It’s no secret the business climate is continuing to get more complex. You have a tall order if you’re a small business trying to survive and thrive. Out of the 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S., more than 20% fail in their first year, while 50% of small startups don’t live to see the five-year mark.
For growing businesses, this means one thing: You need to make a conscious effort to streamline your systems to maintain momentum and ensure no roadblocks derail what you’re building.
Business owners can do a few things to keep things moving forward consistently.
1. Start Tracking Time
Identifying which processes to streamline is the first step. And the best way to do this is by tracking your employees’ time. For developers (or any employees), time tracking is an important way to help them understand, plan, and optimize their work, figuring out what tweaks they may need to implement for greater efficiency.
There’s a right and a wrong way to track time. Don’t make employees use a tedious timesheet requiring manual data entry; they have enough monotonous work on their hands. Instead, use an integrated time tracking tool that works with other collaboration tools and automatically collects data. Then, trust your team to get the work done.
It’s essential to streamline your most tedious tasks, so your employees aren’t distracted by what they do best. The last thing you want to do is bog your talented employees down with tasks that make them frustrated and don’t help you build the bottom line.
Time tracking is the road to get there.
2. Invest in Automation
Time tracking can give you insight into what processes might need to be automated. For example, 73% of IT leaders say because of automation, employees are saving 10-50% of the time they previously spent doing manual tasks. Moreover, 83% of IT decision-makers believe workflow automation is essential to digital transformation.
What kind of things do companies automate? For example, many businesses are automating tasks related to HR often with a BPM suite, streamlining the hiring process to help build more effective teams — something that’s especially important for small businesses seeking to grow.
Other companies use automation for their email marketing and social media marketing, while still others automate end-to-end processes such as the procure-to-pay (P2P) lifecycle. Wherever you decide to use automation in your business, it can make a big difference for your bottom line.
3. Clarify Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are an important aspect of sales for every company. This persona is a description of someone representing your target audience, including details such as:
- Demographics (age, gender, location, ethnicity, income, etc.)
- Career or job title
- Goals or ambitions
- Interests or hobbies
- Pain points or challenges
- Where they get their information or what social platforms they use
It’s important to consider demographics, psychographics, and behaviors when evaluating your buyer persona. Demographics are factors like age, gender, income level, education level, and location, where psychographics outline how someone acts, thinks, feels, and what their dreams, goals, fears, and preferences are in daily life.
Once you’ve researched your buyer personas, segment them based on how many personas you will have. Then create a name and story for each one. Next, you can tailor digital marketing and sales strategies specifically to these personas.
The better your buyer personas are, the more qualified leads you’ll be able to attract. This qualification means that refining your buyer personas as much as possible will help streamline your sales process, improving efficiency as you seek to grow your business.
4. Use A Tool to Qualify Leads
It’s easy to waste valuable time trying to qualify leads. Using a system can help you make an informed decision on which prospects are most promising. An automated tool can assemble and analyze this data.
You don’t need to track lead behaviors like page views or social likes on your own — done manually, this process could take forever. Instead, use an automated tool to organize data and use that data to qualify leads based on a predefined system. Your only job?
Looking at the final list of prospects and each one’s score.
5. Use A Project Management Tool
Keep your team on the same page with a foolproof project management system. Without a project management tool, your employees may be scattered, struggling to stay organized and communicate well as they work on various projects and campaigns. A good project management tool makes it easier to plan, strategize, and collaborate, boosting efficiency and Return on Investment (ROI).
Project management tools are especially beneficial if all or part of your team is remote.
Communication becomes even more difficult when your employees are in different geographic locations. Use a digital tool to assign tasks and gain visibility on project status and deadlines, keeping all of your projects flowing even when your team spans time zones.
6. Track Your Payments
Businesses are moving on from solely accepting cash, checks, or credit. Many companies are also taking different kinds of payments, like mobile payments or even crypto. This payment diversity means it’s important to know how to track how you re-invest money into your business and what that money is doing for you.
Experts recommend that traders who work with three or more coins use a crypto tool to manage investments. Crypto tools are products or services that help investors build and maintain their cryptocurrency holdings. These tools can be a great way to track your assets and ensure you’re making smart investment decisions with whatever form of currency you’re using.
7. Integrate Your Tools
Data integration combines all of your business processes into one place, giving you a birds’- eye view of your company data. This integration is beneficial because it helps optimize those processes — keeping you efficient while reducing costs.
Streamline your SaaS processes with data integration. An application programming interface (API) integration can connect your systems, allowing them to share data. That will increase productivity and efficiency, making a difference in your bottom line.
