow anyway, right?”
When it come to a business plan, this type of thinking is never good enough. A good plan should to include information about the size of the market, pricing factors, financial goals, and clear parameters about how much the company is willing to invest. Optimism is a good motivator — it’s true — but a small business consultant can bring a much-needed dose of reality to the planning meeting.
Not Contacting Industry Experts
This one really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it. By failing to consult with the current leaders in an industry, small business owners are doing themselves a major disservice. Many entrepreneurs are standoffish toward industry experts, considering them the competition.
Not only are these business owners missing out on the valuable advice an industry veteran may share, they’re also missing the opportunity to develop a network of support. Industry news travels at light speed through business networks, keeping all those “in the loop” up to date on the current challenges their peers are facing.
Small business marketing consultants can remedy this in a variety of ways. First off, an experienced business advisor IS an expert, particularly if they’ve spent their career specializing in a certain field. Second, business advisors know other business owners; it’s their job. So a small business advisor is a great resource in the quest to get linked in.
Failing to Conduct Market Research - It’s simply not enough to be passionate about something — there must be a healthy market for you product or service in order to sustain a business. Two of the quickest ways to get your business in trouble are to overestimate the size of a market, or underestimate the importance of targeting.
Markets typically seem larger and more vibrant right before you enter them with the stress and tension of a new business to run. First time entrepreneurs commonly get fixated on a particular pet product, losing sight of the fundamentals and overall health of their business. A small business advisor can offer an objective, bird’s eye view of your businesses profit potential while suggesting ways to target relevant customers and increase lifetime value.
It’s often said that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. That’s a statement to how important it is to find those customers instead of focusing on the other 80%.
If you think about it, this is roughly the same thing as overestimating your control on prices. New business owners often make optimistic forecasts about the prices of the goods and services their companies depend on, as well as the prices that their own goods and services may fetch in the marketplace.
By failing to factor in all the volatility of the modern marketplace, small business owners can be setting themselves up for failure. Understanding how much it truly costs to start a business, what the average sale and the average refund rates are in an industry — that’s where expert advice from a marketing consultant can mean the difference between success and failure. Cost and pricing factors are much too important to be left up to guesswork.
Failing to Seek Small Business Advisors
Yep, we saved the best for last! For every major entrepreneurial success story, there’s a business owner who got help form the right advisor at the right time. It doesn’t matter if it’s about selecting real estate, construction, or financial planning; the go-it-alone, maverick mindset is the opposite of what a small business owner needs.
Surrounding yourself with the right team of professionals is the ultimate insurance policy. Small business advisors are only one part of this team, alongside investors, visionaries, and coaches.
These advisors can help entrepreneurs gauge what’s around the corner for their businesses and how to position themselves to take advantage of it. Otherwise, a small business will be caught in the herd of entrepreneurs who are simply struggling to react to the changes.
Merging the Plan with the Execution
Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs that approach their businesses methodically — going down the proper checklists as they grow their companies — are far more likely to succeed than those who simply “go with their gut.”
Likewise, entrepreneurs that go with their gut often get heartburn, if not heartbreak — especially when operating within today’s razor thin margin of error.
Few entrepreneurs fantasize about accounting, marketing, and metrics. After all, many small businesses are formed with the express purpose of escaping the tedious realities of working for someone else. Yet these tedious things are the building blocks that support a successful enterprise in the long-term.
If routine maintenance and inspections are necessary for you car, you can imagine how important they are for something as complex as a business! Small business consultants offer the attention to detail, pragmatism, and accountability that gives businesses an edge in today’s exciting, yet challenging business climate.