If you are seeing a lull in your sales, a decline in profits and a stagnation in the number of visitors to your website, something has gone seriously awry.
Your startup began with a fanfare. You might have hit the ground running with a barnstorming marketing campaign, successful product launches and a buoyant cash flow.
Fast forward a few months and you feel like the momentum is stalling. Every new business needs time to embed and find its feet, including yours.
Don’t expect every day to be ridiculously profitable. There will be times where you need to analyze what may be going wrong in your business.
Burying your head in the sand is not an option. While you could plough on and hope with your fingers crossed that sales will pick up, this is not proactive. You need to work out what is making your startup lose its way and rectify it as quickly as possible.
If not, your business may be one of the eighty percent that fails within its first eighteen months of trading. Take a look at the sorts of business areas you need to be looking at, and how you can steer your startup ship into calmer waters.
You Aren’t Visible
While you may have started off with a massive following because your savvy on social media and know your way around a WordPress site, it doesn’t mean that this momentum will continue forever.
It’s all too easy to become complacent, get snowed under with paperwork, and forget to update your blog or post to your social media platforms.
Your Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram grid need to be full of readable and relevant content. This means heading online every day to post something beneficial to your niche market.
It’s vital that you are posting the right things. Just because you’re keen to show off your latest product doesn’t mean you should be retweeting the same self serving advert every twelve hours.
Your followers will get tired of you flooding their timelines with the same old promotions. They will mute you at best, or unfollow you at worst.
Instead, link to other relevant blog posts that would interest your customer base. If you sell cordless vacuum cleaners, link to a well written scientific report stating how cordless vacuum cleaners are the best solution to removing dust from the home for allergy sufferers.
You need to be highly visible online at all times, and that means not just going for the hard sell, but also demonstrating how your product range can be worthwhile to your potential consumer in a more indirect and subtle way.
Even if you have an exciting website, outstanding blog and more social media channels than you can shake a stick at, you still need people to be able to find you online.
This is where the mythical beast of SEO needs to be tamed. Companies that specialize in online marketing understand the algorithms that dictate the Google search rankings and can hone the perfect keywords needed to get your brand on the first page.
Consider outsourcing to such a specialist external team. This will be money well spent as this way, you can spend your time on more pressing issues such as honing your business vision and securing buy in from your staff team.
You Are Pitching Too High
When you are selling a product or providing a service, your pricing becomes paramount. Go too low, and people will assume that your company is substandard or that there is a catch.
Pitch too high, and your already well established rivals with excellent reputations will nab your potential customers. You need to find a balance.
The easiest way to do this is by conducting some high quality market research. If you are planning to provide SMEs with some specialist tax advice, carry out a survey asking what these companies would be willing to pay monthly for the services that you offer.
Ensure that you are actually offering the correct services. While the free quarterly audit might seem attractive to you, perhaps the CEOs of these firms only require an annual audit.
By conducting thorough market research, you are armed with quantitative data to help inform your pricing policy. When you start out, try and undercut your rivals by a nominal amount and lead with a discount for repeat custom.
Ensure that your customer service is second to none and make sure that you under promise and over deliver. If you know that your product can be delivered within forty eight hours, state that you’ll get it to your customer’s door within seventy two.
This way, when they see their product on the doorstep a day early, they will feel like you have gone the extra mile. With any luck, they’ll head online write a glowing review enhancing your reputation and become one of your many loyal customers.
Your Employees Aren’t Productive
If you have a small staff team working for you, they need to remain productive. This doesn’t mean heading into the office and bellowing at them to work harder. You need to facilitate a strong work ethic in your actions.
You need to demonstrate to your employees that they are valued and appreciated. Ensure that the office is bright, vibrant and full of reliable hardware.
There’s nothing more morale sapping than having the WiFi cut out a dozen times a day or having the photocopier continually breaking down. Provide the tools for them to be productive with.
Communicate effectively with your team, by being present and regularly updating them of business goals, successes and areas to work on via a weekly email.
Name check a couple of people each week. Seeing names up in lights to celebrate individual successes can be morale boosting and encourage your staff team to work harder.
Communication should be implicit in every action that you take. For employee scheduling made easy, you need a software package that will allow you to distribute shift patterns and calendar dates from one interactive platform.
You could even put the ball back into your employees’ court and allow them to sign up to shifts, make requests for time off directly and reduce absenteeism by empowering your staff team to make choices regarding their work hours.
As long as the work gets done and to a high quality, it shouldn’t matter whether it is completed at home, in a cafe or in the office.
By being a flexible boss, providing a collaborative and inspiring place in which to work, and by remaining approachable and understanding, you can hone a productive team. You want your employees to enjoy coming to work every day and working toward a common goal.
The Funding Isn’t Being Managed Effectively
Just because you secured a hefty loan from the bank, doesn’t mean that your startup will be a runaway success. You need a well-crafted business plan detailing how every cent of that money is going to be spent.
You need to see a return on your investment to ensure that you can keep up with the repayments on the loan. If you squander your cash on needless outsourcing and wasted software, then you will soon discover just how quickly the money pot can run dry.
Instead, you need to make some clear financial forecasts, detailing exactly how much net profit you expect to make each quarter. Try to pace your progress.
While it may seem positive to have an explosion of orders, if you don’t have the cash flow needed to fulfil them, you will end up in debt and with a business lacking integrity. Walk before you can run and aim for a more gentle exponential growth so you can manage your successes more effectively.
If you do need more funding to grow and expand, don’t immediately return to the bank. Armed with evidence of your profitability, consider seeking out a business angel.
Offering them a stake in your company could mean relinquishing some of your business, but you will secure the funding that you require from an industry leading professional.
These individuals won’t just give you a big fat check. They will be on hand to offer advice, provide guidance and will be a critical friend should you need one. They will want to see a return on their investment so will be as eager as you to ensure that your business thrives.
Launching a startup isn’t meant to be easy, otherwise, everyone would be doing it. By saying goodbye to your full time job, your excellent promotion prospects and your secure wage, you are entering the more fickle world of entrepreneurship.
While this may be daunting, the thrill of working for yourself rather than lining the pockets of the board of a conglomerate is hugely satisfying.
Never look the other way if trouble is approaching and ensure that you do everything in your power to address problems speedily and efficiently. With any luck, you will weather the storm and see your business go from strength to strength.