8. Protect Your Reputation
Protecting your reputation is an absolute must if you want your business to continue moving forward. Customers won’t shop from a brand they perceive negatively. And if you’re a victim of malvertising — a type of cyberattack that puts malicious code in digital ads — you could see major eCommerce revenue loss, hurting your reputation even more.
Brand reputation management can be a lot of work. It requires things like deleting false information about your business floating around online or addressing negative reviews and comments correctly. However, a brand reputation management tool that seeks to improve user experience and fight back against malvertising is a great way to help you take ownership of your digital engagement.
9. Know Your Audience
As a small business trying to make it in the marketplace, you know your target audience. Or at least, you should. But when it comes to your sales cycles, knowing your target audience is even more important than you might think.
For example, say you’re selling SaaS to SMBs. This sales process is a whole different ballgame than selling to enterprises. The growth-related pain points, their need to get value from the product quickly, the less-defined sales cycles, the need to tailor pitches to each individual depending on their level in the organization — all of these things will look different. And this means your overall sales process will need a fresh approach.
10. Invest in Content Marketing
For B2B companies, content marketing is a must. 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing in their overall strategy, while 51% can prove how content marketing has increased sales.
Content marketing is an effective way to grow your business over time.
How can you streamline your content marketing operations to keep things moving full speed ahead? A customer relationship management (CRM) solution can be used for content marketing, providing a strategic overview of where your prospects are. Audience segmentation and campaign management are tasks where your CRM can come into play. Content marketing is also another place where automation can come into play, using a marketing automation tool to help save time on day-to-day tasks.
11. Outsource Data Collection
All companies have to collect data, whether that’s data on employee productivity, prospects in the funnel, or how your marketing campaign is performing. The information you gather helps you make business decisions and guides you in what to do next. But trying to assimilate and organize this data on your own can make your head spin.
A data collection tool is an easy way to streamline this process. In addition, multiple automation software packages allow businesses to store their data in a single location. If you’re not quite ready to outsource, data automation is a good way to make things easier for your employees.
Other companies decide to take things a step further: Instead of using an app or software in-house, they outsource data collection entirely, turning to a data collection or management company that can help. Whichever way you go, taking steps to take data collection off your plate is beneficial.
12. Find A Reporting Software
Reporting is another one of those tasks that can eat up your entire day if you aren’t careful, becoming a massive time suck for your business. Use automation to help, providing reporting solutions that benefit your entire team.
The software will automatically create and upload a report when using a reporting tool. The software will comb through your APIs to get the data needed. Then, the software will generate reports based on that new data and email the reports straight to your inbox.
Most software is also highly customizable, allowing you to adjust details such as how often you receive reports, how many integrations you want to include in each report, and who needs access to the software.
Reporting software makes it much easier to crunch data and see where things are running efficiently, and where there is room for improvement.
13. Appreciate Your Employees
Employee productivity, performance, and engagement are 14% higher in companies with recognition programs than those that don’t. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to stick with your company for the long haul. Since the talent and time invested by your employees is what drives your business forward, it’s important to make them feel, well, important.
Streamline employee appreciation by automating your rewards program or by incorporating peer recognition so coworkers can shout one another out. Put birthdays or work anniversaries into a calendar and set up reminders so you’ll never forget a big day. You can also automate employee reviews via an online management hub that analyzes employee review forms and generates reports.
14. Re-evaluate Your Hiring Process
As your company grows, you’ll need to bring on more employees who can meet your increased needs. However, you might already know it can be difficult to attract qualified candidates who are attracted to larger companies (with larger salaries). And with all of the hats on your head, you may feel as if you don’t have enough time to devote to the entire hiring process.
This lack of time is where streamlining your systems can help. Start by crafting a job description that’s accurate and well-written — it should tell candidates exactly what you’re looking for so they know whether the position fits them. Then, make your job posting as visible as possible online.
Next, use an applicant tracking software (ATS) to organize resumes based on keywords. An ATS makes it easy to search through the resumes you’ve received. You’ll move on to the interview process, which your hiring team can streamline by scheduling a single interview that includes the qualified candidate and everyone from your company who needs to be there. This workflow will help you save time rather than scheduling multiple individual interviews with each decision-maker in your business.
Small Business Turned Big
Making it a small business in today’s economy might seem daunting. But, streamlining your systems to keep your momentum moving forward gives you a better chance at success!
Katy Flatt works as a freelance marketing consultant for Stampli and other agencies, streamlining workflows and coordinating personnel while doing a little writing on the side. When she isn’t digitally organizing, she can be found cuddling with her rescue and foster dogs.