When it comes to ideas for improving profits at a startup or other small business, it's hard to beat the experience of SCORE. This non-profit small business counseling and mentoring service has helped more than eight million entrepreneurs succeed.
And when it comes to getting ahead in business, it's all about making the right moves at the right times, says Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE. Here are five ways to prepare your business for improved profitability:
1. Create new offerings to grow your customer base. Start by better understanding your customer demographics and why they buy your products and services. Then think of ways to win clients over with new and diversified products. Many small businesses have been successful at drawing new customers by offering multiple price points and creating packages or customizable plans, thus giving customers more freedom and flexibility.
2. Expand your low-cost and online marketing efforts. Promote your business for free on Twitter, and set up a Facebook fan page. Start a blog and comment on other blogs. Take this opportunity to communicate with customers about your business and go viral. Consider teaming up with an online "reputation management" partner such as DexKnows.com who can help manage your entire online marketing presence. If you sell business-to-business, get ideas at the B2B marketplace leader, Business.com.
3. Improve and expand your website and add ecommerce. Every business -- no matter how small -- needs a website to stay competitive. Secure all variations on your company's domain name. Use online tools and community features such as Q&A or a blog to encourage interaction with visitors to your site. Use your site to sell (you'll need to add a shopping cart), not just to promote your name or brand.
4. Set aside time to sharpen your focus. Don't accept business as usual. Organize your days so you have time to devote to setting goals and plans for profit-generating improvements. Using a smart phone or other device to keep track of phone numbers, dates, appointments and meetings can help save time. Take short breaks to refresh and recharge.
5. Create "experience events" to attract customers. Consider how your business can host or co-host special events like demonstrations, shows and classes. Offer rebate or frequent buyer programs to encourage repeat purchases. Rearrange merchandise periodically to provide a fresh customer experience.