Trying to do everything right when you’re running a small business can be a juggling act. Now and again, you will drop the ball. But at some point, everything could click into place, giving you and your team your first taste of success. This should be a sweet moment for your SME, but your first growth spurt can also bring new challenges. Your future success depends on navigating this period deftly, taking opportunities and avoiding pitfalls.
So how can you ensure that your SME takes this first burst of success in its stride? Here are some tips to help you reach top speed and avoid those scary speed-wobbles.
Get Help From a Legal Team
For many SMEs, the suggestion that they consult with a legal team is dismissed out of hand as too expensive. It is true that historically, the assistance of experienced partner-level lawyers (i.e. the only lawyers worth hiring) is vastly out of reach for all but the most established enterprises with massive resources at their disposal. But things have changed—or rather, there are law firms out there changing things. Innovative law firms like Harper James Solicitors offer start-ups and SMEs competitively priced legal services. This means you get the support you need at times critical to your success.
Get The Best Tool For the Job
When you’re simply trying to get your business on its feet, chances are you don’t have the budget for specialised or custom-built software. You’re forced to muddle along with generic or multi-function tools that do the job, but not very well, and this is probably for the best: it would be a waste to invest in the highest-tech-everything before you know what technological enhancements would give you the most bang for your buck. But once things are ticking along and your business looks sustainable, it makes sense to invest in the right tools for all your key processes, ensuring the smooth running of your operation as demand continues to increase. Whether that means payroll software or a bespoke CRM that makes the most of your customer data, now is the time to plough money back into your business and get those tools in place. Go for the best you can afford, as it will only save you money in the long run when you don’t have to update or replace less-than optimal software.
Invest in Your Customer Service
Your first growth spurt could be make-or-break for several reasons, but perhaps most of all because your customer service will be put through its paces. Maintaining your high standards despite an increase in sales means not only handling the extra demand created by new customers, but putting in the effort to retain them. Now is your opportunity to ensure that your company develops and retains a loyal customer base.
To do this, you need to deliver an incredible customer journey to each and every one of your customers. Your customer journey starts with effective marketing and includes various factors along the way towards the point of sale, but the most crucial aspect is any moment in which your customer initiates a personal communication with your team. Whether it’s email, live chat or phone, the people monitoring these channels need to be highly professional, knowledgeable about your product, and 100% onboard with your brand’s mission.
Customer service as a profession doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Many SMEs make the mistake of thinking they can get just anyone to monitor their phone lines, but there is no more guaranteed way to damage your brand than to pass the mic to someone who has no investment in what you do.
Just briefly, here’s why the quality of your customer service matters. Customers who have a positive experience with a customer service agent have been shown to be more likely to talk about the product or brand on social media. That means good customer service can help you build brand awareness and credibility. If you need another reason to invest in your customer service team, here’s one more good one: when your product isn’t great, excellent customer service can mitigate the damage. Research has shown that feeling let down by a product doesn’t have to create an overall negative customer experience. If your customer service team goes above and beyond, your disappointed customer can still come away with an overall positive feeling towards your brand.
Nail Your Brand Voice
One of the first signs that a company has suddenly taken off is when a whole host of different people are speaking on behalf of the business. In the startup phase, when it was just you and you on the team, all the talking was probably done by… well, you. If the business had a voice, it was yours. Then things got busy, and you’ve hired a customer service team and a blogger and an accountant, which means countless communications going out to various stakeholders every single day on your company’s behalf, and each written or spoken by a different person. An inconsistent voice has the effect of undermining the credibility of your brand, which you’ll be making every effort to shore up as your company grows. From a customer’s perspective, a brand may be seen as untrustworthy if the voice seems to emanate from a different ‘character’ at different times and via different channels. Consistency is key, and this requires having a brand voice. Now that your company is finding its feet, it makes sense to invest in a brand bible. A good marketing agency that can demonstrate that they get your values will be able to produce an authentic voice outlined in a ‘brand bible’ to guide all internal and external communications, no matter who is speaking on behalf of your company.
That’s not to say that every aspect of your voice needs to be identical. For example, while your customer service voice may be efficient and business-like, your social media voice might be more chatty and modern. The voices are slightly different, but they are both coming from the same place and are driven by the same values.
Whether you’ve been open for business a couple of months or a few years, your first growth phase can be a challenge. These tips will help you navigate this time successfully.