We at ISC believe that small business’ success hinges on satisfying its current customers and widening its circle of influence to attract new business. Holding small business networking roundtable meetings is a way to accomplish this, which include networking opportunities along with discussion of topics that affect many business operations.
Customer satisfaction and retention represent constant challenges, especially for businesses with multiple competitors. Ask each roundtable member to share successful strategies for connecting with customers. Retail business strategies include regular customer appreciation events, a customer advisory board with rotating membership and generous customer referral incentives. Non-retail business owners print or email newsletters to their customers. For example, a physical therapist communicates the latest sports injury treatment techniques. Service businesses also host interactive customer seminars.
Reaching new markets often means marketing existing products or services to new market segments. For example, a camping equipment business can target the survival preparedness market with the store’s freeze-dried foods and water purification equipment. A modular home furniture store can introduce its mix-and-match furniture pieces to residential college students. An estate preparation attorney may develop an affordably-priced will and estate planning package for budget-conscious clients. Ask each roundtable member to share a market expansion success, as well as a challenge or temporary setback.
Social networking websites and online business networks often help a business expand. For example, a hair and makeup salon can post “before and after” customer photos on its social network page. Showcasing elegant customers presents the salon and customer in a favorable light. For business users, a business networking site may offer daily job search advice sponsored by a national search firm. Conversely, social media marketing can intimidate business owners unfamiliar with this new strategy. Encourage social media-savvy attendees to help hesitant business owners understand social media components and benefits.
Profitability and Business Growth
A business owner concerned about his current bottom line may not concentrate on his long-term business outlook. In contrast, another entrepreneur tracks his daily progress via a spreadsheet program and runs monthly updates to his five-year financial projections. While current profitability keeps a business’ doors open, well-planned growth is key to its continued success. Ask each attendee how he developed his business vision and how he monitors his short- and long-term profitability.