As a small business owner, you’ve likely received so much advice on running your business that it’s difficult to determine what’s worth following and what isn’t.
If you have a bad case of Can’t See the Forest for the Trees, step back and get ready for a reality check. These small business experts shed some light on exactly what you should — and shouldn’t — put your energy into.
1. Focus on your existing customers.
A company’s current customers can be a tremendous source of revenue growth, but they are often overlooked. Consider which additional products and services you may be able to sell or up-sell to customers who are already your raving fans, or find ways to reward your customers that makes them want to buy from you more frequently.
Also, create special offers or incentives for your existing customers to refer new customers to you and make it easy to do so. And don’t forget to get customer testimonials from existing customers to add credibility to your offers, especially if you have any high profile clients or customers.
While many businesses are always looking to find new customers, your existing customers can provide a huge boost to your business.
Carol Roth, small business advocate, entrepreneur, author and CNBC Contributor, @caroljsroth
2. Sales is vanity; cash flow is sanity.
Small business owners think that having a successful business is about growing the sales or the top line. It’s really about the cash flow for the company. Do they have more or less cash at the end of the month? Only cash can be used to pay company bills, reinvest or be taken out by the owner.
Barry Moltz, small business owner, speaker, author and radio talk host, @barrymoltz
3. Forget annual revenue goals.
Hold yourself accountable by focusing only on your 30-day sales goals in your small business.
If you can focus on a monthly sales goal, you can focus on a weekly sales goal. Your weekly sales goal should drive all your marketing activities. Figure out how much marketing it takes for you to close XX amount of business per week. This will help you better allocate your time in your small business.
Melinda F. Emerson, author, speaker and small-business coach, @SmallBizLady
4. Goal setting can make the difference between business success and failure.
Goal setting can play an important role in many different parts of your business, from starting a business, to marketing, to sales, to succession planning. Goals provide direction, motivation and a clear way to measure your forward-moving progress. Without goals, and a process for tracking your goals, you may have difficulty seeing the big picture and staying focused. Goal setting helps you build a bridge that can guide you from where you are right now to where you want to be.
Alyssa Gregory, small business writer, speaker and entrepreneur, @alyssagregory
5. Do not follow everyone on social media.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new social media users and businesses make is to follow everyone they can. This applies mostly to Twitter and Google+ where it’s more common for people to mass-follow random other accounts, but it can just as easily apply to Facebook and LinkedIn and even Instagram and Pinterest.
They start with friends or email connections, then jump into the recommended users lists and mass-follow people. Unfortunately, this is a dated and ineffective technique for increasing follower counts. And I get it. No one wants to have zero followers, so we all want to ramp up that follower count as quickly as possible. The problem is that this is a complete waste of time for businesses. Not only are these random people worthless as followers, it ends up filling your stream with meaningless posts from people you don’t know and are not interested in.
Instead, be very careful about who you follow. Follow peers and colleagues — influencers — in your industry. Look for people who are sharing really valuable posts and information. These should be posts that you’re interested in yourself, and posts that your followers and potential followers (read: target audience) would be interested in. Follow those people, engage in conversations with them and share their posts when appropriate. When you do that every day, your follower count will increase naturally and will have the added benefit of being people completely interested in you and what you’re posting.
Mike Allton, social media and Internet marketing consultant for small to medium businesses, @mike_allton