Roughly 80% of small businesses survive the first year in business, according to the Small Business Administration. This may be surprising as much of the rhetoric surrounding small business focuses on getting to the one-year mark, rather than past it. However, that percentage falls swiftly after the first year. Just under half of all small businesses make it to the five-year mark, and only one in three small companies last a decade. 

According to a recent article from Forbes, two of the most common reasons that small businesses fail are lack of funds and intense competition. Small businesses must be competitive, while remaining financially conservative – and there are many ways to do that without spending a dime. With a focused strategy and clever thinking, many businesses can ensure that they’ll celebrate their ten-year anniversary.

1. Amp Up Marketing

Marketing is a crucial part of making a small business be competitive and stand out. Bolstering social media, improving search engine optimization (SEO) and creating informative content are all excellent tactics to begin with.   

Optimize Your Website

Begin by utilizing free SEO techniques, such as establishing the business’ target keywords and using them throughout the website. Google offers a range of free tools as well. For example, ‘Google My Business’ is Google’s free account that publishes businesses online, making them visible when potential customers search on Google Maps. This tweak is small but highly effective.

Focus on Social Media

Businesses that are not interacting with clients on social media are missing a key part of their audience. This is excellent news for cost-conscious companies, as most social media sites are free. However, having a social media strategy is everything. Target key audiences by joining relevant groups and use industry hashtags for success on Instagram. The Content Marketing Institute has compiled a list of helpful social media marketing tips that offer more information on this topic.

Create Quality Content

First, highlight what your business does well and think beyond standard promotional messages. Then, determine what your customers need help with, how you can help them and use these answers to form the basis of your content strategy.

2. Hire an Intern

The best internships work twofold, benefitting the company in question while training a new member of the workforce. However, hiring an intern should be done carefully. Internships are an exchange of meaningful work that will help a student or career changer prepare for the realities of your industry. Businesses should be sure to dedicate enough time to preparing an effective program. The best internships do the following.

Establish the Scope of theProgram

For the experts at Workest, scope is key to making an internship a success. Interns are not just filers and coffeemakers; they should expect to better understand a business skill after their time with the business. Businesses should be prepared to spend 10-20 hours per week training their interns.

Define Success Early

Make expectations clear from the beginning. In addition, some programs even offer key performance indicators or set goals for interns.  

Keep an Eye on Intern Satisfaction

UrbanBound suggests having regular check-ins about intern happiness. These check-ins are vital, as some interns may express an interest in a different side of the business or have a hidden talent that could benefit the business.

3. Get a Grip on Finances

Keep track of your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly in-goings and outgoings. Tracking all four of these metrics is crucial because, for example, a business might be showing a profit on a monthly audit but still be spending too much annually. Tracking in-goings and outgoings is the first step to identifying which expenses are best to cut. After identifying financial areas for improvement, set financial goals for the business throughout the year and work to achieve them.

4. Partner Up

Partnership marketing involves two or more businesses collaborating to create a mutually beneficial marketing campaign to achieve their business goals. It is an excellent way to make a business stand out. Working with another business helps increase brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and business growth. When choosing a business to collaborate with, the experts at Small Biz Trends recommend the following:

  • Choose a business that complements your own. The classic example of a florist and wedding planner comes to mind, but do not be afraid to think outside of the box for a creative collaboration.
  • Don’t choose a direct competitor. While collaboration is key, it is important not to let valuable business slip from your fingers.
  • Choose a business with an established marketing plan if this is an area where your business struggles. Look for a business with an established social media presence.

5. Focus on Customer Experience

Customer experience is king, especially when your goal is to be competitive. According to the 2019 Digital Trends report from Econsultancy and Adobe, most businesses view customer experience as the most exciting opportunity for 2020. Even more surprisingly, recent research from Gartner found that over 80% of organizations expect customer experience to make them more competitive. Begin refining customer experience by considering operations through the customer’s point of view. How could the customer’s experience be made better, easier, and simpler? These questions will inform choices as businesses adjust their offerings.  

Competition and Financial Stability

Starting a small business is a delicate balancing act; keeping it competitive is no different. Prioritizing customer experience, in both marketing and operations, is key to making your business stand out. Utilizing cost-effective labor through interns is a fantastic way to improve your business and give back to the community, and a carefully selected business partner is worth its weight in gold. However, it is a firm grip on finances that will keep your business running year after year. Staying relevant is key, but not at the expense of financial stability.