Small-business resolutions: helping to grow your business in 2018.

Apr 10 2018 | Alice Wong, Small business, North Americas, PayPal

Now that the holiday rush has subsided and the new year has started, it’s the perfect time to reflect and take a long view of your business. We spoke to small business owners to learn their plans to help make 2018 as successful as possible. 
Resolution #1: Talk to customers more often.
The more you know about customers, the better you can create and market the products they want. Michelle Ellis, owner of beach-inspired furniture retailer Cottage & Bungalow, plans to touch base with customers more often in 2018. “Ask customers a couple of questions whenever you’re on the phone – or through email,” Ellis suggests. “It’s useful to find out their pain points, what products they’re looking for, and how they found out about you.” For example, send customers a short web-based survey, or ask for feedback via your social channels.
 
Resolution #2: Share your story.
As part of your 2018 marketing campaigns, get personal. Tell customers how your business came to be, and who the people are behind the products. These stories can help build emotional and lasting connections with customers. Anna Wallack, founder and creative director of children’s clothing and toy company Misha & Puff, plans to share stories about the knitters in Peru and the United States who create the company’s toys and clothing. “We’re thinking about our artists, and highlighting the kinds of materials we use and our design details,” Wallack says. “We’d love to make that part of our marketing push.”
 
Meredith Young, COO of grooming products company Mountaineer Brand, plans to promote the business’s focus on natural ingredients. “It’s very important to us – it’s not simply a sales tactic or a marketing angle,” Young says. “Next year, we’ll be pushing out the idea of an all-natural lifestyle for the average person.”
 
Resolution #3: Meet face to face with customers.
By creating holiday pop-up shops or setting up booths at markets and festivals, you not only have the chance to sell products, you can gather on-the-spot intelligence from shoppers. “Chocolate is a big draw for foot traffic,” says Adam Potter, owner of Puna Chocolate, who estimates that the company earns $100 for every 100 people who walk through a market.
 
When Daniel and Stephanie Rensing, founders of The Smart Baker, went to craft fairs to sell their first product — an apron printed with cooking measurement conversions – some shoppers thought it was a great idea, but explained that they didn’t wear aprons. The feedback led the pair to develop a new item: kitchen towels with measurement conversions.
 
Resolution #4: Exchange products for publicity.
Influential social media users can help you reach thousands of new customers – or more. “We went to trade shows and college campuses and gave out free products in exchange for people posting about us on Instagram and Twitter,” says Paul Goodman, co-founder of jewelry company Pura Vida. “That’s essentially free marketing for us. It’s just giving away the cost of the product.”
 
Tip: Make sure to share your social handles with recipients so they can tag your business when they post. And, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website for requirements for influencer marketing.

Resolution #5: Use visuals to help build your social media following.
In 2018, Anna Wallack plans to step up development of content for her Instagram feed, where Misha & Puff has a strong following. Featuring products on Instagram helps Wallack show off her products and generate interest from potential customers. “We’re going to do more frequent photo shoots, and make sure everything is styled to our perspective,” she says. “We’ll post on Instagram so we get the most out of every new product release.

Resolution #6: Create an email newsletter to help improve customer loyalty.
Puna Chocolate’s owner, Adam Potter, believes an email newsletter can be a key tool for building customer loyalty. “Plus, getting repeat business is cheaper than getting new customers,” he says. Potter draws on interesting content about the company’s own cacao farm in Hawaii: “It’s an opportunity to create an emotional connection with customers and the farm.”
 
Resolution #7: Start prepping for 2018 taxes now.
To avoid last-minute tax preparation headaches in 2018, start your tax planning as soon as you put away the New Year’s party hats. For example, gather real-time data from your accounting software, combined with advice from your accountant, so you can fix problems before the tax bill arrives. “We try to push our clients to do forecasts and budgeting, and to be proactive and forward thinking,” says Bruce Phillips, CPA and CEO of accounting firm HPC. “So when you get advice in the summertime and in the fall, you can actually plan and do something about it before you get the tax bill.”
 
Resolution #8: Get familiar with financial statements.
Financial reports can be intimidating. But knowing the ins and outs of the numbers on your income statement, balance sheet, cash flow reports, and statement of retained earnings can help you plan for business growth – or change strategy if the numbers aren’t strong. For example, if you discover that cash flow is tight, you can look into a PayPal Working Capital1 loan, which can offer flexible payments and an affordable fixed fee.
 
Resolution #9: Explore complementary markets and partners.
To help your business grow, says Adam Potter, you need to look beyond your own market. “In a very competitive business like chocolate, it's hard to distinguish yourselves from industry competitors,” says Potter. He also markets to restaurant and wineries – companies that may want to sell chocolate alongside their own wares. “There’s a lot we can offer each other in growing our businesses,” he says.
 
We hope the advice above will help you kick off a successful year in business. For inspiration and support all year long, visit the PayPal Business Resource Center often – you’ll find articles on payment processing, selling internationally, and marketing, among many other topics.

 
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.
 
1To apply for PayPal Working Capital, your business must have a PayPal business or premier account for at least 90 days and process between $15,000 (or for premier accounts $20,000) and $20 million within those 90 days or within any time period less than or equal to 12 months. PayPal sales include processing on PayPal Express Checkout, PayPal Payments Standard, PayPal Payments Pro, and PayPal Here. Minimum payment required every 90 days. See Terms and Conditions for details.

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